John and Carolyn Ridley and Top Best Ever, LLC are helping business students and faculty from WKU connect with downtown Bowling Green.
Through Top Best Ever, the Ridleys are making 5,000 square feet of office space in the Pushin Building on East Main Street available for three years at no cost, valued at $80,000 per year. In addition, the Ridleys are providing $60,000 to fund leaseholder improvement for the donated space.
The total value of the gift is $300,000.
“This gift will provide our students and faculty in the Gordon Ford College of Business a place to conduct academic programs and research as well as interact with the vitality and commerce of the downtown area,” WKU President Timothy C. Caboni said.
GFCB Dean Jeff Katz said the space will be used by various programs and centers of excellence within the college to “embrace opportunities outside of the on-campus classroom.”
As an example, Dr. Katz said the college is planning to have certain graduate classes and seminars meet in the space. In addition, faculty and students associated with the applied programs, such as through the Center for Leadership Excellence and the program in Applied Data Analytics, will directly interact with members of the business community to conduct projects of mutual benefit.
“As a student-center applied college of business, we are delighted to extend classroom learning to the business center of Warren County through Centers of Excellence that provide real-world training for our students who are job-ready for successful careers in business, government, and public service,” Dr. Katz said.
John Ridley, who graduated from WKU in 1974, is Managing Director and Investment Officer at Wells Fargo Advisors, LLC. Currently serving on the WKU Board of Regents, he has also served on the President’s Board of Advisors and the Campaign Cabinet for the New Century of Spirit Campaign. He has served as chairman of the WKU President’s Circle and as a member of both the WKU Alumni Association Board of Directors and the WKU Libraries Advisory Council.
Carolyn Ridley, a founding member of the WKU Sisterhood, has served as Senior Director of State Public Policy for Level 3 Communications since 2014. She is responsible for legislative and regulatory matters for seven states in the southeast, five states in the northeast and Puerto Rico.
“Carolyn and I both feel very blessed with the business successes that we have both had, as we both came from humble beginnings,” John Ridley said. “We both feel it is important to give back, in particular to WKU student scholarships and anything we can do to enhance the business education of students and citizens.
“Carolyn and I both think big and, in this case, I tried out this idea on Dr. Caboni and Dr. Katz and they both thought this was something that would certainly advance educational opportunities.”
The College Heights Foundation at WKU will serve as the fiscal agent.