Special to the Tribune-Courier
Marshall County native Kay Travis struggled to hold back tears after watching a pictorial video featuring the highlights of her 16-year career at West Kentucky Community and Technical College (WKCTC), which included 12 years as executive director of the college’s foundation.
“It’s not tears of sadness. It’s tears of pride in looking at the things that we have all done together and seeing so many people in those pictures going back as far as the late 1990s,” Travis said during a retirement reception in Paducah October 1. “I’m thankful for the many people who have helped us and did so many wonderful things for us at this college. But most of all I’m so thankful for the friendships that I have had at this college.”
More than 130 colleagues, friends and family were on hand to congratulate Travis during a reception at the Country Club of Paducah hosted by the Paducah Junior College, Inc., Board of Trustees. Among the honored guests were her grandchildren, Emma and Connor, her husband, Barry, her 95-year-old father, Ed O’Dell, and her daughters, Alison Prince and Andrea Powell. Travis retired September 30.
During her 16-year tenure in the college’s Office of Advancement more than $14 million has been raised and the foundation’s endowment fund, which supports the college’s scholarship program, grew from $1.4 million in 1997 to more than $7.4 million this year.
A Murray State University graduate, Travis started her education career as an English and journalism teacher in the Marshall County school system in 1968 and later served as a guidance counselor at Marshall County High School for 16 years before joining the staff of Paducah Community College as the Communiversity Director. In 2001, Travis was named executive director of Paducah Junior College, Inc., the foundation for WKCTC.
Prior to Travis being named executive director of the foundation, the president of the college had served as the foundation’s director. When the college became a part of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS) in 1997, the president could no longer serve as the foundation director.
“I’ve always wanted to publicly thank the board for the confidence they had in hiring me,” Travis said. “I didn’t have a background in fund-raising. I didn’t have a background in banking. But I do like to talk to people and I guess they thought that was enough.”
Being able to talk to people and share the college’s impact on students and the community was vital to her success, said John Williams, PJC, Inc., board chairperson. “She has been the go to person for me,” Williams said. “If you needed something done, you called Kay. And she got it done.”
Travis’ work also resulted in the college receiving a 2012 Circle of Excellence Award from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. She also presented at the national conference in San Diego while accepting the award.
Travis worked on 17 scholarship auction events over the years, and was thrilled that the last one she would work held last month raised more than $97,000. “It’s a wonderful feeling that year after year the people of our area support our students like they do,” Travis said. “Without them many of our students wouldn’t be able to go to college.”
In 2006, Travis spearheaded WKCTC’s efforts as part of a five-year system-wide “Fulfilling the Promise” fundraising campaign. Instead of a capital campaign, WKCTC’s campaign focused on raising funds to enhance several college initiatives including the Challenger Learning Center, arts & restoration, culinary arts, allied health and emerging technology. “We were the only college in the system that had 100 percent participation by our faculty and staff in that fundraising effort and Kay had a lot to do with that,” said WKCTC President Barbara Veazey.
Dr. Veazey, a long-time childhood friend, said Travis has always been “a voice of reason and a voice of honesty” and helped her to stay on track with the college’s mission. Referring to a list of accomplishments that included raising funds for the Challenger Learning Center, the Emerging Technology Center and Paducah School of Art and Design, Dr. Veazey said the impact Travis has had on the college was unmistakable. “I think there’s no doubt that we have been changed for the better because of her.”