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Western Kentucky University (WKU) is a public university in Bowling Green, Kentuckymarker, USA. It was formally founded by the Commonwealth of Kentucky in 1906, though its roots reach back a quarter-century earlier.

has a student body of more than 20,000 students. Its main campus, College Heights, is in the midst of hundreds of millions of dollars worth of construction and renovation. Since 1997, dormitories have been renovated, new academic and athletic buildings have been finished, with more construction under way. The university also has placed a premium on creating a parklike atmosphere, with parking lots on the interior of the campus replaced with greenspace, trees and other landscaping known as Centennial Mall.

WKU sits atop the highest point in south-central Kentucky, a hill called College Heights with a commanding view of the Barren River valley. The campus flows from the top of College Heights, also known as The Hill, down its north, south and west faces.

The university's mottos are "The Spirit Makes the Master" and "Life, More Life!"—both phrases coined by WKU's founder, Dr. Henry Hardin Cherry.

WKU alumni have among the nation's highest rate of giving back to the university, both in money and time. WKU is in the midst of its second major capital campaign, the $200 million New Century of Spirit, which ends in 2012. It follows the university's first campaign, Investing in the Spirit, which had a goal of $75 million but raised more than $100 million.

Besides the main campus at College Heights, WKU operates a satellite campus in Bowling Green and regional campuses in Glasgow, Elizabethtown/Fort Knox and in Owensboro.


The roots of WKU go back to 1875 and the founding of the privately owned Glasgowmarker Normal School. This institution moved to Bowling Green in 1884 and became the Southern Normal School and Business College.

The student body and building were transferred to the Western Kentucky State Normal School, when it was created by an act of the Kentucky General Assembly in 1906. The owner of the Southern Normal School, Henry Hardin Cherry, became the first president of the new school. Classes began on January 22, 1907.

The Spirit Makes the Master, WKU's motto, is on the pylon at the entrance to the university.
school moved to its present location in 1911. The property had been purchased in 1909 when the Pleasant J. Potter College closed.In 1922, the school was authorized by the state to grant four-year degrees and was renamed as Western Kentucky State Normal School and Teachers College. The first four-year degrees were awarded in 1924. In 1927, it merged with Ogden College, which occupied an adjacent campus.

The name changed again in 1930 to Western Kentucky State Teachers College. It was authorized to offer the Master of Arts degree in 1931. Another name change took place in 1948, when the school became more simply Western Kentucky State College.

WKSC merged with the Bowling Green College of Commerce, formerly the Bowling Green Business University, in 1963. Bowling Green Business University had originally been a part of the Southern Normal School and had been sold off by Henry Hardin Cherry when Southern Normal School was transferred to the state.

The structure of the institution changed at this time, dividing into separate colleges. Bowling Green College of Commerce maintained its identity in this way. The Graduate School also became a constituent college. In 1965, three additional colleges were created.

In 1966, Western Kentucky State College became Western Kentucky University.

Lowell H. Harrison, professor emeritus, serves as official University Historian.


Pearce-Ford Tower, the largest dormitory at Western Kentucky University
WKU is divided into six undergraduate colleges:
  • The Bowling Green Community College of Western Kentucky University
  • The College of Education and Behavioral Sciences
  • The Gordon Ford College of Business
  • Ogden College of Science And Engineering
  • Potter College of Arts and Letters
  • University College
  • College of Health and Human Services

An academic range of eighty majors and seventy minors are offered, toward the following degrees:

  • Bachelor of Engineering
  • Bachelor of Arts
  • Bachelor of Fine Arts
  • Bachelor of General Studies
  • Bachelor of Science
  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing
  • Bachelor of Music

WKU also offers seventeen associate degree programs and five certificate programs.

The Graduate School is now the Office of Graduate Studies and Research, which offers:
  • Master of Arts
  • Master of Arts in Education
  • Master of Business Administration
  • Master of Science
  • Master of Public Administration
  • Master of Health Administration
  • Master of Public Health

Mass Media and Technology Hall, home to WKU's School of Journalism and Broadcasting, a nationally prominent program routinely ranked among the best undergraduate journalism schools in the nation.
's Nursing , Journalism and Photojournalism programs rank among the best in the country. The photojournalism department has won numerous awards. As of 2007, more than 25 alumni of WKU's photo and print journalism programs have been honored with the Pulitzer Prize. The school's twice-weekly newspaper, the College Heights Herald, regularly wins awards placing it among the top college newspapers in the nation, and even competes against commercial newspapers in the state's Associated Press competition.

WKU is also home to the largest American master's degree program in folklore; it is contained within the Department of Folk Studies and Anthropology . It is unique among American folklore programs for its public folklore program and is one of the few schools in Kentucky to offer a focus in historic preservation.

In the fall of 2009, WKU will begin its bachelor's degree program in popular culture studies, being only the second university in America to offer such a program (the other being Bowling Green State University).

Starting in the fall of 2009, an independent Doctor of Education (EdD) program in educational leadership will be offered at WKU.

In the rankings of "America's Best Colleges 2009," WKU is No. 10 among public master's universities in the South, up from No. 12 in the 2008 rankings. According to Forbes 2009 rankings of America's top 600 colleges, Western Kentucky University is ranked No. 434, making it the second highest ranked public college in the state of Kentucky.

WKU's Forensic (Speech and Debate) Team won its fourth American Forensic Association National Individual Events Tournament in five years, sixth NFA National Tournament championship in debate as well as its fourth NFA championship in individual events, its eighth International Forensic Association title, the National Parliamentary Debate Association National Tournament and its 17th consecutive Kentucky Forensic Association State championship.

Extended campuses are operated in Glasgowmarker, Elizabethtownmarker/Fort Knoxmarker and Owensboromarker.

Western Kentucky University offers Distance Learning Degrees:[63216]

Honors College

The WKU Honors College became the first and only Honors College in the Commonwealth of Kentucky on July 1, 2007. The Honors College serves over 1,000 active Honors students with the 2009 incoming freshman class ACT/SAT average ranking among the top 6% in the nation.

The Carol Martin Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science in Kentucky

The Carol Martin Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science in Kentucky opened in the Fall of 2007. The project is based on the University of North Texasmarker's Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science. The school accepts 60 juniors each year. As an incoming junior, students are given the opportunity to earn at least 60 college credit hours during their stint at the school.

The Gatton Academy has a curriculum of university courses. Students are required to take certain science and mathematics courses, such as biology, chemistry, physics, computer science, and mathematics, in addition to humanities courses. Students are able to access most Western Kentucky University courses for elective credit. Gatton Academy students take WKU courses taught by professors, and most are open to other students on campus. All tuition, room, and board is paid for by the state with students responsible only for books and transportation.

Florence Schneider Hall at WKU is home of the Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science.
Carol Martin Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science in Kentucky also offers research opportunities to students during the year and during the summer.

The Gatton Academy provides an environment designed for academically talented adolescent students and supports extracurricular activities that reflect the interests of Academy students.

All Gatton Academy students are required to live in the residence hall, Schneider Hall, even if their homes are within commuting distance. Approximately one weekend each month, students go home to be with their families. Schneider Hall has state-of-the-art technology. On May 10, 2008 there were 54 graduates of the inaugural class.

Fight Song and Alma Mater

Guthrie Tower, on the common of Western Kentucky University.

Western Kentucky University’s fight song, Stand Up and Cheer, and its Alma Mater, College Heights:

Stand Up and Cheer

Stand up and cheer

Stand up and cheer for dear old Western

For today we raise

The red and white above the rest


Our team is fighting

And they are bound to win the fray

We’ve got the team

We’ve got the steam

For this is dear old Western’s day!

College Heights

College Heights on hilltop fair

With beauty all thine own

Lovely jewel far more rare

Than graces any throne

(Refrain) College Heights, we hail thee

We shall never fail thee

Falter never, live forever

Hail! Hail! Hail!

College Heights with living soul

And purpose strong and true

Service ever is thy goal

Thy spirit ever new.


College Heights thy noble life

Shall e’er our pattern be

Teaching us through joy and strife

To love humanity



Western Kentucky University red towel logo

The men's athletic teams are known as the Hilltoppers and the women's teams as the Lady Toppers. Their mascot is known as Big Red. The mascot itself has become one of the most popular characters in collegiate sports, even appearing in a series of ESPN promotions. In most sports, WKU has been a member of the Sun Belt Conference since 1982. During the years 1948-82, it was a member of the Ohio Valley Conference.

Big Red, Western Kentucky University sports mascot
The men's basketball program, led by Former Hilltopper & Texas assistant Ken McDonald, has the 16th most victories in the history of the NCAA. The school has been to the NCAA Tournament 21 times; in addition, it has made one appearance in the NCAA Final Four, which occurred in 1971. WKU also made three appearances in the NIT Final Four while it was the premier post-season tournament. It is extremely competitive in the Sun Belt Conference, usually finishing near the top of the conference and regularly competing for the conference championship. In fact, in Street & Smith's publications, "100 Greatest Programs", WKU ranked #31.

The women's basketball team, coached by former player Mary Taylor Cowles, is a storied program with a bright future ahead. The team has made three NCAA Final Four appearances. In 1992, coach Paul Sanderford's Lady Toppers advanced to the national championship game before bowing out to Stanford. The Lady Toppers are known for their post-season prowess, appearing in a post-season tournament in 19 of the last 20 seasons. Their last NCAA Tournament appearance was in 2008.

The Hilltopper football team belonged to what was then known as the Gateway Football Conference until 2006, and, in 2002, won the NCAA Division I-AA, now known as Division I FCS, National Football championship. In 2002, they renewed their annual rivalry game against cross-state rival Eastern Kentucky Universitymarker. In 2006, the school voted to move the team to the Division I Bowl Subdivision (formerly I-A). After two years of provisional status, the team will compete in 2009 as a member of the Sun Belt conference.

On November 2, 2006, the WKU Board of Regents voted to approve a proposal by the school's president, Gary A. Ransdell, to move the football program to Division I FBS, formerly known as Division I-A, in the Sun Belt Conference. The Hilltoppers began Division I FBS play as a reclassifying Independent school, joining Army, Navy, and Notre Dame in that respect, in the 2007 season. They will be eligible for post-season play in 2009. One of the major reasons for the move is, ironically, to meet Title IX requirements. At the time of the Regents vote, WKU was one of the few schools in the nation out of Title IX compliance because it offered too few scholarships for men's sports.

The Western Kentucky swim team consistently places in the top 5 in the Mid-Major National Rankings. In 2006 their men were undefeated in dual meets and were Sun Belt Conference Champions. The women won five consecutive championships from 2001–2005.In 2005, after 37 years as head coach, Coach Bill Powell became the assistant coach, and holds record for being the second winningest coach in men's swimming in NCAA dual meet history.

Western Kentucky Men's Basketball team defeated Middle Tennessee State in the 2008 Sun Belt Conference tournament championship game to get a bid into the 2008 NCAA Tournament. The Hilltoppers won their first-round contest against Drake University on a last-second three-pointer, and won their second round game against the University of San Diego, before losing by 10 points against UCLA in the Sweet 16. It was the 'Toppers' third appearance in the Sweet 16 but their first since 1993. In 2009, the men's basketball team defeated the University of Illinois in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to advance to the second round game against Gonzaga. Unfortunately, the Toppers' were beaten by a last second shot, failing to advance to their second straight Sweet 16.

Student body profile

WKU had a total enrollment in the Fall Semester of 2008 of 19,761 students. Out of Fall 2008's enrollment figure of 19,761, 13,488 were full-time and 16,966 were undergraduates. WKU now has the second largest under-graduate population in the commonwealth of Kentucky, behind the University of Kentuckymarker. Ethnic and racial minority enrollment was 16% at 1,920 students. This is a 21% increase since 2002. About 3 of every five students are female.

Forty-nine of the 50 states were represented at WKU in the fall of 2008. Regarding students from around the globe, 58 foreign countries were represented at WKU in 2008.

The average high school grade point average for entering freshmen in 2008 was 3.17 and 30.2% had an ACT score of 24 or above.

Greek life



Professional/Service Fraternities and Sororities

Student Government Association

The Official Logo of the Student Government Association at Western Kentucky University

The Student Government Association (SGA) is made up of three branches, the Executive Cabinet, the Senate, and the Judicial Council. The SGA is governed by its Constitution and By-Laws. All members of the student body are members of the Student Government Association and have the right to vote in SGA elections.

The Executive Cabinet is composed of a President (who serves as Student Regent to the WKU Board of Regents, and serves as Student Body President), Executive Vice President (Who serves on the Student Life Foundation, and serves as Student Body Vice President), Administrative Vice President, Chief of Staff, Director of Academic and Student Affairs, Director of Public Relations, and the Director of Information Technology. The President, Executive Vice President, and Administrative Vice President are elected by the student body each spring; the other positions are chosen by the President after his or her election. The Speaker of the Senate, who is the leader of the Senate, serves as an ex officio member of the Executive Cabinet.

The Student Senate is composed of student senators, the Secretary of the Senate, the parliamentarian, the sergeant at arms, and its leader, the Speaker of the Senate. The Senate meets weekly and discusses legislation in the forms of bills and resolutions in the standing and ad hoc committees. There are five standing committees, which each have a chairman, vice chairman, and secretary. Those committees are Academic Affairs, Campus Improvements, Legislative Research, Public Relations, and Student Affairs. Each committee meets weekly to discuss and create legislation.

The Judicial Council is made up of four associate justices and one Chief Justice. Their major role is to interpret SGA's governing documents.

Student Government Association celebrated its fortieth anniversary in 2006.

Media and publications

Adams-Whitaker Student Publications Center, home to the College Heights Herald, the Talisman and
  • College Heights Herald, Since 1924,WKU's student-run newspaper, routinely named one of the best in the nation
  • Talisman, WKU's award-winning yearbook
  • Rise Over Run Magazine, WKU's online magazine for independent culture
  • WKU SPIRIT, WKU's Alumni Magazine, published three times each year
  • WWHRmarker, Revolution 91.7 - WKU's College Radio Station

WKU Student Publications (Herald and Talisman) moved into a state-of-the-art new facility, the Adams-Whitaker Student Publications Center, in December 2007. The $1.6 million complex was built through a partnership between alumni, who raised more than $1 million, and the university. The building, across Normal Drive from the School of Journalism and Broadcasting, is named for Robert Adams and the late David B. Whitaker.

Notable alumni



Movies and television

Leo Burmester appeared in thirty-seven films, thirty-two television appearances and nine Broadway plays. He was nominated for Best Actor in Robert Altman's, Rattlesnake in a Cooler and won the New York Fanny award for Best supporting actor in Ah Wilderness at New York's Lincoln Center. Died in 2007.




Other notables


  1. History of Western Kentucky University
  2. WKU Remains Among Nation's Elite In Journalism Competition, May 15, 2008
  3. NATION'S JOURNALISM SCHOOLS WIN $52,500 IN HEARST PRIZES, HEARST JOURNALISM AWARDS PROGRAM, April 10, 2007 Hearst Intercollegiate Competition Winners.
  4. WKU To Recognize Pulitzer Prize Recipients, October 08, 2004
  7. John Carpenter - The New York Times
  8. Charmaine Hunt - bio
  9. Matt Long at
  10. Charles Napier at TVSA
  11. The Official Charles Napier Website
  12. David Schramm at filmsglobe
  13. "Local boy Jay Wilkison comes home to roost in TPAC's rendition of 'Rent'", Nashville City Paper
  14. [1]
  15. WKU Hall of Distinguished Alumni
  16. The Legacy Of Cordell Hull
  17. Duncan Hines
  18. Terrence W. Wilcutt, Biographical Data


  • Western Kentucky University by Lowell H. Harrison. University Press of Kentucky, 1987. ISBN 0813116201

External links

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