Students, staff back Martha Layne Collins for president of Georgetown College

gkocher1@herald-leader.comJune 20, 2013 

Faculty, alumni and students at Georgetown College are encouraging former Gov. Martha Layne Collins to consider becoming president of the liberal arts school.

A Facebook page popped up Monday that said, "Join your fellow alumni and friends of Georgetown College in their support of Governor Martha Layne Collins. We believe that the current state of the college calls for a proven, successful leader who will produce results and create vision."

One person wrote that Collins "is the caliber of candidate we need to lead Georgetown to being the best school in the state and hopefully eventually into the top 50."

Collins responded to that post with, "Thank you for the vote of confidence."

The Facebook page had 586 "likes" by Thursday afternoon.

In a telephone interview, Collins, 76, said no one from the presidential search committee had contacted her.

"I'm appreciative of the support with the social media," Collins said. "But I haven't heard anything from anybody at Georgetown. ... I have not been contacted, so this may not even be an issue.

"I'd be happy to talk to them. I'm willing to help Georgetown any way I can, whatever way that might be," she said.

Lexington mortgage banker Roy Lowdenback, a 2005 graduate of the college who worked in the school's office of development from 2010 to 2013, said he is among a group of alumni behind the effort to promote Collins.

"I worked closely with her," Lowdenback said. "I've seen faculty, staff, students, alumni and donors respond positively to her. I was the chief development officer, and we would travel together and go meet with donors, and she would open up doors and create opportunities for us to receive some funding that we might not have received otherwise."

The college is looking for a successor to William Crouch Jr., 61, who announced in October that he will retire this month.

Two finalists for the presidency, former Lexington Mayor Jim Newberry and Jason Rogers of Belmont University in Nashville, withdrew from consideration in May.

The college's presidential search committee "continues to review credible candidates whom it believes likely to be the right fit for the presidency," spokesman Jim Allison wrote in an email Thursday.

"The committee and board (of trustees) are formulating a plan for transitioning to new leadership and expect to share that as soon as it can be done," Allison wrote.

Collins was the first woman to be Kentucky's governor. She held office from 1983 to 1987, and her administration was instrumental in bringing Toyota Motor Manufacturing to Scott County.

After leaving office, she became an international trade consultant, and she taught at the University of Louisville in 1988 and at the Institute of Politics at Harvard University in 1989. She served on the boards of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville and Midway College.

In 1990, she became president of St. Catharine College in Washington County. She held that job for six years, then she left to become director of the International Business and Management Center at the University of Kentucky.

Between 1998 and 2012, Collins was Georgetown College's executive scholar-in-residence. Her function was to enhance and promote its business program, to speak to business and political-science classes, to recruit more international students, and to recruit more students interested in international studies. She also helped to raise money for the college.

She has other ties to the college: Her husband, Dr. Bill Collins, is an alumnus, and briefly worked there in the late 1990s as an adviser to the athletic director. The temporary position came after Dr. Bill Collins served time on federal convictions of extorting money from two bond-underwriting companies in exchange for helping them get lucrative state contracts. Company officials invested more than $1.7 million in his horse partnerships, and the companies received nearly $1.7 billion in business during his wife's term as governor. Gov. Collins was not accused of any wrongdoing.

Gov. Collins said her father, father-in-law, mother-in-law, son and son-in-law all went to Georgetown College.

Georgetown College has an enrollment of 1,100 in its undergraduate program and about 500 in its graduate program in education.

"I've been in education for a long time," Collins said during the interview. "I think education is the most important thing, frankly, for our economy, for the well-being of our state, everything. And so I'm interested in education at whatever level. I know the search committee is busy doing their due diligence."

Greg Kocher: (859) 231-3305. Twitter: @heraldleader.

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