Wimberly Royster, a University of Kentucky professor and administrator who spent his retirement improving science and math education in Appalachia, died Wednesday. He was 89.
He was born in Henderson County and attended Murray State before heading to Lexington to get his graduate degrees from UK. After a brief stint at Auburn University in Alabama, he returned to UK, where he spent the next 36 years as professor, administrator, dean of arts and science, the first vice-president of research and special assistant to the president.
In 1992, he retired from UK but immediately began work with the Kentucky Science Technology Corporation. He directed a $10 million grant from the National Science Foundation, which became the Appalachian Rural Systemic Initiative, which directed better teaching training and professional development throughout six states. He also ran Kentucky's Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research which helped research and development efforts in science and engineering.
In 2002, he helped secure what is still UK's largest grant ever: $22 million from the NSF to create the Appalachian Math and Science Partnership. The network spread among nine other universities and 52 public school districts across central Appalachia, including parts of Tennessee and Virginia, to help improve both teaching and learning in those fields.
Kris Kimel, president of the KSTC, said Mr. Royster had a huge influence on many people around Kentucky.
"We feel that it was great to have the opportunity to work with him as long as we did," Kimel said. "He was a pleasure to be around, a very kind individual. He was devoted to Kentucky."
In a statement, UK President Eli Capilouto said Mr. Royster "forever altered the trajectory of the University, and through it, Kentucky. The entire Wildcat family — generations of his colleagues, students, friends, and those who never knew his name but felt his impact — is profoundly indebted to the service he rendered in pursuit of a higher purpose."
Mr. Royster is survived by his wife, Betty Jo Barnett Royster, sons and daughters-in-law David and Norma Royster of Lexington, Paul Royster and Jane Remus of Lincoln, Nebraska; sister Valara Heierman of Cairo, Ky., and three grandchildren.
Visitation will be Sunday from 5 to 8 p.m. at Milward-Southland, 391 Southland Drive. Services will be at 2 p.m. Monday at First United Methodist Church, 200 W. High St., with burial in Lexington Cemetery.
The family requests donations to Royster Graduate Student Excellence Award in Arts and Sciences, 100 Sturgill Development Building, University of Kentucky, Lexington, Ky.40506-0015.