In 1952, the University of Kentucky attracted O. Leonard Press and Lillian Henken Press to Lexington, where he became a professor and she worked at WVLK radio.
Neither could have expected to stay as long as they have.
Fittingly, UK honored this extraordinary couple with honorary doctorates during spring commencement this month.
It's hard for many of us to imagine modern Kentucky without their lives' work.
His was Kentucky Educational Television; hers was community mental health, education and involving more women in politics and civic life.
As the leading advocate beginning in the late 1950s for a statewide public television network and its founding director, Len Press created what today is Kentucky's only statewide media institution, binding Kentuckians, rural and urban, east to west.
KET's cultural and political programming — showcasing Kentucky's music, filmmaking, art, storytelling, people, places and history — bears Press' stamp and defines the state.
KET's educational programming has enabled more than a million Americans to earn high school equivalency degrees.
Lil Press, a newspaper reporter and public-relations executive in her native New England, became interested in mental health as a volunteer in Lexington. She directed a survey of mental-health resources and needs as part of an initiative by President John F. Kennedy.
This led to her overseeing development of Kentucky's system of community mental health centers, praised in their early years as the nation's best. She worked for the Appalachian Regional Commission and in 1983 became the first director of the Governor's Scholars Program for Kentucky's most promising rising high-school seniors. She went on to organize and chair the National Conference of Governor's Schools.
In "retirement" she organized the Women's Network, aimed at involving more Kentuckians, especially women, in politics.
The only other married couple to receive UK honorary degrees were UK's third president, Frank L. McVey, and Frances Jewell McVey, who earned degrees at Vassar and Columbia and had been a UK English professor and dean of women. They were honored in 1940.
The Presses' dual honor came 68 years after they earned graduate degrees at Boston University.
We are so grateful for the differences they have made in their adopted state and for continuing to provide Kentuckians with great role models and inspiration.