PADUCAH — Murray State University President Bob Jackson spoke at the Wednesday, Nov. 16 meeting of the Rotary Club of Paducah, discussing the university’s past, present and what is to come next.
Jackson is an alumnus of Murray State and was named president position in 2019. Previously, he served on Murray State’s foundation as CEO, managing $180 million in assets and served as a state senator from 1997 to 2004.
“Just to give you a small taste of what the largest university in the region does, we serve a broad multi-state region, with students from every state, but Maine and Vermont, students from 50 different countries, and 109 counties in Kentucky, nearly all of them,” Jackson said.
“Just this past weekend, a student came up to say hello and to talk for a moment and he was from Nepal. I had no idea we even had a student from Nepal on campus. I do now and I’m glad I know that. That’s what makes a university. It adds a lot of diversity and it makes a college campus.”
Murray State offers 148 separate degree programs and has yearly graduations for increasing numbers of students, a good metric for the universities success when other universities have slowly falling campus populations.
“Our last graduation ceremony was one of the largest commencement ceremonies we have ever had,” Jackson said. “We had 1,501 Murray State graduates in attendance and 1,100 of them walked the line. This is what it is all about. This is why we exist from start to finish. This is the day that matters and then we want to place them in great positions throughout this region.”
Jackson continued to speak on what is to come for Murray State, with public-private partnerships (PPP), new dorms, new dining halls and asset preservation as the major focuses.
“The last legislative session was very good to Murray State,” Jackson said.
“We spend a lot of time in Frankfort and Washington. There were some key appropriations made to Murray State University. We will be building a building for those in the health care field. We are going into the planning stages for that as we speak. We also received an appropriation of about $47.2 million on top of our bond issue. That’s $60 million for use for deferred maintenance, used for what we call asset preservation and used for campus improvements.”
The most recent deferred maintenance project that was completed was the Lovett Auditorium, which recently received $5.5 million in renovations and updates replacing decades-old seating and carpeting while doing necessary repairs. Wrather Auditorium and West Kentucky Museum are currently receiving repairs. The oldest building on campus at almost 100 years old, Wrather is an important building to the history of the campus.
Murray State has also entered into PPPs for the construction of various facilities on campus.
“Ninety-two million was authorized for use in PPPs to construct new residential buildings and a new dining hall on campus,” Jackson said. “There’s a lot of new activity on campus, and a lot of things going on.”
Finally, Jackson spoke on the university’s centennial campaign. This year marks the 100th year of operation for the school and it’s working to raise $100 million for its use, with $50 million going to scholarships and $50 million going to academic excellence and modernization of facilities.
“I’m so proud of the work we have done for the campaign,” he said.
“We’ve all worked very hard on the centennial campaign. Ninety-nine% of our students receive scholarships or some type of financial aid and half of our students finish school with no debt. There are probably few if any colleges and universities that can stand up and say that. We are proud to.”
This comes down to the number of scholarships that are provided to students.
“We provide so many scholarships, including need-based scholarships,” Jackson said. “We can only do it because of a lot of generous people who donate a lot of money to Murray State.”