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Bowling Green couple helps WKU reach $1 million match for SKyTeach

A Bowling Green couple has put WKU’s fundraising quest for SKyTeach over the top of its initial $1 million goal, qualifying the University for an additional $1 million from the National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI).

WKU has achieved a fundraising goal for the SKyTeach program. President Gary Ransdell and the deans of WKU's education and science colleges recognized some donors during a luncheon May 6 at the Kentucky Museum. From left are: Richard Harris, Bill Bonds, Marjorie Bonds, John Ridley, Sylvia Middleton, Dr. Sam Evans, Carolyn Ridley, Dr. Blaine Ferrell and Dr. Ransdell. (WKU photo by Clinton Lewis)

John (’74) and Carolyn Ridley recently made a commitment of $50,000 to SKyTeach to fund scholarships for future mathematics and sciences teachers.  This commitment along with the associated SKyTeach match established a $100,000 John and Carolyn Ridley Endowed Scholarship.  According to Kathryn Costello, WKU’s Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations, the Ridleys’ gift was one of 114 individual gifts that made up the $1 million requirement.

“In 2007, WKU was notified that it had received a significant and ground-breaking gift of $1.4 million from the NMSI,” Costello explained.  “By raising $1 million in private support for the program, WKU will now receive an additional $1 million from NMSI.  The SKyTeach curriculum includes a strong science/math focus and is structured as a double major in science and mathematics education and science or math. SKyTeach is the certification route for middle grades and secondary math and science teacher education candidates at WKU.  We are truly grateful that the Ridleys have put us over the top of our initial goal.  We anticipate continued growth of the program, which will give us the opportunity to secure additional funding in the future.”

Approximately 205 students are enrolled in the program this semester, 78 of whom were new to the program this fall.

“The opportunity to have this program on our campus will help our P-12 partners staff their science and math classes with teachers who have a solid background in the content discipline and are well prepared to facilitate student learning in their educational systems,” Dr. Sam Evans, Dean of WKU’s College of Education and Behavioral Sciences, said. “Students in the SKyTeach program are highly motivated and have exhibited the ability to provide appropriate educational experiences in the area of science or math for those students with whom they work. In return, students should be better prepared for post-secondary education and career opportunities in the areas of mathematics and science. ”

Dr. Blaine Ferrell, Dean of WKU’s Ogden College of Science and Engineering, said the program, a collaboration of the science and education colleges at WKU, “will prepare many more highly qualified mathematics and science teachers who will engage their students, make education relevant and challenge them to think critically, consistent with the results from the UTeach model program.  I thank John and Carolyn Ridley for their gift that put the endowment match over the top and to all the other contributors to this endowment who recognize the multiplier impact of training teachers on the number students who pursue a career in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.”

John Ridley said education is very important to him and his wife.  “We truly believe that with the continued economic pressures and financial strains of the cost for students and families, it is going to take more people with philanthropic hearts who understand that the state government is not funding at the level it once was,” he said.  “Scholarships are necessary and inevitable.”

Carolyn Ridley agrees.  “I liken scholarship support to the old proverb of teaching someone to fish and helping them to become self-sufficient and successful,” she said.  “Scholarships provide a lifelong gift through education.”

“SKyTeach will educate educators to educate,” John Ridley continued.  “It provides an opportunity to affect the lives of many through one gift.  This program will have far-reaching affects beyond just one recipient.”

WKU has always been a part of John Ridley’s life, as nearly 20 of his family members have attended the University.  “As Dr. Cherry (WKU’s founder) once said, ‘it’s that ‘other thing,’” he said. “When you find out what that is, it’s important to you.  I have true, intergenerational, lifelong friendships that have been made through WKU, and that for me is one of the ‘other things’.”

Though Carolyn received her undergraduate degree from George Mason University and her MBA from Marymount College, she said she never really had a traditional university experience. She has adopted WKU as her honorary alma mater, has become a proud Hilltopper and has embraced Bowling Green and South Central Kentucky as her own community.  She is also a founding member of the WKU Sisterhood, a group of women who give at least $1,000 each annually and collectively decide how the money will be used to benefit WKU.

John Ridley said he and Carolyn were pleased to have the opportunity to help WKU complete the match.  “Every dollar received for this program is important,” he said.  “We were just grateful to be in a position to help them make it toward the finish.  Others have helped the ship make it across the ocean; we were just able to help pull the boat into the shore.”

John Ridley is Managing Director and Investment Officer at Wells Fargo Advisors.  At WKU, he serves on the President’s Board of Advisors and the Campaign Cabinet for the New Century of Spirit Campaign.  He has served as chairman of the WKU President’s Circle and as a member of both the WKU Alumni Association Board of Directors and the WKU Libraries Advisory Council.  Carolyn Ridley is Vice President of Regulatory Affairs for tw telecom.

About SKyTeach at WKU: WKU’s SKyTeach grant was the result of a competition that included submissions from more than 50 universities nationwide.  The award for WKU’s SKyTeach was one of 12 originally funded by the National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI) to implement programs modeled after UTeach, a highly successful math and science teacher preparation program at the University of Texas at Austin.

SKyTeach is a collaboration of WKU’s Ogden College of Science and Engineering and the College of Education and Behavioral Sciences and includes partnerships with 10 of 31 school districts in the Green River Regional Educational Cooperative (GRREC).  WKU was the only institution in this region of the United States selected by NMSI for the five-year grant.

Replication of the UTeach program at WKU addresses this region’s need for math and science teachers, and it serves all of Kentucky and the entire mid-south region. This program is headed toward more than doubling the number of STEM teachers and improving the quality of teacher preparation, much as the UTeach program in Texas.

Contact: Kathryn Costello, (270) 745-6208.

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