WKU Summit of Excellence honors volunteerism and philanthropy

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — Belle Lady Hunt (’73, ’77) of Bowling Green was recognized as the 2019 Philanthropist of the Year at the inaugural Summit of Excellence held Thursday, Oct. 17 at the Western Kentucky University Augenstein Alumni Center to honor and recognize outstanding contributions of WKU alumni, faculty, staff, friends and students.

Presented through support from Graves Gilbert Clinic, the Philanthropist of the Year award has been presented since 2000, and the Distinguished Service Medal recognition has been presented since 2001. The Outstanding Faculty/Staff Excellence in Philanthropy, Outstanding Student Excellence in Philanthropy and Outstanding Corporate/Foundation Excellence in Philanthropy awards are new for 2019. Each award honors those who have demonstrated exemplary leadership, commitment and volunteerism to the support and advancement of philanthropy, and investment in current and future students.

“Volunteerism and philanthropy are critically important to everything we strive for at WKU,” said Western Kentucky University President Timothy C. Caboni. “We simply cannot do what we do at WKU without the support of individuals, organizations, corporations and foundations like those we have honored tonight. Private support is key to our success today and critical to our future as an institution.

Hunt, a retired teacher from the Butler County School System, is a member of the College of Education and Behavioral Sciences Board. She and her late husband, Mike, have been longtime supporters of Lady Toppers Basketball. They co-chaired the Lady Topper Basketball Enhancement Fund Committee and have made significant gifts to the program. Hunt is also a co-founding member of the WKU Sisterhood.

“I first visited Western when I was a young teen and I fell in love with the place,” Hunt said. “I knew this is where I had to come to college, and WKU has been part of my life ever since. I have a special love for education and for Lady Topper Basketball. I have made lifelong friends and a self-made family through the Lady Toppers, and I have met like-minded friends through the WKU Sisterhood.”

Hunt has served on many boards and committees, and she previously received the Distinguished Service Medal for her work with the WKU Foundation Board of Trustees.

“My late husband and I were happy to be part of something that gave us so much pleasure,” continued Hunt. “I am honored and humbled to be recognized as the 2019 Philanthropist of the Year. I have had many blessings and I hope that I have been able to pass similar blessings on to others.”

Bike4Alz, a nonprofit established by members of WKU’s Phi Gamma Delta fraternity in 2010 to raise awareness and support for Alzheimer’s research, received the Outstanding Student Excellence in Philanthropy Award. In May 2019, “Team 007” embarked on a 70-day, almost 3,600-mile, cross-country bicycle journey. While they experienced many setbacks and challenges on the trip, they had their best fundraising year to-date with almost $71,000 donated to the Alzheimer’s Association.

“Our team would not have been able to do it without the help from the many parents, family members, friends, supporters and, of course, the University,” said Jack Blair, a junior from Bowling Green, Ky., who serves as Vice President of the organization. “Bike4Alz Team 007 left for San Francisco with lofty goals, and, despite the many challenges we faced, we still met or exceeded those goals. We are thankful for the recognition from WKU.”

Additional awards presented during the event include:

  • Kim Menke (’85) of Georgetown, Ky., and Garry Watkins (’75) of Leitchfield, Ky., each received the Distinguished Service Medal. Menke, Regional Director of the Government Affairs Office for Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky, was recognized for his service as Chair of the WKU Foundation Board of Trustees. Watkins, President of Wabuck Development Co., was recognized for his service on the LifeWorks at WKU Board of Directors.
  • Logan Aluminum Inc., based in Russellville, Ky., received the Outstanding Corporate Excellence in Philanthropy Award. Logan Aluminum, a longtime supporter of WKU, provided the initial funding to launch the WKU Industrial Partnership.
  • Dr. Barbara Burch (’59) of Bowling Green, Ky., received the Outstanding Faculty Excellence in Philanthropy Award. Dr. Burch, Provost Emerita and former Faculty Regent, currently serves as the Chair of the WKU Sisterhood, an organization of women advancing University priorities through philanthropic engagement and a collective voice.
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