Alumni Hall of Fame Class of 2004

Inducted April 24, 2004

John C. C. Mayo 1879

mayo_lgJohn Caldwell Calhoun Mayo was one of the most remarkable men ever to come from the impoverished hills of Eastern Kentucky. Born in 1864, the son of a poor farmer, Mayo enrolled as a ‘prep’ student at Kentucky Wesleyan College in Millersburg. While there, he became intrigued by the potential of coal and mineral deposits in the Big Sandy Valley.

In 1886, Mayo began teaching school in Paintsville. As his meager salary would permit, he began to purchase land in Eastern Kentucky. Mayo would eventually accumulate hundreds of thousands of acres of land, and mineral rights to many more. He convinced Eastern iron and coal companies to invest in exploration and mining of the region, selling his options to them for a considerable profit. Mayo continued to buy and sell land options, eventually becoming partner, agent, and representative for many large Eastern firms. By the 1890s, he had accumulated considerable wealth.

Mayo’s “Horatio Alger” career helped transform the economy of a poor region of the state and brought Mayo a personal fortune. He became Eastern Kentucky’s first millionaire. Mayo was generous with his wealth. His vision and philanthropy modernized much of Eastern Kentucky.

His friend, Daniel O’Sullivan, once wrote of him: “He has diverted millions into hitherto barren land. He has lined its valleys with railroads, peopled its desolate mountains with workmen, and brought the products of its forests and mines to the markets of the world.”


Justice Stanley Foreman Reed ’02

reed_lg2Stanley Forman Reed obtained bachelor’s degrees from both Kentucky Wesleyan and Yale University, and then studied law at the University of Virginia, Columbia University and the Sorbonne.

Following nearly 20 years in private practice, Reed was appointed by President Herbert Hoover to the Federal Farm Board and then became general counsel of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation. Reed was appointed solicitor general in 1933 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who in 1938 nominated him to the United States Supreme Court. Reed retired from the Court in 1957, deeply troubled by the actions of Chief Justice Warren who commenced a period of expansive interpretations of the Court and its power. Reed was opposed to “government by judges.”

In recognition of Justice Reed, Kentucky Wesleyan renamed its pre-law and politics society the Stanley Reed Society and annually hosts the Stanley Reed Lectures.

Talmage Edward Hocker ’27

thocker_lg2Talmage Hocker was a teacher and developer, and is credited with transforming Frederica Street into the main street of Owensboro by developing Wesleyan Park Plaza and Towne Square Mall.

In 1950 the future of Kentucky Wesleyan College in Winchester was in crisis. Realizing the success the college would have by moving to Owensboro, Hocker seized the opportunity and played a key role in the decision to relocate the college to Owensboro in 1951. Hocker’s vision and optimism for the success of such a move enabled Kentucky Wesleyan to continue educating students and developing leaders.

To honor him, the Alumni Association established its first alumni award – the Outstanding Alumnus Award – with Hocker as the first recipient.


James Roger Hull ’28

hull_lg2James Roger Hull began his insurance career as a field underwriter for Mutual Life Insurance Company of New York (MONY) and rose to the position of chairman and chief executive officer. When he was appointed CEO, MONY was the largest mutual life insurance company in the U.S.

He was active in the insurance industry as director and former chairman of the Life Association of America, vice-chairman and life trustee of the American College of Life Underwriters, and director of the Million Dollar Roundtable Foundation.

In recognition of his contributions, Hull was awarded the National Association of Life Underwriters “John Newton Russell Memorial Award,” the highest honor of the insurance industry.

He served as a director of the New York Stock Exchange, the Better Business Bureau, the Advisory Board of the Salvation Army, Religion in American Life, and the Board of Public Welfare, all in New York City, and as chairman of the executive committee of the Billy Graham Crusade of New York City in 1957.


Dr. Lyman V. Ginger

ginger_lg2Lyman Vernon Ginger served as dean of the College of Education of the University of Kentucky, as chairman of the Governor’s Commission on Public Education, as the first director of the Kentucky Commission on Post-Secondary Education, as state superintendent of education and as president of the Kentucky High School Athletic Association. He also served two terms as President of the Kentucky Education Association, and he held the distinction of being the only Kentuckian to be elected President of the National Education Association.

Ginger was appointed by Secretary of State Dean Rusk to serve a two-year term on the Education Committee of the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO, and was reappointed to an additional two-year term.

He was a much sought-after speaker and lecturer, and during his educational career addressed more than 500 different educational groups in almost every state and in five foreign countries.


Coach Robert R. Wilson ’31

wilson_lg2Robert R. (Bullet) Wilson, began his coaching career with KWC in Winchester, moving to Owensboro with the college in 1951. He coached all sports at the college from 1945 through 1958, but his passion was basketball.

During his first nine years, Wilson’s teams compiled a record against Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (KIAC) schools of 108 wins to 35 losses, and won the annual KIAC tournament five straight years.

But Wilson believed KWC could become a national champion, and in 1953 he began to schedule NCAA Division I schools. His best year was the 1955-56 season when KWC was ranked in the top 25 major college teams in the nation. The following year, Division II played its first national championship and KWC finished as runner-up.

Stepping down as coach in 1958, Wilson had a highly successful 14-year career, during which the Panthers won 11 championships, earned 25 All-Kentucky Independent Athletic Conference honors and nine All-American awards. To many, Wilson is considered “the father of Kentucky Wesleyan championship basketball.”


Bishop Edward Lewis Tullis ’39

tullis_lg2Edward Lewis Tullis is the only graduate of Kentucky Wesleyan College to be elected to the Methodist Episcopacy. Made a Bishop in 1972, Tullis presided over the Columbia, South Carolina, Area and then the Nashville, Tennessee, Area until his retirement in 1984. He served on the Board of Managers, the General Board of Missions, the Board of Managers of the Board of Discipleship, and the General Council on Finance and Administration.

Before being elected a Bishop, Tullis served 35 years as pastor in Methodist churches in Kentucky during which time he was also a Chaplain in the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

Tullis has served as a trustee of twelve colleges and seminaries and is now serving a 40-year term as a director of the Magee Christian Education Fund.

Tullis remains active in retirement and has authored several books – First Sermons, Shaping The Church from the Mind of Christ and The Heart of Evangelism. His latest book, The Birth of The Book, evolved from his experience teaching adult Sunday School for the past twenty years at Long’s Chapel United Methodist Church in Lake Junaluska, North Carolina.


Luellen Pyles ’44

pyles_lg2Luellen Pyles was successful in her business career with Burke Marketing and rose to the position of executive vice-president. She never distanced herself from her alma mater, however, regardless of her professional or personal life. She kept in touch, participated at every opportunity and continuously cultivated her classmates, keeping track of their whereabouts and nurturing her relationship with them.

As a result, alumni from the Winchester-era are extremely faithful and loyal to the programs and needs of the college. Pyles has made a lasting impact on the college and is one of the most influential graduates of KWC. Her student recruitment activities and the annual student send-off dinner she hosts, led to the establishment of the “Adopt-A-Freshman” program.


Betty McWhorter Gissoni ’50

gissoni_lg2Betty McWhorter Gissoni taught English at Paint Lick High School following graduation and became one of the first blind teachers in Kentucky. In 1952 she began graduate work at the University of Pennsylvania in connection with her studies at the Overbrook School for the Blind in Philadelphia, to become certified as a home teacher of the adult blind.

Relocating back to Kentucky in 1956, Gissoni established a home teaching service for the blind, and in 1960 the Commonwealth instituted a state home teaching service based on her model. As a result, she became the first certified home teacher of the blind in Kentucky.

Gissoni served on the board of the Midwestern Conference of Home Teachers of the Blind and on the graduate council of Guiding Eyes for the Blind. Among her many awards were the Handicapped Professional Woman of the Year given by the Pilot Clubs of Kentucky and the Community Service Award for service to the blind awarded by the National Federation of the Blind.


Dr. Edward Lee Beavin ’50

Edward Lee Beavin had a profound impact on hundreds of students as professor of Hebrew Bible. As an Old Testament scholar, his research and writing brought distinction to himself and national recognition to the college.

In 1961, Beavin wrote “The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Teaching of Old Testament to Undergraduates,” which was published in The Journal of Bible and Religion. Two years later he authored two essays – “The Wisdom Literature” and “Ecclesiasticus” – that were included in the new Interpreters One Volume Commentary On The Bible. These scholarly works so impressed Harvard University that they asked him to become a visiting Old Testament scholar.

Through academic visitations to teach and research at Harvard and other educational institutions, Beavin quickly became recognized as a biblical scholar. To add to his reputation, Beavin was chosen as second alternate for the first-ever Annual Distinguished Teacher Award from the National Association of Schools and Colleges of the United Methodist Church. The annual KWC Beavin Lectures memorialize his legacy.


Dr. Douglas Reid Sasser ’52

sasser_lg2Douglas Reid Sasser was a professor and administrator, and served as president of three colleges – Young Harris, a private, Methodist-affiliated two-year college located in the Appalachian mountains of Georgia; Pfeiffer University, a comprehensive United Methodist university with multiple campuses and delivery systems in the Charlotte, North Carolina area; and United Methodism’s Scarritt College in Nashville, Tennessee.

He is a well-known college administrator with a reputation for leadership in higher education. During his tenures as college president, he took an active leadership role in the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the American College Association, the American Association of Junior Colleges, and the National Association of Methodist Colleges and Universities. Sasser chaired the continuation committee of the drama division of the National Council of Churches and the Regional Board of the Appalachian Adult Basic Education, and was elected to the executive committee for the Georgia Council of Private Colleges and Universities.

He is the author of The Urban University and the Arts, published by the University of North Carolina Press, and is a frequent lecturer on college and university campuses.


David E. Hocker ’59

David E. Hocker is chairman and chief executive officer of David Hocker & Associates, Inc. and has developed and managed real estate and shopping centers since 1959. His first shopping center – Wesleyan Park Plaza – opened in 1964, and since that time he has developed more than 40 shopping centers in 13 states containing more than 14 million square feet of retail space.

Hocker is a member of the board of the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC), the trade association for the shopping center industry with more than 40,000 members in the United States and 40 foreign countries. He serves on the ICSC board of trustees and executive committee and was active many years as the ICSC Kentucky state director. He was elected vice-president of the organization in 1985 and chairman in 1989. He is also the recipient of Inc. Magazine’s “Arthur Young Entrepreneur of the Year” Award in the Real Estate Industry.

Hocker has served continuously on the KWC Board of Trustees since 1975 and holds the longest tenure as its chair with 12 years.