“My heart is in Kentucky.”
The Alumni Hall of Fame perpetuates the memory of those who have brought distinction to the name and reputation of the College. The Class of 2017 honors four individuals: Lydia Dorman ’82, Rep. Walter (Jody) Richards ’60, Dr. Kim M. (Cecil) Schuster ’88 and A.J. Smith ’71. Each month from now through October, The Wesleyan Way will feature one of the inductees. The Alumni Hall of Fame Induction and Awards Dinner will be hosted at the Owensboro Convention Center on Saturday, Oct. 7, as part of Homecoming 2017.
“My selection to the Hall of Fame is very meaningful to me. I was quite excited when I got the news, and I keep thinking about how much this would mean to my mother. Kentucky Wesleyan molded a young guy through great teachers and experiences. I am deeply grateful.”
Why did you attend Wesleyan?
“I grew up in Columbia, Ky., where I was active in the Methodist Church and Methodist Youth Fellowship. Kentucky Wesleyan is a great family tradition. My great uncle was a student at the Millersburg campus and my mother attended at the Winchester campus. I never wanted to go anywhere but Wesleyan, and it was the right choice for me.”
What are special memories of your Wesleyan years?
“Kentucky Wesleyan College shaped me. I had great teachers who molded a young guy. I enjoyed my time there. I appreciate the memories. I also made lifelong friends and that has meant more to me with each passing year. Randy Capps (Dr. Randall Capps ’57) was my Sigma Nu big brother and some years later we were office mates at Western Kentucky University. That meant a lot to me.”
What are your thoughts and observations of the College today?
“I am excited about our president. Bart Darrell ’84 is in the right place at the right time. I have known him for a long time, so I have a perspective of many years regarding him. In fact, we were in a literary club together here in Bowling Green. He is moving my alma mater forward, and I feel great about our future.”
What is your greatest accomplishment?
“My heart is in Kentucky, and I am very pleased with my contributions to education. Our education system has come miles since 1976, when I first took office. I was sponsor of the Kentucky Education Reform Act in 1990.
“My 14 years as Speaker of the House were the longest in Kentucky history. I serve on the Southern Regional Education Board and am former chair of the Legislative Committee, and I am also the former chair of the Southern Legislative Conference. I serve on the Executive Committee of the National Conference of State Legislators.
“My wife, Neva, and I have been married 42 years. Our son, Roger, teaches fifth grade at Jody Richards Elementary School in Bowling Green. That is gratifying. Our granddaughter, Holly, is a successful marketing manager. Life is good.”
Rep. Jody Richards’ 14-year tenure as Speaker of Kentucky’s House of Representatives is the longest in the Commonwealth’s history. He also served as Speaker Pro Tempore for two years. Following his Wesleyan education, he earned an MA in Journalism from the University of Missouri in 1962, and then combined his life-long love for education and journalism in his career.
He first launched a teaching career at Western Kentucky University and then his legislative career when he won the 20th district seat in the Kentucky House of Representatives in 1976. While still in his first term, Richards was chair of the House Education Committee. He later played an instrumental role in engineering Kentucky’s sweeping education reforms through his positions on the state Task Force on Education Reforms, Governor Martha Layne Collins’ Excellence in Education Committee. In 1987, Richards was chosen by his democratic colleagues in the House to serve as their Majority Caucus Chairman, one of five leadership positions. In 1995, Richards was chosen as Speaker of the House. Richards has remained active in the public affairs of Bowling Green and Warren County, serving as past president of the Bowling Green/Warren County Jaycees, the Southern Kentucky Fair Board, and the Bowling Green Girls Club Board of Directors. Bowling Green’s Jody Richards Elementary School and Jody Richards Hall at WKU were named to honor Richards’ commitment to his community and the Commonwealth.
Richards has been honored by numerous organizations over the years, including the Kentucky Wesleyan Outstanding Alumnus Award in 1991.