Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer, by Keith Lawrence
Nearly 13 months after he was selected as the 34th president of Kentucky Wesleyan College, Barton Darrell is still having fun.
“I love this campus,” the 54-year-old attorney turned educator said Thursday. “I grew up here. I try to walk the campus at least twice a day and talk to students — because I want to, not because I should. If I can, I try to meet with every prospective student who visits the campus and their parents.”
A lot has been happening on the 55-acre campus at the corner of Frederica Street and Scherm Road since Darrell assumed the presidency of the 157-year-old college on Sept. 16, 2014.
And Thursday was a particularly exciting day for Darrell.
The Las Vegas-based Rogers Foundation announced that it will award more than $10 million in four-year, full-ride scholarships over the next decade for graduating seniors in Clark County, Nevada, to attend KWC.
Darrell called the announcement a “game changer” for the college.
“This puts Owensboro more on the national map,” he said. “We’ll be seeing an infusion of people and interest in Kentucky Wesleyan and in Owensboro.”
Darrell had made several trips to Las Vegas over the past two years, working to secure the partnership with the foundation.
The past year has seen approximately $7.5 million in gifts and bequests to the college.
The largest was a $4-million bequest from Elizabeth Luellen Pyles, a Kentucky Wesleyan College alumna and former board member.
And KWC renamed its library the Howard Greenwell Library & Learning Center in recognition of a $1 million gift to the school from George and Gertrude Greenwell of Owensboro.
The college’s Kendall Hall had been closed for a couple of years because of declining enrollment.
But with enrollment growing again to more than 700 students, the residence hall reopened in August after a $3.75 million face-lift.
KWC has received a lot of honors from national publications and websites this year.
U.S. News & World Report recently named it the 27th Best Regional College in the South.
It was ranked at No. 78 in Great Value Colleges’ 100 Most Affordable Small Colleges East of the Mississippi survey.
Other awards include being ranked in the Top 50 in the Nation, Best Baccalaureate Colleges; Top 35 in the South, Best Regional Colleges; first in the state in Commonwealth by accounting students on CPA exam scores; third in the state in pass rate by accounting students on CPA exam; Best Online Bachelor’s Degree Institution; and Best in the Southeast Colleges.
Those honors, Darrell said, are achieved because of the college’s culture.
“There is no successful college or business that doesn’t have a successful culture,” he said. “We absolutely believe in what we do and we’ve learned to communicate it better. Our faculty is so focused on our students. That’s why we get some of the scores we get.”
Darrell said “corporate America” is telling colleges that graduates need to have more “soft skills” — things like communication, teamwork and adaptability.
Freshmen at KWC now get evaluated on those skills during the school year, he said.
Darrell is also pushing for more civic involvement between the students and the community.