AIKCU Voices: Don Trowell, Lindsey Wilson College

For 2020 we’re asking students and alumni of Kentucky’s independent colleges and universities to share stories about their college experiences in a new series we’re calling AIKCU Voices. If you’d like to share your story, email us at

Portrait of Lindsey Wilson student Don Trowell

My name is Don Trowell, and I am currently a Sophomore attending Lindsey Wilson College. I study Business Administration with an emphasis in Entrepreneurship, and Journalism. LWC is located in Adair Co., Columbia, KY, which is a ways from my hometown in Louisville. I went to school at Fern Creek High and graduated in June of 2018.

My goal in life is to become an entertainer and entrepreneur. Singing, acting, performing and etc. In my spare time (which isn’t much), I make YouTube videos that showcase my life, skill, and love for people and positivity. Aside from that, being under the wing of my grandparents in my mid-teen years, I gained such an overwhelming love for business and entrepreneurship. As they are both entrepreneurs, I learned that “…no one can be your boss, better than you can.” Both of these areas of passion have helped direct me to the pinnacle that I am at now in life, at my wonderful college and home in Columbia-Adair County, Lindsey Wilson College. 

In deciding on a plan for my postsecondary success, I knew exactly what I didn’t want. I didn’t want to be a number. I didn’t want to be voiceless. I didn’t want to make less of a difference. Lastly, I didn’t want to be ridiculously stressed. The one thing I knew that I wanted was to go and get some form of education. A huge issue I faced was whether I would be financially capable to pursue that education. Whenever I stumbled upon LWC, it captivated me. No, it isn’t huge or extravagantly glamorous. No, we don’t live in the most affluent area. But that’s what added to the character of the place I would one day call “home.” 

Lindsey Wilson has some of the best faculty, staff, and students ever! We treat everyone like family, and recognize the bond we all have with one another. The Blue Raider bond is something I knew I wanted to be a part of after I concluded my first campus visit. Every aspect of the school reflected back some part of me. It has allowed me to grow and develop as a person and connect with some of the most authentic people I’ve ever encountered. I was financially capable to attend the school that was meant for me with academic-merit scholarships as well as state financial aid that left me with little to no worries at all in terms of costliness. Moreover, the educational value was there, in the most intimate and meaningful way. It feels good to know that your professors know your name and care about what you’re going through every single day. 

Education means the world to my family and me. When I was very young, my grandmother considered anything to be a “teachable moment,” which always rung very ironic because that’s what she was, a teacher! She would take the smallest moment and yield some lessons from it. From there, I always learned that knowledge truly is power and it is the key to success. My family has always held me accountable for the type of student I wanted to be. If I wanted to get A’s and B’s on a report card, I was expected to come home with straight A’s. In all, education is an opportunity that can transform your life, and my family hasn’t let me waste it.

LWC has granted so many bright opportunities to me during my time here. None of which I take lightly. I have had the chance to represent my fellow Blue Raiders as a member of the Student Government Association, becoming the 2018-19 Freshman Class President and 2019-20 Chief-of-Staff. Additionally, I became the new host for LWC Snapshot which is a current events clip on all convenings and happenings that airs bimonthly on Sundays via LWC social media. Currently, I am heading the collaboration between Lindsey Wilson College and the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, in aiming for the first ever collegiate level school climate audit under the organization. Additionally, I have opportunities like this…to share what education means to me, and why my college is the perfect embodiment for it.

OJ Oleka named President of Association of Independent Kentucky Colleges and Universities

OJ Oleka will assume the role of AIKCU President on December 1, 2019

FRANKFORT, Ky. (November 7, 2019) — After an extensive search, the Board of Directors of the Association of Independent Kentucky Colleges and Universities (AIKCU) has named OJ Oleka as its next president. Oleka, who currently serves as Chief of Staff for Kentucky State Treasurer Allison Ball, will assume his duties as AIKCU president on December 1. Oleka succeeds Gary S. Cox, Ph.D., who is retiring after serving as AIKCU president since 1997.

“The search process was a difficult one that included several outstanding candidates,” said University of Pikeville president Dr. Burton Webb, who co-chaired the search process. “OJ’s passion for higher education, his work advocating for those things in which he believes, and his strong relationships within the legislature will be incredible assets for AIKCU in the years to come.”

Oleka brings a deep understanding of higher education and workforce issues to his new role at AIKCU. Earlier this year Oleka was appointed by Governor Bevin to the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education and he has served on a number of state and local workgroups, boards, and committees focused on education and workforce issues. 

“I am honored to have been selected to serve as president of AIKCU and work alongside our member institutions to create a new vision for independent higher education in Kentucky,” Oleka said in a statement. “Expanding access to higher education, advocating affordability for every student, and communicating to the legislature and business community how our institutions are essential to Kentucky’s economic and workforce needs will be the foundation of our success. I am fully prepared to lead that effort.”

Oleka is slated to earn a Ph.D. in Leadership in Higher Education in 2020 from Bellarmine University, where he previously earned an MBA. He holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Louisville, where he served as student body president and chaired the Kentucky Board of Student Body Presidents. 

In addition to his experience working with policymakers as Chief of Staff in the Kentucky State Treasurer’s office, Oleka has directed campaign operations for a statewide gubernatorial campaign. He has served as an adjunct professor and published in peer-reviewed and popular publications. His education experience extends to the K-12 level, where he served Teach for America first as a corps member teaching in an under-resourced public school and later as a regional recruiter.

“The search committee selected OJ from a strong pool of candidates, and I am confident he will provide exceptional leadership to AIKCU and our members during these challenging times,” said outgoing AIKCU President Cox. “I feel good about the fact that I’m leaving the organization in capable hands.” 

Oleka takes over a strong member organization representing the interests of Kentucky’s 18 four-year nonprofit private colleges and universities. During Dr. Cox’s 22-year tenure AIKCU merged the operations of its two precursor organizations, the Kentucky Independent College Foundation and the Council for Independent Kentucky Colleges and Universities; enhanced the role of private colleges in Kentucky’s education policy arena; substantially increased collaborative activities among members; and saw Kentucky Lottery-funded financial aid distributions to private college students grow from just over $10 million to more than $60 million per year.

“Dr. Gary Cox has been the consummate professional in leading our association of private higher education institutions in Kentucky for more than two decades. He has faithfully represented the diversity of our private colleges and universities while helping us to collectively tell our story of the role we play in enriching the quality of life in Kentucky and beyond,” said Dr. Michael V. Carter, president of Campbellsville University and chair of the AIKCU Board of Directors. “Dr. Cox’s service has not been to just private higher education. He has worked alongside the leaders of our public universities and colleges in a manner that has enriched our Commonwealth. All of us on the Board wish Dr. Cox the very best in the days ahead!”

AIKCU members continue degree growth, award nearly 11,000 in 2018-19

degree chart


AIKCU member colleges and universities played an important role in the record year for Kentucky degrees and credentials recently announced by the Council on Postsecondary Education.

AIKCU degree production continued its upward trajectory in 2018-19, with AIKCU members awarding 10,926 total degrees and credentials.

This marked the first time that graduate degrees awarded by AIKCU member institutions (5,937) exceeded undergraduate (4,989), according to the Council on Postsecondary Education.

AIKCU members awarded 3.5% more bachelor’s degrees (for a total of 4,716) and 42.5% more graduate degrees in 2018-19 than in the previous year. Total degrees and credentials were up by 21.4%.

Over the last ten years, the number of degrees and credentials awarded by AIKCU members has increased by 66%.

For additional degree information, visit the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education Data Center

Lindsey Wilson College SGA President Jakob Beckley to represent independent colleges on state board

Lindsey Wilson SGA president Jakob BeckleyCOLUMBIA, Kentucky — Jakob Beckley, a senior business major and student body president at Lindsey Wilson College, has been appointed to represent independent college students on the Board of Student Body Presidents of Kentucky.

“I am grateful and honored to represent Lindsey Wilson College and the Association of Kentucky Independent Colleges and Universities on the Board of Student Body Presidents,” said Beckley. “I am excited to showcase the outstanding accomplishments of our independent colleges, while working with my fellow student body presidents and leaders across the commonwealth to help find solutions to issues that affect all secondary education students.

Beckley is from Pleasureville, Kentucky (Henry County High School) and is serving his second term as the Lindsey Wilson College student body president. In that role he leads the Student Government Association and serves as a student member on the LWC Board of Trustees. He is also a Bonner Scholar and a student assistant in the LWC Alumni and Development office.

“Jakob had already shown some initiative last year to bring AIKCU student government leaders together, so he was a natural choice when we thought about who might represent AIKCU students on a state level,” said Mason Dyer, AIKCU vice president.

The Board of Student Body Presidents of Kentucky was formally established by state statute in 2013 to advise the legislative and executive branches and the Council on Postsecondary Education regarding postsecondary education issues and concerns of college students. The Board is composed of the student body presidents from Kentucky’s eight public universities, two representatives from the Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS), and a private college representative selected by AIKCU.

Three additional AIKCU student government presidents have been tapped to serve on the newly established Kentucky Student Advisory Council: John L. Grevious (Bellarmine University), Rebekah Mobley (Campbellsville University), and Lynsey Doyles (Midway University).


Centre College wins AIKCU “Battle of the Bumpers” license plate sales title

centre license plate

Centre College narrowly edged out Transylvania University to claim the 2018 “Battle of the Bumpers” license plate sales title.

The “Battle of the Bumpers” is a friendly competition between the 18 AIKCU member institutions to see who can generate the most sales of their institution-branded “Kentucky Independent Higher Education” license plates. Ten dollars from the sale of each plate goes directly back to the institution to support student scholarships. Transylvania has had a lock on  the title for the last decade.

While Centre and Transy remained at the top of the sales competition, Bellarmine University increased their annual total sales by 10% in 2018 and made the competition into a legitimate three way sales race.

Total sales of Kentucky Independent Higher Education license plates generated nearly $58,000 for student scholarships in 2018, bringing the total to more than $670,000 since the plates first hit the road in 2003.

Kentucky Independent Higher Education license plates are available through all Kentucky County Clerks offices. View all AIKCU member plates.

See also: Centre College victorious in Kentucky’s Battle of the Bumpers (

AIKCU board changes, staff retirements

AIKCU Board Changes

Campbellsville University President Michael V. Carter, Ph.D. has been named as the new chair of the AIKCU Board of Directors. He succeeds Spalding University President Tori Murdent McClure.

AIKCU is pleased to welcome six new presidents to the AIKCU Board of Directors for the 2019-20 academic year:

AIKCU Staff Changes

AIKCU President Gary S. Cox has announced his plans to retire from the role he has held since 1997. Gary has agreed to stay on and serve role until the AIKCU board names his successor.

Gary has been a tireless advocate for education throughout his professional career. Gary came to Frankfort in the 1970s to work for the Legislative Research Commission and then went on to spend two decades with the Kentucky Council on Higher Education, serving as its Executive Director for a decade before coming to AIKCU to lead the association.

Although he’s stepping away from AIKCU, Gary plans to remain active in education issues.

In addition, AIKCU Senior Vice President Bob Johnston has retired. Bob oversaw AIKCU operations and business services and was instrumental in creating two of AIKCU’s most successful collaborative programs: the Kentucky Independent Higher Education license plate program and the AIKCU Benefit Alliance.

Bob came to AIKCU after a successful career in Kentucky state government, where he retired as the Public Service Commission’s first Director of Consumer Services. However, Bob wrote in his official retirement letter: “My association with AIKCU has been the highlight of my professional career, and I will always cherish the memories and accomplishments we made as a collective team during this time.”

We wish Bob and his wife Gayla all the best as they transition to full-time retired life in Florida.

Welcome to new campus staff members

As we begin the fall semester and AIKCU’s fall member group meeting schedule, we thought it would be appropriate to acknowledge senior staff serving in new roles on our member campuses.

We’ve attempted to organize this list of new folks according to the functional areas that correspond with AIKCU’s internal member groups. Some of these people are brand new to the AIKCU family. Others have recently enjoyed promotions or shifted responsibilities on campus. And some have been in their positions for a while but were never properly introduced after assuming new roles during the last academic year. Welcome to all.

Presidents’ Offices:

Bellarmine University – President Susan M. Donovan

Berea College – Sherry Thiele, Executive Asst. to the President

Kentucky Wesleyan College – Scott Kramer, VP of Executive Initiatives & Retention

Lindsey Wilson College – Amy Thompson-Wells, Executive Asst. to the President

Transylvania University – Kristin Milam, Executive Asst. to the President

Transylvania University – Rachel Millard, Chief of Staff

University of the Cumberlands – Jamirae Hammons Holbrook, Executive VP/Chief of Staff

Academic Affairs

Asbury University – Bonnie Banker, Interim Provost

Lindsey Wilson College – Patricia Parrish, VP for Academic Affairs

University of the Cumberlands – Shannon Deaton, Dean of Education


Asbury University – Mark Troyer, VP for Institutional Advancement

Centre College – Shawn Lyons, VP for Development & Alumni Engagement

Centre College – Jamey Leahey, VP for Legal Affairs & Gift Planning

Thomas More College – Robyn Hoffman, VP for Institutional Advancement

Transylvania University – Martin Smith, VP for Advancement

University of the Cumberlands – William Stohlmann, Director of Development

Career Development

Lindsey Wilson College – Laura Burwash, Director of Career Services

Transylvania University – Tracy Dunn, Director of Career Development


Berea College – Kim Brown, Assoc. VP of Marketing & Communications

University of Pikeville – Laura Damron, Director of Public Affairs

Admissions/Enrollment Management

Asbury University – Bill Hall, VP for Enrollment Management

Campbellsville University – Shane Garrison, VP for Enrollment Services

University of Pikeville – John Yancey, Director of Admissions


Midway University – Greg Heidemann, Director of Facilities

Transylvania University – Darrell Banks, Director of the Physical Plant

Financial Aid

Kentucky Wesleyan College – Crystal Hamilton, Financial Aid Director

Midway University – Justin Cristello, Director of Student Financial Planning

University of Pikeville – Jennifer Bates, Financial Aid Director

Human Resources

University of the Cumberlands – Steve Allen, Director of HR

Information Technology

Centre College – Andrew Ryan, Chief Information Officer

Transylvania University – Krista Story, Activing VP for Information Technology

Institutional Research/Effectiveness

Asbury University – Paul Stephens, Director of Institutional Research & Effectiveness & Strategic Planning

Library Services

Georgetown College – Andrew Adler, Director of Library Services

Student Affairs

Campbellsville University – Rusty Watkins, Dean of Students

Kentucky Wesleyan College – Rebecca McQueen, Dean of Student Services

Thomas More College – Kevin Reynolds, Dean of Students

University of Pikeville – Justin Owens, Dean of Students

Centre SGA President Kirby Fitzpatrick to represent AIKCU students on Board of Student Body Presidents of Kentucky

Photo of Kirby Fitzpatrick of Centre CollegeDanville, Ky. — Kirby Fitzpatrick, a senior mathematics major and president of the Student Government at Association at Centre College, has been appointed by the Association of Independent Kentucky Colleges and Universities (AIKCU) to represent Kentucky’s nonprofit private colleges and universities on the Board of Student Body Presidents of Kentucky.

“I feel honored to be the voice of Kentucky’s private colleges and universities on the Board of Student Body Presidents,” she said. “Kentucky’s private colleges offer so much to the commonwealth, and I am excited to bring the ideas and perspectives of the smaller schools to the table.”

Kirby has already embraced the role, meeting with her public university peers on the board via Skype before the fall semester started. She hopes to build relationships with student government leaders at other AIKCU member institutions this fall to foster communication and opportunities for collaboration.

“The Board allows me and the rest of the private institutions more opportunities to share ideas and resources, only strengthening our own student governments at our respective universities,” she said.

The Board of Student Body Presidents of Kentucky was formally established by state statute in 2013. It advises the legislative and executive branches and the Council on Postsecondary Education regarding postsecondary education issues and concerns of college students. The Board is composed of the student body presidents from Kentucky’s eight public universities, two representatives from the Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS), and a private college representative selected by AIKCU.

Past AIKCU representatives to the Board of Student Body Presidents of Kentucky have included student government leaders from Spalding University, Brescia University, and Lindsey Wilson College.

2017 spring commencements announced

As the spring semester winds down, our member institutions are preparing to celebrate their graduates’ accomplishments at spring commencements.

Commencement speakers this year include civil rights leader and current U.S. Representative Congressman John Lewis, New York Times bestselling author of Hillbilly Elegy J.D. Vance, national and community leaders, and institutional presidents.

This list of Spring 2017 commencement information for Kentucky private colleges will be updated as additional information becomes available.

Alice Lloyd College

Saturday, May 6

12:15 PM

Asbury University

Saturday, May 6

APS/Graduate Commencement: 10:00 AM

Undergraduate Commencement: 2:00 PM

Speaker: Commissioner David Jeffrey, National Commander, The Salvation Army National Headquarters

Bellarmine University

Saturday, May 13

9:00 AM

Clayton Field in the Owsley Brown Frazier Stadium (Severe weather location: Knights Hall)

Speaker: Elmcroft Senior Living Chairman and CEO Pat Mulloy

Honorary Degrees: Honorary doctorates for Pat Mulloy, Leonard Spalding and Susan Spalding

Pat Mulloy to speak at Bellarmine’s spring commencement

Berea College

Sunday, May 7

2:00 PM

Seabury Center

Speaker: U.S. Representative John Lewis, Georgia 5th District

Honorary Degree: Congressman John Lewis

Brescia University

Saturday, May 6

10:00 AM CT

RiverPark Center, Owensboro

Speaker: Dr. Belle Wheelan, President of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)

Campbellsville University

Graduate Commencements:

Friday, May 12

4:00 PM

Ransdell Chapel

Number of graduates: 116 Master’s students

Friday, May 12

7:00 PM

Ransdell Chapel

Number of graduates: 167 Master’s students

Undergraduate Commencements:

Saturday, May 13

9:00 AM

Speaker: The Honorable Max Wise, Kentucky State Senator, 16th Senatorial District, 1997 Campbellsville University graduate

Number of graduates: 140 Bachelor of Science Undergraduate Students


Powell Athletic Center
Speaker: The Honorable Max Wise, Kentucky State Senator, 16th Senatorial District, 1997 Campbellsville University graduate

Honorary degree: The Honorable Max Wise, Kentucky State Senator, 16th Senatorial District, 1997 Campbellsville University graduate, Honorary doctorate of Public Service

Number of graduates: 128 Associate and other Undergraduate Students

Campbellsville University to graduate record-number of graduates in May of 558; 760 for academic year

Centre College

Sunday, May 21

3:00 PM

Newlin Hall, Norton Center for the Arts

Speaker: J.D. Vance, New York Times best-selling author of Hillbilly Elegy

Honorary Degree: J.D. Vance

Georgetown College

Saturday, May 13

10:00 AM

Giddings Lawn (Rain location: Davis-Reid Alumni Gym)

Speaker: Dr. Ralph D. West, founder and senior pastor of The Church Without Walls (Brookhollow Baptist Church, Houston, TX)

Honorary Degree: William H. McIntyre, local historian

Kentucky Christian University

Saturday, May 6

10:00 AM

Lusby Center Gymnasium

Speaker: Dr. Marvin Elliott

Kentucky Wesleyan College

Saturday, April 29

10:00 AM

Owensboro Convention Center

Speaker: Brian Kelley, former chief executive officer, president and director of Keurig Green Mountain

The Path to Success: Kentucky Wesleyan class of 2017 graduates at convention center

126 degrees awarded

Lindsey Wilson College

Saturday, May 13

Midway University

Saturday, May 13

11:00 AM

Graves Amphitheater on Midway campus

Speaker: Susan Martinelli Shea, Lexington Legends owner and philanthropist

Spalding University

Saturday, June 3

10:00 AM

Canaan Christian Church

Speaker: President Tori Murden McClure

Honorary Degree: Lonnie Ali

Thomas More College

Graduate Commencement

Friday, May 12

5:00 PM

Mary, Seat of Wisdom Chapel

Undergraduate Commencement

Saturday, May 13

11:30 AM

Connor Convocation Center

Transylvania University

Saturday, May 27

9:00 AM

Old Morrison Lawn (Rain Location: Beck Center)

Speaker: Bill Farmer, President and CEO of United Way of the Bluegrass

Union College

Sunday, May 7

10:30 AM

John M. Robsion Jr. Arena

Speaker: Bishop Leonard Fairley, United Methodist Church resident Bishop of the Louisville Episcopal Area

University of the Cumberlands

Saturday, May 6

Undergraduate Commencement: 10:00 AM

Graduate Commencement: 6:00 PM

O. Wayne Rollins Center

Speaker: Dr. Larry L. Cockrum, University of the Cumberlands president

University of Pikeville

Saturday, May 20

Kentucky College of Osteopathic Medicine Commencement

9:30 AM

East Kentucky Expo Center

Speaker: David O. Barbe, M.D.,MHA, Board-certified family physician and president-elect of the American Medical Association

Honorary Degree: Dr. Barbe, Doctor of Science

University of Pikeville Commencement

2:00 PM

East Kentucky Expo Center

Speaker: Irene Trowell-Harris, R.N. Ed.D., Maj. Gen., USAF, Ret., Former Director of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Center for Women Veterans

Honorary Degree: Dr. Trowell-Harris, Doctor of Humane Letters

Transy wins “Battle of the Bumpers” for 9th straight year

transy plateTransylvania University has taken the AIKCU “Battle of the Bumpers” title for the 9th consecutive year.

The Battle of the Bumpers is a friendly annual competition that pits the 18 AIKCU member institutions against each other to see whose supporters purchase the most Kentucky Independent Higher Education license plates in a calendar year. Ten dollars from the sale of each plate goes back to the featured institution’s general scholarship fund.

Transy alumni, students, faculty, staff, and friends purchased 973 plates in 2016, generating nearly $10,000 in student scholarships. Overall, AIKCU distributed more than $50,000 from 2016 license plate sales to campus scholarship funds.

Centre College was second with 881 plates sold. Bellarmine University came in third with 749 and saw the biggest jump over the previous year, with an increase of 22 percent (137 plates).

Sales of Kentucky Independent Higher Education license plates have raised more than $550,000 for student scholarships since the Battle of the Bumpers kicked off in 2003.

Official Kentucky license plates for all 18 AIKCU colleges and universities and the association are available for purchase at Kentucky County Clerks’ offices. Plates cost $44 on initial issue and $31 at renewal, with $10 going to the institution’s general scholarship fund. Plates may be purchased at any Kentucky County Clerk’s office. For more information or to see all AIKCU member plates, visit the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet’s Department of Motor Vehicle Licensing.