0:00

AYERS: ----------(??)----------.

LANE: But, we are here today on October thirtieth at beautiful Southeast Community College with Dr. Bruce Ayers who is President and CEO.

AYERS: Yes ma'am.

LANE: That's your official title?

AYERS: Yes ma'am. (laughs)

LANE: Official title. Um, would you, for the record, and these are, this is just for our oral history file, would you review your, your educational career and, and how you began and that sort of thing?

AYERS: Sure. Sure. How far back do you want me to go? (laughs).

LANE: But just as far back as you would like to go is--

AYERS: Well, I'm a, I'm a--

LANE: --just wonderful.

AYERS: --I'm a product of these mountains where I now reside. I, I, I, I went to, uh, elementary school here. I, I, I graduated from Bell County High School, uh, which was then in east Pineville--

LANE: Pineville.

AYERS: Yeah.

LANE: Yeah.

AYERS: --and immediately thereafter, I went into the Marine Corps, where I spent four years, one of the most productive periods of my life. I, I tell folks I probably gained as much of an education in the Marine 1:00Corps--

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: --as I have since.

LANE: Hmm. Hmm.

AYERS: I, I then actually, uh, uh, got out of the, the Marine Corps and came to school here. At the time, this was a southeast center of the University of Kentucky of, of--

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: --one of four such centers around the state and, uh, to be honest with you, I was enamored, like many people, with the name UK, so, uh, so I came here--

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: Um, um, was Student Council President, and, and founded the newspaper, which still--

LANE: All right. Still exists.

AYERS: --still exists.

LANE: Wonderful.

AYERS: Yeah. I, I went on to, uh, the university where, uh, I, uh, received a, a baccalaureate degree in, in English and communications. I got a master's in English and, uh, came to work here in 19--uh--69, and have been here since.

LANE: Hmm. Hmm.

AYERS: Um, I then went back to school at, uh, East Tennessee State 2:00University, where I got a doctorate in higher education administration.

LANE: Hmm. Hmm.

AYERS: Um, so, uh, my, uh, educational path has not taken me far from, from, uh, you know, where--

LANE: Home.

AYERS: --where everything began.

LANE: From home.

AYERS: Yeah. From home.

LANE: That's wonderful. Whe-,when did, uh, the name change from Southeast Center? Did, did, did it, did it become a--

AYERS: Um--

LANE: --community college--

AYERS: Yeah.

LANE: --under UK ----------(??)?

AYERS: Yeah. When the community college, um, um, legislation passed, creating a system, um, um--

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: --there was some consideration that was given, of course, to converting all of the centers to community colleges, and, and folks here were, were pretty enthusiastic about that, uh, uh, so--

LANE: And we're talking about 1960?

AYERS: We're--no, we--

LANE: No?

AYERS: --the college actually, uh, uh, did not change its name probably until the early seventies--

LANE: Okay.

AYERS: Early seventies.

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: Uh, and of course we remained, um, Southeast Community College until a couple of years ago--

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: --when we changed our name to Southeast Kentucky Community and 3:00Technical College.

LANE: That's right.

AYERS: But we've always been Southeast.

LANE: I've said it incorrectly at the beginning.

AYERS: We've always been Southeast--

LANE: I'm sorry.

AYERS: --(Lane laughs)--and, and, of course, that's, uh, that's the, that's the one, uh, name--

LANE: Sure.

AYERS: --that most people associate with the institution.

LANE: Sure. Sure. Um, let's talk a little bit about, uh, your tenure as president of the Community College bef-, and then we're gonna lead up to the 1996--

AYERS: Sure.

LANE: --'97 reform.

AYERS: Sure. Sure.

LANE: Uh, your school grew during that time. How many campuses did you have?

AYERS: Uh, actually, uh, when, uh, KCTCS came into existence, we already had three campuses.

LANE: Um-hm. Okay.

AYERS: We were one of a few colleges in the system that had, had more than one campus. Uh, uh, we, uh, we had grown, we, we had grown, uh, uh, uh, Southeast of course was founded in, in, in Cumberland--

4:00

LANE: Um-hm. Um-hm.

AYERS: At that time, Cumberland was a bustling community, uh, uh, fed by a growing population in Benham and Lynch, uh, uh, and the surrounding area, but over time, uh, the, uh, demographics had changed, and we could see the change occurring and, uh, we were attracting, we thought fewer full-time students to this campus, but we knew that, that we were, uh, supposed to be serving, uh, communities like Middlesboro and Whitesburg--

LANE: Right. Right.

AYERS: --so we started looking toward them, um, realizing and recognizing that community colleges across the nation were doing this, this, this very thing, that they were establishing centers--

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: --in, in the population--centers of, of the region. So we, uh, we went to, uh, to Middlesboro and, uh, and, uh, were graciously accepted down there, uh, opened the center, and, within, uh, three 5:00or four years of course the, uh, legislature had committed itself to providing funding--

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: --for a full campus in, in Middlesboro.

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: We still don't have everything that was promised yet (both laugh). But we--

LANE: That's Kentucky politics.

AYERS: --we were ----------(??) there and, now, Middlesboro actually has become our largest campus--

LANE: Is that right?--

AYERS: --in terms of student population.

LANE: Hmm.

AYERS: Um, interesting situation in, in Whitesburg, uh, uh, we were invited into Whitesburg, we were offering courses all around Letcher County in, in the high schools. But, uh, I got an invitation from the Mayor, Jim Asher, and, uh, he, uh, invited me and a couple of other folks over one day, and said he wanted to, to give us a full-time pre-, wanted us to have a full-time presence in, in Whitesburg--

LANE: Whitesburg.

AYERS: --and that, that he would provide a building for us.

LANE: Hmm.

AYERS: Well, the building that he wanted to provide was, uh, an old, uh, run-down Coca Cola plant, that was, uh, no longer in use, obviously, but, but the community actually raised over a million dollars to 6:00renovate--

LANE: Amazing.

AYERS: --that old Coca Cola plant, and we were able to develop that into a fine building, and so we began offering classes in, in Whitesburg.

LANE: In Whitesburg. When was that?

AYERS: Uh, oh gosh--

LANE: Approximately?

AYERS: --that, that probably was--

LANE: In, uh, what era?

AYERS: --was about twelve to fifteen years ago.

LANE: Okay.

AYERS: Uh, and since that time, of course, we, we, have a couple of other buildings in, in Whitesburg, and, and things have gone so well there.

LANE: But the community really got behind it.

AYERS: They did. They did. Uh, um, Eastern Kentuckians, I think, not unlike people in other rural areas, appreciate the education. They really do.

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: Um, and, um, and if you, if you offer them something, they're probably going to accept it enthusiastically and help you. (laughs)

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: And we have gotten--

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: --so much help and assistance from these communities.

LANE: And it's home.

AYERS: It's home. It's home, and you have to--

LANE: It's home base.

AYERS: --you have to sort of let the people capture the vision, too. It's not just us.

LANE: Yeah.

AYERS: It's about them--

LANE: Exactly.

AYERS: --and I think they know and recognize that.

LANE: And their children--

AYERS: Yeah.

LANE: --and their grandchildren.

7:00

AYERS: Right.

LANE: Yeah.

AYERS: Right.

LANE: So you, um, at the time, in ninety-si-, let's say ninety-six-- ninety-seven--

AYERS: Um-hm.

LANE: --right before that reform, you had three campuses which would have been Cumberland, Middlesboro, and Whitesburg.

AYERS: Yes.

LANE: Okay. And what wa-, what was the first inkling that you heard of Paul Patton's grand vision for higher education?

AYERS: I shall never forget it. Uh, we were having a president's meeting of the community college presidents in, in Frankfort, uh, and, uh, somebody got a copy of the Courier-Journal, and it was on the front page. It might have been the Lexington-Herald, but it was one of those papers--

LANE: One of tho-, yeah.

AYERS: --and, and we were all shaken, to be honest with you. You know, we had heard rumors to that effect, but we really never thought that it would, would happen. Uh--

LANE: That, was this before his inauguration or after?

AYERS: No, this was after--

LANE: Right after.

AYERS: --his inauguration. Yeah.

LANE: Okay.

AYERS: Right after his inauguration. Yeah. Yeah. And, of course, he had been having some, some, uh, county meetings where he brought--

8:00

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: everybody in from throughout the region--

LANE: Um-hm. Um-hm.

AYERS: --and he was talking about post-secondary reform.

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: But, but I never really felt that, that he would go through with removing the community colleges from UK. I shall never forget, I was in the delegation that went up from Bell and Harlan County and, and he asked me, he said, "Bruce, what do you think about this?"

LANE: Hmm.

AYERS: And of course I stood up and told him that I didn't like the idea--

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: --that I liked the fact that he was talking about reforming, uh, higher education, that there were many things that needed to be changed, but I thought the community colleges were working well with UK. Uh, an-, I don't think he liked that too much--(laughs)--to be honest with you, but, but, but that's how I felt at the time.

LANE: Of course. Of course.

AYERS: That's how I felt. And, and, uh, but, I, I, still didn't think that, that, that he would go through with it--

LANE: That he would go through with it.

AYERS: --and then when we got that paper announcing that it was a fait accompli almost, you know, we, uh--

LANE: Now, was that a letter to you?

AYERS: No, no. That, that, that was in the newspaper.

9:00

LANE: That newspaper article.

AYERS: The first we heard, and I can, I can well-recall that, that the meeting pretty much ended--

LANE: Hmm.

AYERS: --and, and we all came home--

LANE: Shaken. (laughs)

AYERS: We came home to do battle--(laughs)--to be honest with you.

LANE: (Ayers laughs) Well, that's right. To plan strategy.

AYERS: That's right. To plan strategy.

LANE: But, but, let me ask you this.

AYERS: Yeah.

LANE: Hadn't there been other discussions of, during your tenure as president, of, of removing the community college? Hadn't there been suggestions?

AYERS: Well, al-, always talk about it--

LANE: Talk.

AYERS: --Margaret, but that, that's all there ever was--

LANE: Um-hm. Um-hm. Um-hm.

AYERS: --to be honest with you. I, I, you know, yeah, yeah, there had been some discussion of that. Uh, the community colleges obviously, politically, were very important to UK--

LANE: Um-hm. Yeah.

AYERS: --and the regionals knew and understood that and, and, you know, we felt, and, and, and that they really wanted to, uh, to break up the community-college-UK affiliation primarily for politics, as much as anything else.

LANE: Hmm.

AYERS: There are always political reasons--

LANE: Yeah.

AYERS: --for every decision that's made, uh, in education and other 10:00fields in Kentucky--

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: --and, and much of that was at, at play when, when, you know, uh, Paul Patton was, was actually formulating this grand plan to begin with. I, I really think, and, you know, I've told, uh, uh, Mike and, and lots of other people--

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: --this, that, that he said he was doing this in concert with the, uh, the regional universities. And, uh, and, and I'm not saying that's a bad thing. No--

LANE: No, no.

AYERS: I'm not saying that's a bad thing at all.

LANE: This is history. It's just--

AYERS: Because I, think he, he, I think the plan was that, that if, if, if they agreed to support this enthusiastically, knowing that UK would be opposed to it--

LANE: Right.

AYERS: --that there would be something in it for them--

LANE: Um-hm. Um-hm.

AYERS: --and indeed there was.

LANE: Um-hm. Um-hm.

AYERS: Post-secondary--

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: --education centers all around the state, that had never been envisioned (??) before, many of which are on community college campuses--

LANE: Campuses.

AYERS: --yeah, and I, I'll tell ya, we, we were afraid, Margaret, that, that, uh, that, uh, what would happen eventually is this, this, this 11:00entire KCTCS, KCTCS idea would be a failure--

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: --and that, that they would divide us up, they being the regional universities, and that, that Southeast would become--

LANE: Yeah, yeah.

AYERS: --part of Eastern and, and Henderson would become part of Western, and so on.

LANE: That was your fear.

AYERS: That is really what we were afraid of--

LANE: That was your fear.

AYERS: That's what we were afraid of.

LANE: Um-hm. Um-hm. Realistically so.

AYERS: Yeah.

LANE: I mean, understandably so--

AYERS: Yeah.

LANE: --because no one had ever really ever followed through with it before.

AYERS: No, no we hadn't (??).

LANE: So if it fell apart, then what--where were you gonna be?

AYERS: Yeah. Yeah.

LANE: And you didn't want that?

AYERS: No, no, no.

LANE: You, you didn't think that was a good thing.

AYERS: UK was all I had ever known, and, and I was a staunch (??) supporter. I, I can well-remember, when, when Governor Patton came here, you know, the, the, uh, the auditorium was full. We had probably five hundred people--

LANE: His visit?

AYERS: --and it only seats about four hundred. And they had placards and they had signs, you know, Keep the UK connection, kee-, and oh, he 12:00got, he got booed--

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: --and I had to stop that, I had to stop that--

LANE: Um-hm. Um-hm.

AYERS: --because as much as I disagreed with what he was saying--

LANE: That--

AYERS: --you know, we really wanted to, to respect him and, and to show that respect and, you know, I had to speak then. And I said, "You know, I'm, I'm, I'm certainly, I'm a strong supporter of, of changing the, the very nature of higher education in Kentucky, but don't change what, what we think is the most successful component, and, and that's what the community colleges are doing through UK." Um, and, um, he left here probably not, not feeling really good about, about the meeting. Uh, uh--

LANE: I think that was pretty typical of all the meetings.

AYERS: Yeah, it was. It was.

LANE: Now was there, um, was each community responding on their own, or, or did the presidents decide, we're gonna make these visits--

AYERS: No, no--

LANE: --we're gonna let him know.

AYERS: No, no, it didn't--

LANE: No, no I don't mean sabotage, but--

AYERS: No, it was spontaneous. It was spontaneous.

LANE: What--it was spontaneous? Yeah.

AYERS: Keep in mind--

LANE: People were afraid.

AYERS: Oh, they were. They were.

13:00

LANE: Students, faculty.

AYERS: The, the uncertainty, yeah.

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: People were, were so afraid and, and UK was all that we had ever known, Margaret.

LANE: Um-hm. Um-hm. Yes, that was secured in (??).

AYERS: It was. It was our security.

LANE: You knew the game plan.

AYERS: Yeah, it just wasn't an affiliation, I think, with the state's largest, uh, school. I mean, had we been a part of Eastern, we probably would have sought change.

LANE: But it was the unknown (??). It was what you knew.

AYERS: Yeah.

LANE: That, that makes--

AYERS: Yeah.

LANE: --it's certainly understandable. Um, so the mood on your campus was just uncertainty and fear for several months there, while he was doing the task forces, and the, and the writing the bill, and doing, making the visits. I think if Ed Ford called them, and I quote, "The worse than hell visits to the campuses." He said they were, they were tough, uh, but it, it was something the governor felt he needed to do. I don't know what he accomplished--

AYERS: Well--

LANE: --with those visits, except that it allowed the communities to at least have input.

14:00

AYERS: But it was a courageous thing to do.

LANE: It was, wasn't it?

AYERS: It, it, it was. I mean, it took a lot of nerve--

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: --to, to come to these colleges,

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: --knowing what, what--

LANE: What he was gonna face.

AYERS: --the atmosphere was gonna be like, and that he would not be welcomed, and I gained some respect for Paul Patton because of that, you know? I, I began to think that, that he was really sincere about this.

LANE: If he's going to put himself--

AYERS: Yeah. Yeah.

LANE: --through this.

AYERS: Yeah, that, that, that you know, it, it, it was just not another political move that was being made by someone who wanted to advance his career, you know, and--

LANE: He felt strongly about it.

AYERS: Pardon me?

LANE: He felt strongly about it.

AYERS: Yes. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, these were, these genuine feelings that he had, and, and keep in mind, one of his primary aides, and, and, and, uh, probably one of the people who was closest to him was Jerry Johnson who was my, my longtime friend from, from Harlan. And of course, we talked about this a--(laughs)--a lot.

LANE: I'm sure you did.

AYERS: Uh, Jerry is now the CEO over at Pikeville Medical Center, by 15:00the way.

LANE: Oh sure.

AYERS: He's a great--

LANE: Sure.

AYERS: --great guy. Great guy.

LANE: Uh--

AYERS: But I had, I had entry into the Governor's office. I mean, I, I knew those people well, and, and probably was more closely affiliated with that administration than any other.

LANE: Is that right?

AYERS: Yeah. Yeah. Except for this one issue.

LANE: You still didn't agree.

AYERS: Yeah. Yeah.

LANE: What were the messages coming from UK, from Dr. Wethington's office, and those folks, and your chancellor, who, who at that time was?

AYERS: Ben Carr.

LANE: Ben

AYERS: Ben Carr.

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: Uh--

LANE: Did you have meetings? Did you all communicate?

AYERS: We didn't, we didn't really do it in any sort of structured or systematic way.

LANE: Um-hm. Um-hm.

AYERS: It was sort of left to each individual college and each community to, to come up with, with--

LANE: Yeah.

AYERS: --its own plan.

LANE: Okay.

AYERS: Uh, I, I've often felt, uh, in, in looking back, that had there been an organized, uh, concerted effort on, on the part of, of UK that, that, uh, they might have won. They might have won.

16:00

LANE: Hmm.

AYERS: You know.

LANE: But you didn't feel it was that organized?

AYERS: No, no, no, and, and, and it, it, it's hard, it's hard to know why. Um, um, uh, you know, you don't know what's going on in, in, in Charles' mind--

LANE: Sure.

AYERS: --at that particular point in time. You just don't--

LANE: Well, and it became very emotional.

AYERS: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Uh--

LANE: And of course he had been with, had come up through the community colleges and, and those were very close to his heart--

AYERS: They, they, they were--

LANE: --so he did get very emotional about that whole--

AYERS: --indeed. Yeah, yeah. He really did.

LANE: So you're--that's interesting. I hadn't heard anyone say that.

AYERS: But now some of us took it on our own, uh, myself, and Ed Hughes and Pat Lake, and a couple of others, to, to actually go to Frankfort, and actually lobbied as hard as we could, uh, to keep the colleges with, uh, with UK. We, we met with, uh, some various and sundry people 17:00of, uh, uh, we talked with them. We made our cases as well as we could and really, when, when the die was cast and, and, and Charles and, uh, and, uh, and Paul Patton had that, that, that late-evening meeting,

LANE: Yes.

AYERS: --when a decision was made--

LANE: Right.

AYERS: --that this was gonna happen then, we did work with Jack Conway and some other people, to try to get the best legislation that we possibly could.

LANE: I see.

AYERS: Uh, and, uh, I think our being there probably helped a little. I, I hope it did.

LANE: Which, which of the details do you feel like may have been improved (??)?

AYERS: Well, Margaret, there were so many things that were under discussion at that particular point in time. We, we, we knew and understood that, that there probably would be a, um, a, um, um, an accreditation issue--

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: --that, that had to be--

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: --overcome, and, you know, we, we, we tried to make it, um, the, the legislation such that, that we could, we could work through those 18:00details later on, because all of us, of course, had been a part of SACS for many years--

LANE: Is that right?

AYERS: --and we knew that they were just not going to accept this. They, they couldn't, you know, it, it, was entirely different from any government structure that they had ever seen--(laughs)--

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: --and, in effect, you were giving UK continued, uh, control, to a large extent--

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: --over--

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: --a free-standing, autonomous college, uh, system.

LANE: Right, which--

AYERS: So we talked about a lot of those issues.

LANE: You, you forewarned them that those were gonna be SACS--

AYERS: That's right. That's right.

LANE: --issues.

AYERS: Yeah. Yeah.

LANE: Hmm. So how long did you work with, with the governor's office? Jack and Crit, I'm sure. Crit Luallen.

AYERS: Yeah. Yeah. Uh, we, I don't know. We, we were down there, it, it, it seemed like on and off for, for two or three weeks. It, it probably wasn't, wasn't that long and, and, um, of course it was, it was topsy-turvy. Um, actually, the, the Senate did not approve House Bill 1--

LANE: Hmm. Yeah. They were--

AYERS: --and, and, and we celebrated.

19:00

LANE: The thirteenth?

AYERS: Yeah. I can well-remember that. Of course,

LANE: Is that right? The first time.

AYERS: At that particular point in time.

LANE: Hmm. Hmm.

AYERS: You see, I was very close to, um, um, um, uh Senator Glenn Freeman who was from Cumberland.

LANE: Yes.

AYERS: And Benny Ray Bailey--

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: --of course, from Hindman.

LANE: Right.

AYERS: And, um, of course, they were kind of leading the charge. Uh, um, Glenn's, Glenn Freeman's mother, of course, had been the editor of the paper here.

LANE: Hmm. Sure.

AYERS: And has been one of the individuals who really had worked with UK to come here in the beginning--

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: --so he was very much opposed to it

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: Very much opposed to it. Um--

LANE: Hmm.

AYERS: --so it--(laughs)--was, it was an interesting time--

LANE: But, as--

AYERS: --interesting time.

LANE: --as you say, topsy-turvy--

AYERS: Yeah, and--

LANE: --and, um, and compromises in the mid-, in the middle of the night--

AYERS: There, there--

LANE: --the, the, the dead of the night.

AYERS: --there's no question. Yeah, well that--

LANE: And of course that came out, when the final bill was, was approved, after the thirteen amendments, and, and--

AYERS: Yeah. Yeah.

LANE: --the Senate not approving, and then those amendments, and then 20:00coming back to the compromises and, and to you, the group of you came to the new KCTCS and then LCC remained with UK?

AYERS: Yep.

LANE: At that time.

AYERS: Yep. That's right.

LANE: Now, we know in years to come, that SACS did not approve that either, and LCC is now part of KCTCS.

AYERS: Yep.

LANE: That happened in 2004--

AYERS: Yeah, SACS could have approved that but, but, um, UK did not want LCC.

LANE: Yeah.

AYERS: There's no question about that.

LANE: I see.

AYERS: And, and, uh, LCC is, is much better off for it. (laughs) We all are. (both laugh) That's the, that's the rest of this story right here let me tell you.

LANE: That's good. We want you all to be better off.

AYERS: Yeah. Yeah.

LANE: Well, let's go back and talk a little bit about, we've talked about the community colleges, but now we have this new entity, KCTCS, and you had to absorb tech-, some of the technical schools. Were there many in this area?

AYERS: Well, that came, that came later on.

LANE: Uh-hm. Yes.

AYERS: Of course, it didn't happen immediately.

LANE: No, not immediately, of course.

AYERS: And then, then one of the things I didn't tell you about 21:00Middlesboro, actually, Middlesboro was a jointly occupied campus with a Kentucky tech institution.

LANE: Okay.

AYERS: Uh, we, uh, and, in fact, that was part of the selling point when we went to the legislature. And, and, and, by the way, Charlie Burger, Senator Burger--

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: Was, was, uh, representing us then--

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: --and, um, so we formed an alliance with the, uh, the Kentucky tech entity--

LANE: Did you?

AYERS: --in Bell County, Bell County Area Technology Center, I think. They've been called so many things over time.

LANE: Haven't they though?

AYERS: Um, so they actually moved their post-secondary education programs to our Middlesboro campus.

LANE: I see.

AYERS: And so we had kind of a, a joint campus there, so that, in, in, in effect, was sort of forerunner of what--(laughs)--happened with KCTCS.

LANE: Exactly.

AYERS: Uh--

LANE: 'Cause you were, you were already working together.

AYERS: That's right.

LANE: Although some of the other, other community colleges were not. I mean, I understand--

AYERS: They were not.

22:00

LANE: --there were technical schools right across the road--

AYERS: That's right.

LANE: --and community colleges, and they didn't, didn't, well, they were from different worlds.

AYERS: They were different.

LANE: State Government and, and the education world with different salary structures, different working conditions. It was like merging.

AYERS: It was indeed. It was indeed.

LANE: It--merging two, as I say, two different worlds. So you didn't have as many of those to incorporate into your system?

AYERS: No. The, the only one, actually, we were already there with, with Middlesboro.

LANE: Right.

AYERS: We, we picked up Pineville and Harlan--

LANE: Okay.

AYERS: --is what we picked up--

LANE: Okay.

AYERS: --and we had been working cooperatively with Pineville for a number of years, because they offered Allied Health Programs.

LANE: Um-hm. Um-hm.

AYERS: Uh, the Kentucky Tech institutions, um, uh, could not offer degrees--

LANE: Right.

AYERS: --by legislation.

LANE: Right.

AYERS: We couldn't offer certificates--

LANE: Right.

AYERS: --and so we joined together with, with, uh, the Pineville facility, and actually allowed them to offer degrees in a number of fields that were conferred by Southeast. So we had a good working 23:00relationship with them.

LANE: So they were pleased with, with that collaboration?

AYERS: Yes, I think that, I think they were. I think they were. The only campus that we had not worked closely with was Harlan, where they had all of the technical programming--

LANE: Hmm.

AYERS: --and, and we just didn't know anything about that kind of programming, to be honest with you. Uh, but, uh, that too, went very well. Um--

LANE: How did that work, Dr. Ayers, in the very beginning? Uh, we will come back--

AYERS: Sure.

LANE: --to some of the other details, but in the very beginning when you, did you get a letter from one of the first, uh, presidents, the presidents would have Jim Ramsey or Nelson Grote or Tony Newberry or wh-, did you get any official communication saying you're now part of our new system? Or we're going to have a meeting. Or, how did that go?

AYERS: Well, I, I don't remember exactly to be honest with you, but, but, uh, I do recall at some of those meetings, and I don't how they 24:00were announced, uh, were very difficult. There's no question--

LANE: Hmm. Um-hm.

AYERS: --about that. The, the, the atmosphere was charged. The, uh, technical people, uh, did not trust us, and, and, obviously, uh, uh, we didn't have the respect for them that we should have had. I have so much respect now for technical education.

LANE: Um-hm. Um-hm.

AYERS: I have changed my, my mindset almost completely.

LANE: Hmm.

AYERS: So there was a, there was a lot of tension. There, there really was.

LANE: Did, did somebody say, "Okay, Bruce Ayers, now this is gonna be your district?" And--

AYERS: No, that came, that came--

LANE: Later?

AYERS: --much later.

LANE: Okay.

AYERS: You know, Dr. McCall is, is really the, the architect that, that, that, that built the structure that allowed us, I think, to, to, uh, come together in a meaningful way. Uh, before he got here there was not very much movement.

LANE: So you didn't know--

AYERS: We were still in two camps. There was no question about it.

25:00

LANE: Yeah. I was gonna say, you didn't know which of those technical units--

AYERS: No, no, no, no, no.

LANE: --were going to be in your system?

AYERS: No.

LANE: No.

AYERS: No, in fact, I think initially there was some thought given to the fact that, that, that, um, Pineville might become part of, uh, part of what is now Somerset--

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: --Community College. Of course, I would have thought that--

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: --but there was a lot of politicking going on behind the scenes.

LANE: Hmm.

AYERS: Of course with, with some of the, uh, the leadership that was in place.

LANE: Sure.

AYERS: Uh, but, uh--

LANE: But there's that juggle for al-, with a new system, always that juggle for, I don't know if it's power, but that's just, that's human nature--

AYERS: Well, it probably was.

LANE: That's human nature.

AYERS: Probably was power. Yeah. Yeah.

LANE: With any new, unknown entity.

AYERS: Yeah. But, we were ahead of the game in the sense that, that we had really established a good working relationship--

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: --with Kentucky Tech--

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: --and I think we had a degree of trust there that some of the other colleges--

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: --did not have. Uh--

LANE: ----------(??)----------

AYERS: That helped us tremendously. You know, we had some of their 26:00faculty who were already adjunct faculty at Southeast, and, 'cause we had these joint degree programs. I'm talking primarily about Allied Health again.

LANE: Certainly.

AYERS: But, uh--

LANE: But, as you say, it was the forerunner of what--

AYERS: It, it was. It was.

LANE: --you're doing throughout now--

AYERS: It was. Uh--

LANE: So you had series of meetings, and you, you were called to Frankfort. Is that where you met?

AYERS: Well, we met in--around the state, to be honest with you. We met at, at, at various and sundry places. I think we met in Lexington probably a couple of times, and, Margaret, they were on one side-- (laughs)--

LANE: That's what I hear.

AYERS: --and we were on the other.

LANE: That's what I hear.

AYERS: And there were more of them--

LANE: That's what I hear.

AYERS: --than there were of us.

LANE: Really? Really?

AYERS: I mean, they had, they had a lot of folks that came to these meetings, because they had probably more campuses than, than we had at that particular point in time.

LANE: Hmm.

AYERS: And every campus had a director--

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: --and all of them, all of them came.

LANE: What was their greatest fear? Do you think? The technical schools or the institutes, or Kentucky Tech?

AYERS: Well, they probably were afraid that, that, um, if they became 27:00part of a community college system which--

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: -- is what happened--

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: --that, that technical education would be devalued.

LANE: I see.

AYERS: Uh, I don't think there's any question about that, uh, and we've all had to prove to each other that we value--

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: --technical education.

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: And on our part, we had, we had to, to understand technical education--

LANE: Right.

AYERS: --first. But, uh--

LANE: What was your greatest fear as a community, what were the community colleges greatest fears?

AYERS: I guess we were concerned, uh, uh, at least we talked a lot about, about quality. We did not think that their faculty and staff was as, as educated as ours.

LANE: Um-hm. Um-hm.

AYERS: That they had the requisite degrees--

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: --and teaching experience ad infinitum that would allow us to transfer our credits and to have the affiliation that we had with the rest of higher education. Uh, that was just an uncertainty on our 28:00part. We, we didn't know.

LANE: How have, how have you worked that out? That's a very good, that's something I hadn't thought of. The qualifications of faculty and teachers and your technical people and, and SACS accreditation. How has that all shaken out?

AYERS: Well, it turned out at Southeast that, uh, most of them were as well-qualified--(laughs)--as our people were.

LANE: Is that right?

AYERS: Now, that was not true all over.

LANE: Sure.

AYERS: But again, uh, uh, keep in mind that a major part of their curriculum was in Allied Health--

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: --and all of those people of course had to be especially well- prepared.

LANE: Right. Right.

AYERS: Uh, of course, my concern initially was on the Harlan campus, but surprisingly, almost every individual down there had a bachelor's degree and many of them had master's degrees.

LANE: Hmm. Hmm.

AYERS: And of course they had years of experience in their field--

LANE: Right.

AYERS: --and many of them had worked in the field.

LANE: Exactly.

AYERS: So, uh, uh, SACS had no, no problem with that.

29:00

LANE: Hmm.

AYERS: Now, we did have a couple of instances where we had to justify some folks based on their work experience, but, uh, uh--

LANE: Were they required to obtain a degree, or did you just leave it at that, because of their work experience?

AYERS: Uh, it depended.

LANE: It depended.

AYERS: If, if they, if they had been around for awhile and, and were ready for retirement, we said everything is okay.

LANE: Sure. Sure. Well--

AYERS: If they were a younger person, then we put them in a degree track almost immediately--

LANE: Hmm. Hmm.

AYERS: --and it's worked out real well.

LANE: Really well.

AYERS: Of course, we were able to merge our faculties. We, we were able, again, uh, and all of these things didn't just happen, uh, as I mentioned initially, my greatest fear early on, was that this system, this new system would fail--

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: --and that we would be picked off by the regional universities and, and become part--

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: --of them.

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: I thought that we might lose our autonomy, to be honest with you.

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: But, uh, the credit, I think, for our not failing, uh, and for 30:00succeeding brilliantly, at least, from, uh, the way I see things, rests primarily with Mike McCall.

LANE: Hmm.

AYERS: He's an extraordinary leader.

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: There's no question about that. Uh, a man of, of great intellect, uh, of vision, and, and certainly a terrific work ethic.

LANE: Hmm.

AYERS: But, it's almost like he came in and he willed this thing to succeed. And it was hard not to get behind him, Margaret, because you could see that, that, that, that he really was genuine, and that, that, that, that he wanted this to be the best system in, in, in, in the country. And, and we have just worked so hard under, under his leadership, uh, to, to get through any of the obstacles that might have been put in place and, and, uh, and now have a, have a wonderful structure that, that I do think, uh, uh, has, uh, put us in a position 31:00of, of, of leadership in, in the nation.

LANE: He, of course, received great support from the governor's office when he came in.

AYERS: He did.

LANE: And I'm sure that there were, there's always politics at play. Uh, but, but I know that the governor's office supported him in, in case there were others who wanted to dicker --

AYERS: Well, this was Paul--

LANE: --with the system.

AYERS: --Patton's baby--

LANE: Yes, it was.

AYERS: --and he certainly didn't want it to, to fail--

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: --and so he, uh, he was, yeah, he was very supportive of, of--

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: --Dr. McCall, uh, and, and, uh, and, and, and you can be sure that everybody knew that--

LANE: Yes.

AYERS: --and, and that was very important.

LANE: Yes. It was important.

AYERS: Yeah.

LANE: He didn't just say, "Okay, here it is. Now let's see what you can do with it." Paul Patton, from the governor's office, with his folks, supported the everyday decisions, and of course, Gordon Davies was a great, uh--

AYERS: Gordon was a tremendous help.

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: There's no question about that.

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: Uh, uh, I think his coming when he did just made all the 32:00difference in the world. Uh, um, and, and he really kind of gave KCTCS the ability to establish a system that, that was not, um, um, I don't know how to exactly say this, uh, uh, hampered, uh--

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: --or pulled down in any way by the Council on Post-secondary Education.

LANE: Right. Which was a new creature--

AYERS: Ab-, ab--

LANE: --in itself.

AYERS: Absolutely. Yes, it was. Yes it was. But, but, we were able to, for example, determine, uh, our own programs, for example, without having every time that we created something new to go to them and ask for their blessing. He began to treat us like, like, uh, they had long-treated the regional universities--

LANE: Hmm.

AYERS: --with a degree of respect that, that, that we all noticed, and, and I think that probably helped Mike tremendously, too, because we knew that he had that good working relationship with the Governor and with, with, with Gordon, and all of these things began to come together, I think, uh--

33:00

LANE: So that was very different after Mike's and Gordon's arrival from that transition year. I mean, you went through a lot of the sitting on different sides of the rooms, and, and, and being fearful during that, that year before Mike came.

AYERS: Yeah.

LANE: Of course, he, he began in January of '99 and you had, well, it was a year and a half actually that--

AYERS: Yes it was. Yes it was.

LANE: --you all had worked and worked out some of the bugs, and what, what was the, the mood before he came? What were your feelings? How were things going--

AYERS: Before he came, again, just, just, just really--

LANE: --right before he was just chosen?

AYERS: --um, I think we were all pleased with, with his selection. Of course, we had had the opportunity to, uh--

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: --visit with him and a couple of other--

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: --candidates. And, and the three people from Southeast, myself included, had, had been for Mike (laughs)--

LANE: All right.

AYERS: --so that was a--(laughs)--that was a good thing.

LANE: All right. When did you first meet him?

AYERS: Uh, uh, actually--

LANE: Did you know him before this?

AYERS: --I first met him, yeah, uh, uh, when, when the three candidates were, were brought together. I've forgotten where that was.

LANE: Okay. Okay.

AYERS: Maybe, maybe in Frankfort, but, but I was impressed with him at 34:00that particular point in time. He didn't make a lot of promises.

LANE: Hmm.

AYERS: He didn't, and I can remember again, uh, some of our, uh, our, um, Kentucky Tech folks asking some very loaded questions, but he didn't take the bait. He didn't. He didn't, uh, uh, and I could, I could just see that, that, uh, or I felt, that, that he was a person who would bring, uh, uh, some strength to the system early on, and I thought that was important.

LANE: Yes.

AYERS: I really did. If you've got somebody that was in wishy-washy--

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: --it was going to come apart--

LANE: I know.

AYERS: --and I didn't want it to come apart. I mean, the die had been cast at that particular--

LANE: Um-hm. Um-hm.

AYERS: --point in time, and I wanted it to, to succeed. I wasn't sure it would--

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: --but I really wanted it to--

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: --and I, and I felt it would take a, a strong leader.

LANE: ----------(??)--

AYERS: So I rea-, I really wanted Jim Ramsey--

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: --to be president of, of KCTCS.

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: I, and, and, and by the way, he, uh, he, he lost because of the, 35:00the, the technical side.

LANE: Oh he did?

AYERS: No, they didn't want him. They didn't want him.

LANE: Hmm. Because he was a state government person--

AYERS: Uh, I, I--

LANE: --you think?

AYERS: Well that and some other things.

LANE: I see.

AYERS: Again, everybody had to have this, this, this background in technical education to please him--

LANE: Okay.

AYERS: --uh, and, and he just was not technical enough for --

LANE: Oh, I see.

AYERS: --them, really.

LANE: I see. So it was technical versus academic--

AYERS: Yes.

LANE: --if you will?

AYERS: I think so. I think so.

LANE: How interesting. Now, that's the first time I've heard that.

AYERS: Yeah.

LANE: I've heard several, several, uh, rationales for, for that.

AYERS: But, he was a good person.

LANE: Yes.

AYERS: He was a good person.

LANE: And he did a wonderful job--

AYERS: I think he did.

LANE: --from day one--

AYERS: I think he did, and--

LANE: --organizing your transition teams and the--

AYERS: --and Tony Newberry--(Lane clears throat)--change, too. And, there's not a harder working person in the entire world than Tony, and it was so awkward for Tony.

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: It, it, it really was.

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: Uh, I know that there were those who felt he should show allegiance to UK.

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: Uh--

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: --you know, Ben left--

LANE: Sure.

AYERS: --within, what--(Lane clears throat)--three or four months, I guess--

LANE: Right.

AYERS: --after, after KCTCS was formed. And, had it not been for Tony, 36:00I don't know what we would have done.

LANE: Hmm.

AYERS: Uh--

LANE: He stepped on up,

AYERS: And I can remember that we, we had a, a, a meeting at, at, at the Faculty Club. All of us came together, you know, before we actually moved to KCTCS, and I always felt as though, uh, Tony was treated badly--

LANE: Hmm.

AYERS: --just always had that feeling that, that, they, uh--

LANE: Hmm.

LANE: By the technical folks?

AYERS: No. By,

LANE: By his own-

AYERS: --by the, the UK people.

LANE: Oh, okay. Well I, I, one of the staff members, actually, Jackie--

AYERS: Yeah.

LANE: --our friend Jackie Bondurant, who was in the midst of all that, just said, "We, we were just treated like lepers after that."

AYERS: Yeah.

LANE: "You know, we were there on campus." And, and, uh, it was, it was tough for them--

AYERS: Yeah.

LANE: --and I, and I'm sure you all went through some of the, the similar emotions (??).

AYERS: Well, we were down here, we didn't -----------(??).

LANE: (clears throat) Right, but, but Tony was right in the middle of it--

AYERS: That's right. That's right.--

LANE: --and having to stay there for awhile.

AYERS: And he really had to be a spokesperson--(Lane clears throat)--for the KCTCS side of the house, not the UK side of the house--

37:00

LANE: Yeah, he did.

AYERS: --anymore, you.

LANE: So that transition was--

AYERS: It was awkward for him.

LANE: --was very awkward.

AYERS: But he did a, a very good job.

LANE: Good. (clears throat) Um, let's go into 2001 and 2, and the district structure and the movement towards consolidation. Talk me through that. How did that happen, for you all?

AYERS: Well, I, I, I think that all started at a meeting down, uh, in Western Kentucky, uh, I've forgotten which part we were at, but again, Mike was really big on visioning, at that particular point in time, and he wanted us to look into the future and, and, and, and try to envision the kind of institutions that we would, that we would need to have. And we talked a lot about, you know, the comprehensive community college, and how it would be a combination of, of technical, and, and transferring all of the things that we were doing together, and I 38:00think, I think at that particular point in time, that we began to see that, that, that really we were going to have to work together more closely and that, uh, that we would need another structure, as it were, in place, to allow us to do that.

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: And my, uh, my memory may be faulty, in regard to some of these things, but, it seems to me, after that meeting, we really began to talk about this district structure--

LANE: Hmm.

AYERS: --um, and I think all of us probably knew and understood that that probably would not be a permanent structure, but would be replaced by these comprehensive community colleges that we all were envisioning.

LANE: So he had you see--

AYERS: But you had to--

LANE: --the vision first.

AYERS: --have something there to get us to, to--

LANE: I see.

AYERS: --this place in time.

LANE: I see.

AYERS: And, and so there was a, uh, an acceptance, I think, of, of the need to move toward a, a district structure--

LANE: Hmm.

AYERS: --although it might not have been as, as, uh, well-thought-out 39:00as it later became. I know SACS had some difficulties with it, for example. Uh, but we saw that as the bridge to get us where we, where we needed to go, and, at that particular point in time, we, we did start, um, talking more about program alignment and things of that nature--

LANE: Hmm.

AYERS: --and, uh, uh, we, we started, I started visiting, uh, uh, the technical colleges, uh, a lot more frequently, uh, and sometime in that period I was put in charge of the district, by the way, and--

LANE: Um-hm. Well that--I was gonna ask you--

AYERS: Well that, at that, at that particular--

LANE: --when, when they said, "Bruce you're the man!"

AYERS: At that particular point in time, I started, excuse me, paying regular visits to, to faculty. Now, I had a lot of faculty meetings, and just tried to talk with them about what, what we did at, at Southeast, and how the faculty, actually, was a, a very important body, the role that they played and, and wanted to reassure them that they had nothing to lose, but a lot to gain.

LANE: Um-hm.

40:00

AYERS: Uh, you know, I talked with them a lot about faculty rank and, and, uh, the privileges that would be accorded to them as a result of that, and there are many (laughs). There are many. Some I don't particularly like--

LANE: Really?

AYERS: --but there are many. There are many--(laughs)--uh, and, and, obviously, they were concerned about security--

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: --and I, I tried to impress upon them that, that, actually, faculty rank probably would give them more security than they had under the old Kentucky Tech System, and indeed it has.

LANE: That was during the time or after they were developing that personnel system? They began that right away--

AYERS: That was, that was--

LANE: --saying if you're--

AYERS: Yeah.

LANE: --with UK, you can come in with your--

AYERS: Well, that, that, that, actually, yeah, that was a--(Lane clears throat)--all of this was happening at the same time.

LANE: At the same time.

AYERS: I'm not, I'm not so sure about what--

LANE: But I think the board's--

AYERS: --happened when.

LANE: --mission then, and the board, the KCTCS Board had been formed, and was using--

AYERS: Oh yes.

LANE: ------------(??)-- obviously--

AYERS: Yes indeed. Yes indeed.

LANE: right away--

AYERS: Yes indeed.

LANE: --that first six months, uh--(clears throat)--had said, "We don't want anyone to lose anything from their personnel system?"

41:00

AYERS: Yes.

LANE: --he said when they come in to KCTCS.

AYERS: That's right. But, but, now, the professorial ranking was a further evolution of that.

LANE: All righ-, I see.

AYERS: It was a further evolution of--

LANE: I see.

AYERS: --that. It, it, it was saying, in effect, Margaret, is, is, "We're gonna treat everyone alike"--

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: You know, we're gonna have, have, uh, professors of education and English, and professors of auto body repair. And, and that was a very important concept--

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: --for them to, to--

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: --to learn about and to accept. Uh, now, one of the, the problems that they had, however, was, was in preparing promotion portfolios, and things of that nature, which they had never done before, and that was a little intimidating, but they learned very quickly.

LANE: Now, but the--

AYERS: They learned very quickly.

LANE: --the faculty or your, your, your PR people?

AYERS: Uh, the faculty.

LANE: Uh, promotion--

AYERS: The faculty.

LANE: I see. I see. I see what you're saying. Hmm. I'm sure some did approve, and some didn't, didn't like the fact that you're gonna have an auto body professor

AYERS: We had some, yeah, we--

LANE: --and vice versa.

AYERS: --had some of our transfer faculty who, uh, uh, yes, did not look 42:00with favor on that, on that.

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: Uh--

LANE: Well, you, you're never ever gonna get a hundred percent agreement--

AYERS: No.

LANE: --in man-, in many things are you? So you had, you met with your faculty regularly. You were meeting with, uh, Mike McCall and, and, uh--

AYERS: The P--

LANE: --PLT.

AYERS: PLT. Yeah.

LANE: He began that right away.

AYERS: Yes, he did.

LANE: So, what I sense you saying is, that from the very first meeting, Mike McCall listened to your concerns, didn't make a lot of promises, and, but then--

AYERS: That's when he was a candidate. Yeah. Absolutely. Absolutely.

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: When he, when he was a candidate.

LANE: I, oh, that's when they were asking him the tough--

AYERS: That's right.

LANE: --questions.

AYERS: That's right.

LANE: I see. You know, I think about that a lot--(clears throat)--in politics when somebody's running. If they, if they make a lot of promises, you think, I don't think they know that they're gonna be able to fulfill some of those. I just, I just like to, to, to look at something deeper, and I think that's what you all did with him, probably. This is a man who won't make a lot of rash promises just to get the job.

43:00

AYERS: You're right. You're right. That's exactly how we felt about him. Yeah.

LANE: (laughs) Now--(clears throat)--your first meeting with him, uh- -(clears throat)--I'm digressing a little bit, but we'll, these topics are important, I think. Um--(clears throat)--did, you knew about him, you, you had been able to give your impressions of him, I think, during the, the choice--

AYERS: Sure.

LANE: --when they--

AYERS: Yeah.

LANE: --were choosing this candidate, the selection process.

AYERS: Yeah.

LANE: So, uh, what did he say to you at the very first meeting? (clears throat)

AYERS: I don't remember. Uh (laughs)--

LANE: (laughs) I don't mean verbatim--

AYERS: No, well--

LANE: --but, generally, was it begin division or here's the way we're going to work, or was it practical or more visionary?

AYERS: The, the, the thing, the thing, it's always been visionary, I think. Uh, I, I, I do remember, at one of the first joint meetings we had, uh, we, we, uh, we talked about, about planning. He, he, he, he really, he really felt that, that, that we needed to start planning 44:00together, and, uh, he brought in this lady and, my gosh, my, my name escapes me, I, I, I know her so well but, from South Carolina who had worked with him there, who was in charge of planning.

LANE: Hmm.

AYERS: And so we, we, we started, we started planning immediately and, and, and, you know, he would put community college and technical college people together and, and, and, you know, we began, he, he, he kind of forced us, you know, unbeknown to us--

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: --uh, to start talking with each other--

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: --and, and, and learning more about each other. Uh--

LANE: Hmm.

AYERS: Uh, uh, but, but, it, it, it was always let's look to the future.

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: He was not, he, he was not ever saying, "Let's, well, let's look at where we are and what we need to do." "Look to the future. Look to the future. It's not where we are now; it's where we need to go." And he always talked a lot about House Bill 1. He always quoted a lot from House Bill 1.

LANE: Hmm.

AYERS: You know.

LANE: Hmm.

AYERS: Uh, so the vision was clear in legislation--

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: --and, and, uh, and he has al-, always been very accepting of 45:00that, and that's been a part of who he is.

LANE: So he came in, and it was, he was sold on House Bill 1?

AYERS: Well, yeah, and I think he probably had had a lot of discussions with, uh, with--

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: --Governor Patton.

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: And, and--

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: --and Paul had probably gone to the legislation--(laughs)--and he--

LANE: Yeah--

AYERS: --said, "This is what we want to do, and we've got to make this thing work."

LANE: Right. Right. Right.

AYERS: Uh, and I don't think he wanted us to get bogged down with, uh, problems that we may have been facing at that particular point in time, and that's probably why he focused so much on the future.

LANE: Hmm.

AYERS: Not where we were, but where we could be.

LANE: Hmm.

AYERS: Uh, and, uh, and, and the changes, of course, were, were, were made almost from the beginning, as you suggested, in the personnel area, but in, in a lot of other areas as well. Now, we were fortunate in that, that, that UK had policies and procedures in place, administrative policies and procedures--

LANE: Hmm.

AYERS: --and we adopted most of those for the first few years, and we 46:00were able to tweak and refine those, as we went along, to make them KCTCS policies and procedures. But it would have been difficult, uh, in the beginning, without our being able to adhere to those policies and procedures that were in place. It helped us tremendously.

LANE: Um, operating personnel, just a policy manual?

AYERS: Yes. Everything. Everything.

LANE: From UK which was, those policies were for the community colleges.

AYERS: They were for the community colleges. See, UK had, had separate policies and procedures--

LANE: Sure.

AYERS: --for the Lexington campus and the other operations, and the community colleges.

LANE: How long had those been in place?

AYERS: Oh gosh.

LANE: Just since you can recall? Or just, or they weren't new?

AYERS: Oh no--

LANE: No, they--

AYERS: --they were not new.

LANE: That was just something that--

AYERS: They, they, yeah--

LANE: --that you--

AYERS: --they had, had certainly been around since I had been president, and, and, and before that.

LANE: I see. Hmm.

AYERS: And, and, and they, they really controlled everything, uh, you know, from governance, on the one hand, to boards and directors on the 47:00other--

LANE: Sure.

AYERS: --to faculty rights and privileges. Uh, to, uh, you know, personnel procedures. Um, uh--

LANE: And Kentucky Tech didn't have that. Did they have those types of policies, other than state government regs.?

AYERS: They only had state government regs, and what we found out I think, Margaret, is that in many instances, those were not a good fit for higher education, and so that was another, now, that was kind of a bone of contention, too, because they had to give up much of the structure that they were used, and, and actually, a-, a-, adopt or adapt to the, the structure that, that KCTCS was going to use.

LANE: So you, but you used those basic UK community college policies to get you where you wanted to and, and then--

AYERS: Dale allowed us to, yeah, to, to, to--

LANE: Well, you had to have something to operate--

AYERS: You did. You did.

LANE: --by during that transition.

AYERS: And, and, and we were all familiar with those.

LANE: Sure. Um, and then after your, your bridge of, of the district 48:00concept, take me, take us through, again, how you finally settled into the system that you are today.

AYERS: Well again the, the, uh, the district allowed us to start thinking holistically about all of the campuses, of course, in a particular area. Uh, and so, at Southeast it was interesting. We had a SACS visit--

LANE: Hmm.

AYERS: Uh, and we got a recommendation. Uh, they were concerned about the fact that I, as president of Southeast, was also in charge of two technical campuses and, uh--

LANE: Hmm.

AYERS: --and they wanted us to address that. That was a serious concern. You know, again, SACS says you, you, you really can't be in 49:00charge of two--

LANE: Ah--

AYERS: --different institutions and they perceived it as such.

LANE: That was a technicality.

AYERS: They perceived it as such.

LANE: I got you.

AYERS: So, I had that visit, uh, in, in March. SACS suggested to me since KCTCS was then talking with them about merging these institutions.

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: They said, "Bruce, why don't you just go ahead and merge?"

LANE: Hmm.

AYERS: We got everything ready between March and the end of May--(Lane laughs)--to merge our institutions. Now, I can tell you, that had we not been working really, really hard with everyone in the district, so-called--

LANE: Yes.

AYERS: --we would not have been able to move nearly as quickly. Southeast and, and Madisonville became the first--

LANE: The first.

AYERS: --two colleges in the system that were merged. We got great 50:00support from the System's Office. Uh, you know, uh--

LANE: Yes.

AYERS: --I think Dr. McCall was really elated about the fact that we--

LANE: Just gonna go ahead and do it.

AYERS: --were going to move forward. We really jumped ahead of about six or seven other institutions that were already thinking about, about merger, uh, but, uh, you know, we have already, for example, at that particular point in time, I had already merged our, our faculties.

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: We had one faculty assembly.

LANE: Hmm.

AYERS: We were doing so many things together, so it was, it was a natural move for us, and it was almost painless. It was almost painless.

LANE: Hmm.

AYERS: It really was.

LANE: And, and the question about Pineville, and that sort of thing, you just went ahead and, and, did you have to get approval?

AYERS: Oh yes.

LANE: About which of the entities you were going to--

AYERS: No, at that particular point everything that was--

LANE: How did that work?

AYERS: --in the district, we knew it was to be part of the college.

LANE: So the districts were already formulated.

AYERS: Yes. Yes. Yes.

LANE: That work had been done.

AYERS: Yes. And, of course, the, the, the Board of Regents had, had, 51:00had, of course, passed a resolution really encouraging consolidation

LANE: Consolidation. Yes.

AYERS: --and, and, and, uh, promising to help us in any way that they possibly could, and, and, and they did, in fact, do that. And, of course, in addition to meeting all of the SACS requirements, we had to get busy and, and, and prepare all of the documentation for the Board and for Dr. McCall.

LANE: Certainly.

AYERS: We had to make presentations to them.

LANE: Was there's before SACS? Was their approval first and then SACS?

AYERS: Yes. Yes. They had to approve everything before we went to SACS, but they actually streamlined the process so that we could, we could, you know, take a couple of steps, I, I, think, uh, uh, immediately, but it worked out really well.

LANE: How different would it have been, had that been mandated? Had Mike McCall and the board said it's time for consolidation, here's your date, now do it?

AYERS: In our case, I don't think it would have made a lot of difference, because we were already headed in that direction.

LANE: Um-hm. Um-hm. Um-hm.

AYERS: I don't think, I don't think there's any question about that, 52:00and, and, in effect, SACS did mandate it.

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: They said--

LANE: In effect, they did.

AYERS: --if you don't do it, you're going to lose your accreditation-- (laughs)--so--

LANE: Yeah, they did.

AYERS: --so, uh, uh, so I, I, and, and, and the very fact that, that, Margaret, we had been working with, uh, with KC-, I mean, with, with Kentucky Tech in Middlesboro and in Pineville, so closely over time--

LANE: Um--hm.

AYERS: --had, had probably, um, um, moved us ahead of many of the other colleges.

LANE: Right. Right. Some of the others didn't have as easy a time, did they?

AYERS: No, they didn't. They didn't.

LANE: They didn't. And they had a few more technical colleges to assimilate--

AYERS: They did.

LANE: --as well.

AYERS: You're right.

LANE: But, but you, you're, you were ahead. And, now, that was March to May of which year?

AYERS: I'm not very good with dates.

LANE: I'm not either. That's why I'm looking at my little cheat sheet here, but I think, uh--

AYERS: Uh, we'll get the dates ----------(??)--

LANE: It, it, it, it's not--I'm just gonna transcribe these myself--

AYERS: Okay.

LANE: --so we, we don't worry about it, and we'll put that, uh, I know 53:00as of 2002 all of eleven districts were moving towards consolidation.

AYERS: I think this was, uh, 2000--

LANE: I think you're right.

AYERS: --if I remember correctly.

LANE: I think you're right. I know in 2-, February of 2001 CPE endorsed the district structure, if you will, which was just one of the steps. Um, let's talk about some of the highlights at your college, your, your Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College. Did I say that right?

AYERS: Yep.

LANE: This time? Some of the highlights, uh, in the past five or six years. You know, we're heading towards the ten-year anniversary, 2008's gonna be our celebration time--

AYERS: Sure.

LANE: --July 2008. I wanna talk about some of the highlights, here, and then I wanna talk about some of the highlights as, as you being a part of the system.

AYERS: Sure.

LANE: So let's talk about your, your schools.

54:00

AYERS: It's hard to, to come up with just, uh, one or two things. I, I, I, I think the very fact that, that consolidation has gone so well at, at Southeast has been, has certainly been--

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: --one of the most important outcomes that, that I talk about a lot, and, and I think, I think we are a much stronger college today because of that.

LANE: Hmm.

AYERS: Because of the understanding that, uh, that has evolved from, uh, consolidation and, and, and the fact that we now have so much respect for, for each other. I go out now and talk, uh, uh, repeatedly about the importance of, of, uh, of technical education, and how communities don't appreciate how important it is. So I think we are obviously a new institution. Uh, there's, there's just no question about, uh, 55:00that. We've, we've known some success. Of course, we, we have grown significantly in terms of numbers--

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: --and, and part of that growth has occurred because of our being able to reach out to, to, uh, different categories of folks that we just didn't reach previously. We do so much more now with the workforce than we have ever done previously.

LANE: How is that complexion changing as far as the needs of, of the workforce in your area, though? Of employers?

AYERS: Well, we, we always have been coal-oriented

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: --in Southeast Kentucky--

LANE: Um-hm. Um-hm.

AYERS: --and of course, the majority of our workforce training continues to be with, with, with coal companies, and with coal-related entities in the area. Uh, we easily train probably two thousand coal miners a year--

LANE: Hmm.

AYERS: --and this is, this high-skilled, uh, training that takes place. 56:00They have to really be technicians.

LANE: They do, don't they?

AYERS: There's no question about that. But it's also introduced us to, to, uh, uh, so many other business and industries too, and, and we, we're just reaching out more, and, and they're, they're becoming accepting of us. They come to us now, Margaret, and when we were part of UK, that just didn't happen.

LANE: Hmm.

AYERS: It didn't happen. Uh, we were not a comprehensive community college under UK. I didn't know that. (laughs) I didn't realize that.

LANE: You thought it was fine at the time, didn't you?

AYERS: Yeah, I thought it was in great shape, I thought it was in great shape--(Lane laughs)--but we become so much a fabric--

LANE: Hmm.

AYERS: --of, of, of, of this community, and, and we're not just serving one segment of the population. We're serving all segments now, and, and I think that's a primary change that has occurred here. Uh, and, and there's a much deeper appreciation, I, I think, for other aspects of our mission. We always had this as part of our mission, we just 57:00didn't pay any attention to the workforce and to lots of other areas.

LANE: That was their j-, somebody else's job.

AYERS: That, that, that's right. Somebody--Kentucky Tech may have had.

LANE: Sure.

AYERS: I don't know.

LANE: Sure.

AYERS: But, but, but, but we're doing it now. We and the old Kentucky Tech institutions, and we're doing it much better than, than we have done it previously.

LANE: Hmm.

AYERS: Um, and--

LANE: Now, you've received some rewards recently? Haven't you, haven't you?

AYERS: We have received some awards, yeah, uh, uh--

LANE: Some recognitions? Honors

AYERS: We were recently rated as the eighth best community college in the--

LANE: I was so proud--

AYERS: --in the nation.

LANE: --when I read that.

AYERS: Well, I, I don't know a lot about how important ratings are, but it's nice to be rated. (Ayers laughs).

LANE: It was lovely.

AYERS: Exactly.

LANE: Yes.

AYERS: It's nice to be ranked. And, you have to be doing something right--

LANE: Yes you do.

AYERS: --in order to get that kind of--

LANE: You certainly do.

AYERS: --recognition.

LANE: You certainly do.

AYERS: Uh, we have always been community-oriented in the sense that we've, uh, we put in place a lot of, uh, programming that relates to our culture. We're, we're very proud of that, uh.

LANE: Yes.

AYERS: Dr. McCall always says when he comes here, that we are more, uh, 58:00closely impacted by the culture, and we more, more, uh, uh, are more impactful of the culture than any other community college--

LANE: Hmm.

AYERS: --in the system. And I think we are.

LANE: Hmm.

AYERS: We're the only college with an archive (??) in ----------(??)--

LANE: Yes.

AYERS: --you know. We're the only college that has an Appalachian program. Uh, uh, there's just so much that, that we do, I think, to accentuate the importance of our culture, to make sure people understand and appreciate who we are as a people. Uh, it, it's, it's an attempt on our part to move beyond the negative stereotypes of Eastern Kentucky, and let people see the value that, that, that, that has accumulated in, in, in, in this area.

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: Um, so that, that's a very important part of, of what we do, uh, uh. I, again, I, I've never been one to, to think a lot about, about, uh, um, I guess, our, our being, um, um, at the top of the list, or 59:00our being better than any other colleges. We just, we have a strategic plan that we work daily. We wanna be the very best that we can be, not as an end in itself, but, but there's so much important work that needs to be done for this region, and as long as we're doing those things, the awards and that kind of thing will take care of itself.

LANE: They will.

AYERS: I'm convinced of that.

LANE: They will.

AYERS: I'm convinced of that.

LANE: Now, you said you, you thought you were doing great when you were with UK. I want you to look back over the last ten years and, and what's the difference now?

AYERS: Oh, there's so many differences. I just talked about one of them--

LANE: Surely.

AYERS: --the workforce.

LANE: Surely.

AYERS: But, but, but programming. Um, I think one of the strengths of our system is that, uh, that we have, have, have learned to, uh, to segment programming, uh, critically important concept that I was unaware of, you know, we only offered degrees that, uh--

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: --were part of, uh, when we part of the UK system. Now, within a 60:00particular degree structure, we may offer ten or twelve certificates--

LANE: Ah--

AYERS: --and, and that's so very--

LANE: A progression.

AYERS: --very important.

LANE: Yeah.

AYERS: Because every certificate, certificate that a student completes, is a step towards success, and the fact that they can complete these keeps them in school longer, I think, and probably keeps them focused so much better than if we did not have these, these, uh, certificates that were made available to them. Uh, and it, it's a career pathways concept--

LANE: Yes. Yes.

AYERS: --which Keith Bird has touted, I think, uh, for some time now, and we're very much into the career pathways programming model.

LANE: Hmm.

AYERS: Um, just recently completed a DOL proposal for a $1.2 million dollars, that would allow us to, uh, to, uh, work more closely in, in the preparation of CNA's, LPN's--

LANE: Great.

AYERS: --and RN's in the region.

LANE: Great.

AYERS: But, but we, we really think that, uh, that the career pathway's concept, and, and, and the way that, that we can work with certificates, 61:00uh, is, is, is critically important. Critically important--

LANE: To successes along the way--

AYERS: Absolutely.

LANE: --rather than having to wait until you get the whole degree.

AYERS: That, that, that's right.

LANE: Right.

AYERS: And what happens if you don't get the whole degree?

LANE: Right.

AYERS: If you drop out, you, you're a failure.

LANE: Yeah.

AYERS: You're a failure.

LANE: That's, that's very important.

AYERS: But if you've got four or five certificates, you've got something to hold on to--

LANE: Yes you do.

AYERS: --and you're probably going to continue, you know?

LANE: Or you can do something with it.

AYERS: That's right.

LANE: You can get a job with it.

AYERS: That's right. See, we pioneered something here. I will brag on us a little.

LANE: Do.

AYERS: We were the first college in the state to have what we call a career mobility program in nursing, and, uh, we, we actually came up with that concept, uh, for the very reason that we're talking about here. We only had an associate degree program in nursing.

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: We did not have a LPN program.

LANE: Right.

AYERS: And, uh, uh, and what was happening is that we were losing a lot of those students along the way, and when we lost them, they had 62:00nothing.

LANE: Hmm.

AYERS: They had nothing.

LANE: Hmm.

AYERS: So we actually, uh, started what we call a career mobility program. A student enters that program. He or she can opt out at the end of the first year, and write the licensure exam to become an LPN.

LANE: Hmm.

AYERS: Uh, they, they can stay in the program and, and become RN's.

LANE: Hmm.

AYERS: If they fail during that sophomore year, they're already LPN's.

LANE: They're still an LPN.

AYERS: Yeah.

LANE: That's very smart.

AYERS: They're already LPN's. Uh, again--

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: --we, we became the first in the state to do that, uh--

LANE: Hmm.

AYERS: And, uh, we, what happened, though--(laughs)--there are always consequences--

LANE: Oh--

AYERS: --that you don't anticipate--(Lane laughs)--is that very few of the students were choosing to be LPN's.

LANE: Hmm.

AYERS: You know, but they--

LANE: Their goal was to be (??) RN's--

AYERS: --were LPN's, but they stayed in the program to become RN's, and, uh, so--

LANE: Probably ----------(??) success--

AYERS: --and we were not, we were not turning out nearly as many LPN's--

LANE: LPN's.

AYERS: --as the areas needed--

LANE: How about that.

AYERS: --so we had to start an evening program just to prepare LPN's, 63:00and, and, by the way, that's the only National League for Nursing accredited LPN program in the State of Kentucky.

LANE: Is that right?

AYERS: Yeah. All of our Allied Health programs have national accreditation.

LANE: Wonderful.

AYERS: There, there, there aren't many colleges that can say that.

LANE: Or do that.

AYERS: We are heavily vested in allied health.

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: That's our number one field.

LANE: Is it?

AYERS: You can become just about anything at Southeast in the medical field you want to become except the MD.

LANE: Hmm. (laughs).

AYERS: (laughs) We haven't quite worked that in yet but--

LANE: You, you will.

AYERS: --we've got the LPN, we've got RN, we've got, uh, Physical Therapy, we've got Radiography, we've got Respiratory Care, we've got Surgical Technology, we've got Phlebotomy, we've got--

LANE: Wow.

AYERS: --medical Lab Technology. Uh, you know, we, we've got just about everything. These are very expensive programs to offer.

LANE: Oh yes.

AYERS: They, they really are.

LANE: And that's a very good cause and effect for this area of, of the state. If you've got lots of trained personnel right here in the area, then your, your institutions are gonna build and stay here. And then 64:00if you've got the institutions, then your students are gonna wanna stay at home and contribute if they're trained. So it's a cause and effect, a very positive interaction, as I see.

AYERS: And it's one of the few areas where you can just about guarantee employment.

LANE: It surely is--

AYERS: And, and, once you--

LANE: --and will be for the next few years.

AYERS: From now on.

LANE: ----------(??)--

AYERS: If these people are, are portable--

LANE: Yeah.

AYERS: --they can go anywhere in the world and work--

LANE: Yeah.

AYERS: --if they choose to do so.

LANE: Hmm.

AYERS: Uh--

LANE: What's the, what's the general age of your students? Do you have, how's that mix work? Non-traditional-aged or--

AYERS: Well, the, the age has gone down some in the past few years--

LANE: Hmm.

AYERS: --primarily because we work closely with the Area Technology centers--

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: --and we enroll a number of high school students.

LANE: Okay.

AYERS: We have, what we call, Explore College, here--

LANE: Good.

AYERS: Uh, which is a program that encompasses all of our dual-credit programming that we offer in concert with the high schools, and we have, probably a, a thousand to twelve-hundred high school students enrolled--

LANE: Hmm. Hmm.

AYERS: --and that's brought our, our average age down--

LANE: Sure.

AYERS: --I think, probably to about, uh, twenty-three or twenty-four.

65:00

LANE: Sure.

AYERS: You take them out of the mix--

LANE: And you're--

AYERS: --and we're pretty much a traditional community--

LANE: College, yeah.

AYERS: --college and that's about twenty-six or twenty-seven--

LANE: Is it? Is that--

AYERS: --years.

LANE: --what the traditional age is?

AYERS: Yeah. Yeah.

LANE: Uh, what, uh, I was gonna ask you another question and I, and I, that's why you see me jotting, I'll think of something I need to ask you. Um, Al-, Allied Health, exploring college. What I would like for you to think about for me, and I'm gonna leave my card as well, is good, I need good human interest stories. Now, we print those in the Daily News (??) and--

AYERS: Sure

LANE: --you know, Jackie puts those out--

AYERS: Sure.

LANE: --and you, you send those to us.

AYERS: Sure.

LANE: But, I, I not only want students, I want, um, faculty, workforce, just think of some really good stories that we can use, you know, as we publish our book. Uh--

AYERS: Well, one of the things I really think that, that you might want to, uh, to include--

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: --is, uh, the work that we did with a community play called Higher Ground.

LANE: Okay.

AYERS: Uh, and I'll give you some, uh--

66:00

LANE: --information on that?--

AYERS: --some information--

LANE: Okay.

AYERS: --about that, along with a couple of, uh, articles that appeared in the Lexington-Herald.

LANE: Okay.

AYERS: It was absolutely one of the, the best and finest--

LANE: Really?

AYERS: --things that we have ever done.

LANE: Hmm.

AYERS: And our Appalachian program at the college, of course, uh, we have chosen, unlike some institutions, not to deal, necessarily with arts and crafts, although arts and crafts are, are--

LANE: Right.

AYERS: --a big part of what we do.

LANE: Certainly.

AYERS: But to concentrate on helping the area to solve problems--

LANE: Good. Good.

AYERS: --and, and we decided that since, um, uh, drug abuse was such, such a problem in the area, and, uh--

LANE: Hmm.

AYERS: --impacted so many of our lives--

LANE: Hmm.

AYERS: --that we ought to address that in some way.

LANE: Good for you.

AYERS: So we got a, a hundred and fifty thousand grant from the Rockefeller Foundation. Um, the purpose of which was to use art as a means of, uh, promoting community discussion about, uh--

LANE: Hmm.

AYERS: --problems--

LANE: Hmm.

AYERS: --and all of that parlayed into a community play, which involved some eighty folks--

67:00

LANE: Hmm.

AYERS: --ages two-and-a-half to eighty, as I understand it, which, uh, using some high-powered consultants from around the nation--

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: --actually--

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: --we put together this, this play. And it, it really deals with, with drug abuse--

LANE: Hmm.

AYERS: --in, in, in a way that, that, that's so--

LANE: Powerful.

AYERS: --powerful.

LANE: Very powerful.

AYERS: So powerful.

LANE: What about that.

AYERS: In fact, KET is doing something on, on that now.

LANE: Really?

AYERS: As I understand it. Yeah.

LANE: Well, I'll be anxious--

AYERS: Uh--

LANE: --to hear about that.

AYERS: But again, I think if, if there's one thing that sets us apart, um, it, it's the fact that, that, that, uh, we take, very seriously, our, our role in this region as being a catalyst for change.

LANE: Um-hm. Um-hm. Um-hm.

AYERS: Just, just, just--

LANE: Um-hm. Leading the way.

AYERS: Leading, leading the way.

LANE: While providing the resources or--

AYERS: And, and, and joining together with others.

LANE: Yes. Yes.

AYERS: I think there's, there's certainly an understanding here that, that we are not in this alone. We try to develop as many strategic alliances as we can.

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: Margaret, I, I say all the time, I don't care who gets the credit 68:00as long as we get the job done.

LANE: We (??) do it together.

AYERS: There's so much work that needs to be done. We have so many powerful allies in, in, in this state and, and, and in this region, um, you know, starting with the Center for Rural Development, I, we would not be where we were today without the Center and, and, and Hal Rogers.

LANE: Yeah.

AYERS: He's, he's, he's one of the finest people that I have ever had the opportunity to work with, uh--

LANE: Right.

AYERS: Uh, we worked, uh, with--

LANE: Done some wonderful things.

AYERS: --Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation and Jerry Rickett just, just a, a tremendous asset, -set, to the region.

LANE: Hmm.

AYERS: Um, um, we, we get so much help from the Appalachian Regional Commission.

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: Uh, you know--

LANE: You do have a quite a few, don't you?

AYERS: The--yeah. Yeah. They, they, they, they help us tremendously. Uh, uh, again, we look for as many partners who are trying to do the same thing.

LANE: Right. Why reinvent the wheel?

AYERS: We, uh, you've got me started, you may not shut me up.

LANE: No, I, I, I love it. It's great.

AYERS: We are the, one of few colleges in the nation that has founded a 69:00community development corporation. Um, Southeast actually founded the Pine Mountain Community Development Corporation, and, and, and we did this, uh, with the funds from, uh, five local banks.

LANE: Hmm.

AYERS: They each put up twenty-five-thousand dollars each and, uh, uh, we, uh, we got it--you're going to run out of ink here--

LANE: This is good.

AYERS: Yeah, uh--

LANE: I got it.

AYERS: --and we were able to, to, uh, parlay that into, uh, a loan alliance, uh--

LANE: Really?

AYERS: --which brings together, uh, lending agencies from throughout the region, and Governor Patton got involved in this. Uh, Governor Patton and I made up, by the way. (laughs).

LANE: Uh, oh--(laughs)--yeah, I'm sure you did.

AYERS: We, we never--

LANE: I'm sure you did, because I know if you disagreed--

AYERS: Yeah. Yeah.

LANE: --it was done professionally and with--

AYERS: Uh--

LANE: --respect. I know you well enough--

AYERS: And he--

LANE: --to know that.

AYERS: --put, you know, the state put up a million dollars into our little loan alliance fund--

70:00

LANE: Wow.

AYERS: --and so, and, and, and, uh, and our Dean of Economic Development, uh, Paul Pratt, is, is actually the, the, the Chair of the Alliance, uh, and it's an effort on our part, you know, to get more funds invested in, in Southeast Kentucky.

LANE: So this--these are loans for start-up businesses?

AYERS: Yes, and for expansions. Yeah, yeah, uh, and, uh, and there, there's so many things like that, that, that are, are unique to Southeast. We're the only community college with a Small Business--I can't talk--Small Business Development Center--

LANE: Hmm.

AYERS: --uh, which, uh, by the way, is funded, uh, through, uh, uh, dollars that come to us from UK.

LANE: Really?

AYERS: Uh, and we have, uh, uh, UK's Southeast, uh, Area, uh, uh, Health Education Center, uh, actually, that, that's housed, at, uh, at Southeast. We're the fiscal agent for that, uh, so we still have a lot 71:00of affiliations with, uh, with UK uh, uh--

LANE: But that's wonderful.

AYERS: Yeah. Yeah.

LANE: Where do the good ideas come from? How does that work with you, and I'm sure, probably from everywhere. But somebody says, "You know, we're losing these students. They get in the RN program, they drop out after a year, and, and, and then they feel like they're a failure." Do your faculty, does your faculty come to you with ideas? Do you have a strategic planning process? How does, how does that generally work for you?

AYERS: Yeah, we do. We have a President's Leadership Team here, just like Dr. McCall--

LANE: Yes.

AYERS: --has on--

LANE: Yes. Yes.

AYERS: --the System's level.

LANE: Yes. Um-hm.

AYERS: And that's made up of, uh, of people from the different units and, and all of--

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: --the division chairs--

LANE: Okay.

AYERS: --and we meet on a regular basis, uh, we had our planning retreat, uh, down in Sevierville in, in, in, in August, for example, and, uh, uh, and we just--

LANE: And they bring the ideas from--

AYERS: But they bring so many--

LANE: --their respective groups--

AYERS: --good ideas--yeah--to, to the table--

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: --uh, uh, and we break up in planning teams, and, so that it, 72:00it's not just me that's coming up with the ideas. And, for example, we meet with our strategic partners. I talked with Jerry Rickett from Kentucky Highlands yesterday, and we get together at least twice a year. He brings his staff in and I bring my PLT in and we talk about what we can, we can do together.

LANE: Hmm. That's a good story. That's a good story. All right. Now, as we're nearing the, the tenth, tenth year anniversary, are there other things you'd like to say about how you feel about, um, your new system, and, and, and the, I sense, the increased respect that you feel you've gained--

AYERS: Oh yeah (??).

LANE: from CPE. Talk about CPE a little bit. Uh, uh, of course--

AYERS: Well--

LANE: --the new KCTCS.

AYERS: --I can, I can remember probably, a, a, a couple of years after Mike McCall was here, and, and I, I really saw the direction that we were moving in, uh--

LANE: That's when you knew it was gonna work?

73:00

AYERS: I had occasion to stand up and appeal to him and, and, and I told the folks that, uh, that, uh, I now understood that, that KCTCS could take us much further than--

LANE: Hmm.

AYERS: --UK could ever have taken us.

LANE: Hmm. Hmm.

AYERS: And I can remember saying, UK could take us this far and I held up my hand, but the sky's the limit with KCTCS--

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: --and I really believe that.

LANE: Hmm. Hmm.

AYERS: I've come to understand--(clears throat)--and keep in mind, I, I grew up in the UK System--

LANE: Sure.

AYERS: I was a student in the UK system.

LANE: Of course. Of course.

AYERS: I was very loyal to, uh, to UK and, and to Charles in particular.

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: Uh, but, uh, I saw the opportunities, I think initially, uh, uh, in programming, that we could do so much more, so much more quickly, uh, under KCTCS than we could ever have done under, under UK.

LANE: Getting those programs approved.

AYERS: And I saw, too, that, that the, the focus of Mike McCall and his 74:00staff was on all of these colleges, uh, you know, each and every minute of each and every hour of each and every day, whereas, uh, Charles and UK had to be concerned primarily about the--

LANE: Yeah.

AYERS: --Lexington campus, you know.

LANE: Yeah.

AYERS: That absolutely had to be their primary focus--

LANE: Yeah.

AYERS: --and I understood that, uh--

LANE: Yes.

AYERS: Um, so, uh, it, it, it's just a, a different feeling of, of, of, of closeness that we have now that we didn't have under UK and a recognition that, that, uh, they're really gonna be there for us. Uh, uh, Mike has put together an outstanding group of people that, that, that, uh, provide help and assistance for us.

LANE: Yes, he has, hasn't he?

AYERS: He has a great staff (??).

LANE: He has.

AYERS: You know, I mean, I could go down the list. You know, I'm, I'm so fond of, uh, of, uh, Keith, who's one of the brightest people I have ever worked with.

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: Ken Walker.

75:00

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: If there was ever a star performer--

LANE: He is, isn't he?--

AYERS: This guy is, he's just, he's just a great guy. Uh, and, and there are so many others, uh, that, that, that, uh, are there to help us, and we know that and understand that.

LANE: Hmm.

AYERS: But Dr. McCall actually is, is, is an extraordinary person. There's no question about that. I, I have such great respect and admiration for him. Uh, uh, he's, he's, he's been the glue that I think, that's held us together.

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: If a weaker, a less intense, less focused individual had come in here--

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: --this thing could have fallen apart.

LANE: Yes.

AYERS: There's no question about it.

LANE: Yes. Were there, were there, I'm sure there were some rocky times, uh, you know, you visioned and you worked together, but I'm sure there were some times when you thought, "Oh, are we taking a step backwards?" Um, I mean, is it fair to ask you about something like that?

AYERS: Margaret, I don't remember many of those--

LANE: Is that right?

AYERS: --and if you'll talk, if you'll talk--ask Dr. McCall this.

76:00

LANE: Yes.

AYERS: At the conclusion, al-, almost every PLT Meeting--

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: --in the early years--

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: --I would go up to Mike--

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: --and I would tell him that I thought we were making good progress.

LANE: Hmm.

AYERS: I wanted to encourage him--

LANE: Yes.

AYERS: --because I thought we were--

LANE: Yes.

AYERS: --and I never saw us taking any steps backward--

LANE: Backward.

AYERS: --to be honest with you.

LANE: Wow.

AYERS: Uh, I really didn't, uh--

LANE: Hmm. Excellent.

AYERS: Now, I may not agree with every, every decision--

LANE: Right.

AYERS: --that he made--

LANE: Right. Right.

AYERS: --and I'm sure that many people who work here don't agree with every decision that I make, but now he makes informed decisions.

LANE: Yeah.

AYERS: He listens intently--

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: --to the PLT. He, he does not, uh, make decisions in isolation. There's just absolutely no question about that.

LANE: And the (??)--

AYERS: We have the, the opportunity on every critical issue to inform him--

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: --to let him know what we're thinking.

LANE: Um-hm.

AYERS: Now, he may not always agree with Bruce Ayers, but I've had the opportunity to be at that table and when those decisions were being made, I've, I've, uh, I've been able to give my input.

77:00

LANE: And I sense that you know when he makes the final call, even if there is disagreement, it's, it's for the right reason.

AYERS: Absolutely. Absolutely.

LANE: With the vision in mind.

AYERS: Absolutely. And I'm gonna support it a hundred percent.

LANE: Am I holding you too long?

AYERS: No. No.

LANE: Is there anything else you'd like to say for the record, for our tenth anniversary?

AYERS: I've--

LANE: This is great. I've enjoyed--

AYERS: Well, I'm just, I'm just so--

LANE: --getting your perspective.

AYERS: Well thank you, thank you. I, it's, it's--

LANE: It's excellent.

AYERS: --this has been a, a labor of love for me, lo these many years, I've got about two years and three months until I retire.

LANE: Oh no.

AYERS: Um--

LANE: You're not thinking about that, are you?

AYERS: --I, I am indeed. Yeah. I think I've been around probably, uh, long enough to be positive of that (??)--

LANE: Well, I'm sure, knowing you, you will--

AYERS: ----------(??)--

LANE: --contribute in many ways.

AYERS: Well, you're, you're very kind to say that, but, uh, again, uh, as far as I'm concerned, and I, I've had the opportunity. I've, I'm the founding chair, for example, of the Rural Community College Initiative--

LANE: Oh--

AYERS: --which is made up of rural colleges in--

LANE: Wonderful.

AYERS: --from throughout the nation, and I've had the opportunity to, to 78:00travel, uh, throughout this great country of ours and to see what other colleges and systems are doing--

LANE: Well, that's marvelous.

AYERS: --and you always sort of compare yourself--

LANE: Of course you do--

AYERS: --with what you're doing (??), and I really think that, that, that, uh, we're not going to have to embellish it when we say that, uh, KCTCS is one of the, one of the best.

LANE: We are looked to, don't you think?

AYERS: Pardon me?

LANE: We are looked at--

AYERS: We are.

LANE: --by the nation--

AYERS: We are.

LANE: --as, as, as a "is it gonna work?" but I don't think there's any question now. It has. (Ayers laughs)--

AYERS: ----------(??)--

LANE: It has and will. Well, I sure thank you. This has been delightful.

AYERS: Well, thank--

[End of interview.]

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