Dr. Gary A. Ransdell was named the ninth president of Western Kentucky University on September 12, 1997.
Dr. Ransdell, 64, received his Bachelor of Arts degree from WKU in 1973 in Mass Communications, a Master of Public Service degree in Public Administration in 1974, and a Doctor of Education degree from Indiana University in 1978.
Dr. Ransdell re-joined WKU as President after serving four years as Vice President for Administration and Advancement and seven years as Vice President for Institutional Advancement at Clemson University in Clemson, South Carolina.
His previous professional experiences at WKU also include service as a field representative in the Office of University School Relations from 1974 to 1976 and as Associate Director of Alumni Affairs from 1978 to 1981.
Dr. Ransdell became Director of Alumni Relations at Southern Methodist University in 1981, a position he held until 1987 when he was named as a Vice President at Clemson.
Dr. Ransdell and the WKU Board of Regents are leading the campus through a dramatic transformation from a university of regional importance to a leading American university with international reach. Since 1997, WKU enrollment has swelled from 14,500 to 21,000, and annual graduation numbers have grown from 2,500 to 4,200. The applicant pool has doubled to over 14,000 and student retention has grown from 67 percent to 76 percent.
A key element in the transformation of WKU is growth in private support. WKU completed its first capital campaign on June 30, 2003, with $102 million in gifts and pledges. A second campaign was completed on June 30, 2012, with $202 million in new gifts and pledges.
Another priority is a complete rebuilding of the WKU campus. Some $850 million in campus construction has been completed since 1998, with $60 million more under way in 2016, and $200 million on the drawing board.
Other measures of progress include a dramatic push in sponsored research, the growth of new degree programs in electrical, mechanical, and civil engineering, now with 750 students enrolled; four new doctoral degree programs in Education, Nursing, Physical Therapy, and Psychology; a new emphasis on the commercialization of intellectual property and the transfer of WKU technology to the Kentucky workplace; growth of the three WKU regional campuses in Glasgow, Owensboro, and Elizabethtown/Ft. Knox; the creation of the Gatton Academy of Math and Science, which is now ranked by Newsweek as the No. 1 high school in America three years in a row; Kentucky’s only independent Honors College with enrollment of 1,400 high achieving students; expanded study abroad programs and 1,400 international students currently enrolled on the Bowling Green campus; and the state’s first Confucius Institute and only Chinese flagship program. True to its plan, WKU has the largest number of distance-learning courses and the largest distance-learning enrollment among Kentucky’s eight universities.
Dr. Ransdell and his wife Julie have been particularly engaged with students learning in other countries. They have traveled with students taking course credit in England, France, Italy, China, Ecuador, Africa, Scandinavia, and Iceland.
During Dr. Ransdell’s tenure, WKU’s athletic programs have won over 100 Conference Championships. WKU also leads Conference USA in academic performance. He served as President of the Sun Belt Conference in 2000, and completed in 2013 a four-year term on the BCS Presidents’ Oversight Committee. Dr. Ransdell successfully negotiated a move to Conference USA in 2014. In 2014/15, WKU set a C-USA record with eight conference championships. WKU Football has won two consecutive bowl games and ended the 2015 season ranked #24 in the final AP poll.
Dr. Ransdell has chaired on the Board of Directors of the Louisville Branch of the St. Louis Eighth District Federal Reserve Bank, has served on the Board for the Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce, the Board for the Inter-model Transportation Authority of South Central Kentucky, and has chaired the Warren County United Way Campaign. Dr. Ransdell currently serves on the Board of Trustees for the Institute for Shipboard Education (ISE) which operates the global Semester at Sea (SAS) program.
Dr. Ransdell and Julie met, dated, and were married while at WKU pursuing their undergraduate degrees. They have two sons—Patrick, who graduated from WKU in 2002; and Matthew, who graduated from WKU in 2006. Both Patrick and Matthew were lettermen with the WKU baseball team.
Patrick and Brooke (WKU ’04) were married in August 2004, and are the parents of Walker and Collins Ransdell, WKU classes of 2029 and 2033! Matthew and Sandra were married in April 2014, and both practice law in Tampa, Florida.
Further evidence that Gary and Julie are “all in” for WKU is Spirit and Diddle, their yellow lab and English cocker spaniel!