His family roots run deep at Eastern Kentucky University.
When he crossed the EKU commencement stage in 1975, Craig Turner was following the footsteps of both his educator parents, Floyd County natives who later moved to Michigan. His wife, Madonna, who grew up in Pikeville, also earned a degree from Eastern.
But the newly elected chair of EKU’s board of regents and chair of its presidential search and screening committee isn’t looking backward. Mindful and appreciative of the university’s rich heritage but not bound by it, Turner says his alma mater must be open to change as it strives to become “more financially self-sufficient.”
As a successful Lexington-based businessman and entrepreneur, Turner knows a thing or two about taking on challenges. As the founder, CEO and chairman of MedPro Safety Products and founder and CEO of CRM Companies, he has welcomed and embraced change rather than merely reacted to it.
“I’m a risk-taker,” he said. “Challenges excite me.”
It’s how this EKU political science graduate with an already successful career in public service and industrial development – he headed the state’s efforts under governors John Y. Brown and Martha Layne Collins – explains his move to launch a firm in the mid-1990s that manufactures and distributes medical devices that protect the healthcare worker and the patient. When the federal Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act was passed in 2001, MedPro, now publicly traded, was positioned to capitalize on change.
In addition, CRM Companies, a commercial real estate development company, manages more than 3.5 million square feet throughout the U.S. The company owns and operates a variety of properties, including hotels, restaurants, and its facilities management group, and employs more than 400 people.
Turner attributes his business success on both fronts to “determination and self-confidence, a strong inner belief in my ability to be successful and make a difference,” as well as an insistence on transparency.
And it’s those very qualities that Turner carries into his roles at EKU.
“My goal as board chair is to help Eastern run more efficiently … create resources that give people the tools to do it better,” he said. “We have to figure out ways to be better stewards and concentrate on what we do best. We want to be sure our hallmark programs remain centers of excellence … and take the programs that aren’t working well and re-evaluate them.”
As he struggles to help the University cope with dwindling state support, it’s hardly the first time he has tackled adversity. Turner arrived at Eastern in 1971 on a basketball scholarship to play for then-coach Guy Strong, but a motorcycle accident his freshman year shattered his right leg and, with it, his athletic dreams.
“Like everybody,” he said, “I assumed I would be playing in the NBA. I had to learn to walk again. I came back and played, but I wasn’t the same.”
So he settled into academic life at Eastern, where he found the small classes and personal attention to his liking. “I found the faculty to be more like step-parents,” he recalled. “I was at a school that still took roll call, which, for my personality, was needed. I needed the structure. Somebody once told me my mind was like a NASCAR race because it never stopped. It’s very difficult for me to stop and think about process.”
In much the same way, Eastern must keep re-inventing itself to stay on top of its game, Turner said.
“Our tradition is something to build upon … but we must continue to be innovative, continue to be resourceful. We are surrounded by outstanding (educational) institutions. The competition is stiffer, so we have to figure out how we prove we can make a difference. This is a transformational time for us and if we pull the right lever, we’ll head down the right path.”
As chair of the university’s presidential search and screening committee, Turner is leading the effort to find the perfect leader for his alma mater.
“I’m looking for a leader who is dynamic … who has the ability to get people to follow.”
Whatever the future holds, Turner is certain it shouldn’t mirror the past.
“We must be accepting of change,” he said. “The unknowns are what scares everybody, but if we are transparent about our direction, people will buy into it.”
That’s why Turner took the unprecedented step recently to address academic and institutional support leadership of the university at a campus meeting. His remarks included a call for collaboration and cooperation in identifying where 10 percent of the university’s budget (or approximately $23 million) could be set aside, partly for salary improvements – he believes EKU employees are the institution’s greatest strengths – and strategic purposes.
Turner believes significant advancements and realignment are needed in EKU’s development efforts to establish a more robust financial base, including increasing fundraising and gifting to the university.
“Today is an example of the change I’ve been talking about,” he said shortly before the meeting. “I want the university community to see that this board is involved, that it really knows what’s going on. I want everybody to understand that this board is stepping forward to talk about ‘the elephant in the room.’ And if we don’t know what’s going on, then tell us.”
His family roots run deep at Eastern Kentucky University.
Veteran certification officer fired from EKU
Accusations of cheating on an online test led to the firing of an 18-year Eastern Kentucky University employee Wednesday.
Retha Sandlin, formerly a veteran certification officer in the Burnam House for EKU’s student veterans, said the decision resulted from a misunderstanding on the part of Jaime Roberts, the house’s interim office manager.
Hundreds turn out for fishing team’s fundraiser
Madison Central High School’s bass fishing team got a boost Saturday when its first-ever Fishing Tackle Swap turned out to be a huge success.
About 500 buyers showed up to check out what the 38 vendors had to offer. At least 17 of the vendors were from outside Madison County. There were even a few boats for sale.
Eastern students practice fire fighting in burning building
Thick barrels of smoke rolled out of the room as nearby observers could feel the fire’s heat on their faces. Furniture and drywall fueled the blaze. Flames licked the top of the door frame and the flat ceiling.
Another day on the slopes
Enjoying their 14th snow day of the school year, a group of Madison County School students enjoyed a slope in front of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Richmond on Tuesday.
Warming temperatures melted the snow into a hard-packed surface that crunched with every footfall and provided prime sledding conditions.
Caudill Middle takes first-place in mock trial competition
A team from B. Michael Caudill Middle School took first-place in the seventh annual Kentucky Middle School Mock Trial Competition conducted Friday in the Madison County courtrooms.
Model Laboratory Middle School earned second-place.
County, Berea schools out Wednesday
Both the Madison County and Berea school district have cancelled Wednesday classes because of road conditions. This will be the 15th day the county has cancelled school because of the weather.
County school staff are to report by 9 a.m., according the the district's website.
School canceled Tuesday for Madison County, Berea districts
Madison County and Berea Independent school districts have announced school has been canceled for Tuesday, March 4.
Student scores hold steady with some notable increases
Results are in for the EXPLORE and PLAN tests, administered to Madison County eighth- and tenth-grade students, respectively, in September.
EXPLORE and PLAN are two legs of an ACT series of tests used to assess students for college and career readiness, components of the state’s accountability system called Unbridled Learning.
EKU students turn trash into ‘fash’
Eastern Kentucky University students showed off outfits made from some unlikely materials during a Thursday night fashion show.
Strutting down the runway wearing garbage bags, rusted metal and even Maxi Pads, participants showed the audience that anything can become chic if used correctly.
Many contestants twirled, danced or posed for the audience to show personality during the high-energy show.
Even Arts and Sciences Dean John Wade was involved in the fun by the show’s conclusion.
‘Don’t Monkey Around, Be A Children’s Champion’
You don’t have to wait around to be a children’s champion and you shouldn’t have to think about it, said Raelynn Miller, 11, a fifth-grader at Daniel Boone Elementary.
"You just do it ― like the Nike concept,” she said explaining her winning poster entry “Don’t Monkey Around” in the annual Be A Children’s Champion billboard contest.
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