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.
Band students ‛take over’ MCHS campus
The Madison Central High School campus has been “taken over” for two weeks by 170 students attending band camp.
Campers learn hazards of the ‛wild’
Fifteen “Child vs. Wild” campers crowded around a plate full of gooey marshmallows, freshly toasted by camp leaders on a St. Mark Catholic School stovetop Monday.
MCHS, Caudill win world archery titles
Caudill Middle School and Madison Central High School won their divisions in the National Archery in Schools Program World Championships in Madison, Wisc. this past weekend
The win is a third consecutive title for Caudill Middle School and a first for MCHS.
Eversole returns to White Hall as principal
The White Hall Elementary School-based Decision-making Council has selected Monica Eversole as the school’s new principal.
Eversole was serving as guidance counselor at Lexington’s Dixie Magnet Elementary School.
School board to save $53,000 yearly by refinancing bonds
The Madison County School Board authorized issuance of almost $10.5 million in school building revenue bonds at its monthly meeting Thursday.
The board approved a recommendation from the Madison County School District Finance Corporation to issue slightly more than $10.49 million in bonds to help finance renovation projects at three district elementary schools.
Madison Kindergarten Academy at Mayfield
The kindergarten center that will serve the county’s four Richmond elementary schools will be known as the Madison Kindergarten Academy at Mayfield.
The Madison County School Board at its monthly meeting Thursday night chose the name for the all-kindergarten academy that will be housed in the former Mayfield Elementary School.
Naming of kindergarten academy on school board agenda
Naming of the new kindergarten academy to be housed in the former Mayfield Elementary School building is on the Madison County School Board’s agenda Thursday evening.
The meeting will begin at 6 p.m. in the Madison Central High School lecture lab.
Bluegrass Christian School closes
Bluegrass Christian School did not get enough enrollment contracts by June 30, and its board of directors has decided to cease operations.
The school will be dissolved Aug. 1., according to a Tuesday statement from the six-member board.
Families may pick up transcripts, records and prepaid tuition or application fees the week of July 21, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., the statement added.
County schools may rent EKU Center at cost
The EKU Center for the Arts will allow Madison County Schools to rent space at the center’s cost, its community operations board decided Thursday.
At-cost rental has always been available for university events, but Thursday’s vote extended it to the county school district, Joel Aalberts, EKU Center director, said Friday.
Up, up and away
Children attending the St. Mark Catholic School “All Things That Go” Live, Learn, and Grow” day camp spent time in the air Thursday above E.C. Million Park.
From the basket of a tethered hot-air ballon, they got to see and feel how wind and heat help things move.
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