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.
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Man indicted in I-75 wreck that killed two
A man who police believe started the chain of events that led to the deaths of two people on Interstate 75 in February was indicted on several felony charges Wednesday in Madison Circuit Court.
Bryan M. Mangan, 56, of South Bend, Ind., was indicted on six counts of first-degree wanton endangerment, tampering with physical evidence and operating on a suspended license.
Man charged with reselling employer’s equipment
A man who worked for a local satellite TV company has been charged with ordering extra equipment and selling it online.
Charles William Hensley, 39, of Manchester, worked for the Multiband Corporation at its Richmond office, according to a Richmond police report.
Multiband maintains DIRECTV’s installations, service and upgrades for single-family homes in 20 states and commercial sites nationwide.
Saturday is National Drug Take-Back Day
A nationwide initiative to dispose of prescription drugs in a safe manner will take place Saturday.
Three Madison County sites are available for residents to get rid of their unused, unneeded or expired prescription drugs as part of the eighth annual National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day:
• Richmond Police Department, 1721 Lexington Road, box is outside by the front door.
• Kentucky State Police Post 7, 699 Eastern Bypass, across from the EKU stadium, box is inside at the front door.
Retro Radio Revue
“Stan O’Donnell’s Retro Radio Revue,” presented by Rose Barn Theatre, will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Gillum’s Sports Lounge in the Richmond Mall.
The production focuses on the performers of the show and the follies and chaos that take place as the unexpected ensues. Local musical performers from Madison County will be showcased throughout the production.
Gillum’s will provide a full menu service and cash bar beginning at 5:30 p.m.
Tickets for the show are $15 and available at the door or in advance at www.rosebarntheatre.org.
The event is a fundraiser for the nonprofit arts organization.
Luallen says no to 2015 governor’s race
After months of deliberation, former state Auditor of Public Accounts Crit Luallen announced Thursday she will sit out the 2015 race for governor.
The announcement disappointed friends and associates who see Luallen as an able and experienced administrator — she served in six gubernatorial administrations — but also someone with the character and integrity to restore confidence in government.
Blue Grass Army Depot sponsors 5K
The Blue Grass Army Depot is hosting a 5K run/walk Saturday in support of National Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
The no-entry-fee event will begin and end at the depot’s new sports complex ball fields, according to a news release from the installation. Preregistration is available online at www.bluegrass.army.mil or starting at 9 a.m. the day of the event.
Wildcats encourage Cardinals to work hard in school
University of Kentucky student athletes Kastine Evans, a guard on the women’s basketball team, and Jon Hood, a guard on the men’s team, stopped by Waco Elementary School on Wednesday to talk about the benefits of working hard in school.
Mayor, commissioner pay changed
The Richmond City Commission approved 4-1 a new pay scale for the mayor and commissioners at a special-called meeting Wednesday morning.
Harrodsburg to get old Richmond police mobile computers
Richmond is donating to the city of Harrodsburg eight of 39 old computers formerly used in police cruisers.
Health science students organize blood drive
Aside from the gift cards and free snacks, 50 Madison County high school students have other reasons for donating 35 pints of blood Wednesday to the Kentucky Blood Center at Madison Central High School.
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