WKU to induct three in honor hall

A revered athletic trainer, a retired chief judge and a nationally recognized educator will be inducted into Western Kentucky University’s 25th class of the Hall of Distinguished Alumni on Oct. 21 during the 2016 Homecoming celebration.

Bill “Doc E” Edwards, the Hon. Tom Emberton Sr. and Chester C. Travelstead, Ph.D., will receive the award of Distinguished Alumni. Collectively, the three honorees have ties with WKU dating to the 1930s. Tracy Morrison, associate director of the alumni association, said they will join a group of impressive inductees. The process takes a year to complete, including several screening processes of nominees. Morrison said there are between 50 and 70 nominations a year, but only three are chosen.

"We're looking for folks who are at the top of their field." Morrison said. "It's the highest award that the university bestows on an alumnus."

Edwards is currently an athletic trainer at WKU and has a history there going back to 1970, when he began working with athletes as a student assistant. Edwards received his bachelor's degree in 1974 with a major in physical education and a minor in health education. While attending WKU, he was a member of Phi Delta Theta Fraternity and the president of the organization from 1973-74. He received a master's degree in secondary education and health education from WKU in 1976.

“It’s sinking in a little bit now," Edwards said. "I’m very, very honored and very humbled. I’ve spent my life here at the university, so I know a lot of the people who are already in there and I know what they mean to me. It’s an amazing honor to be included in a group with some of those folks that I deem as my heroes.”

With almost 40 years in athletic training at WKU, Edwards has been through the Ohio Valley and Sun Belt conferences and the current Conference USA. Leader of a staff of 12 certified athletic trainers who provide health care to all 16 WKU sports teams, Edwards also teaches in the School of Kinesiology, Recreation and Sport. Edwards named Russ Miller, WKU's first full-time head athletic trainer, as his mentor and said he was instrumental in his own decision to become an athletic trainer. 

“I’m appreciative to my supporters, which is primarily made up of my former student athletic trainers and former football players, in particular, and some other sports as well,” Edwards said. “I’m accepting (the award) on behalf of my family, who is my main support.”

Edward's honors include being named head athletic director in 1983 and associate athletic director-director of Athletic Training and Sports Medicine in 2009. He has also been involved with many committees at WKU, including the Hilltopper Hall of History Committee. His wife, Jenny, and two daughters, Faith and Rachel, also attended WKU.

Emberton, a 1958 WKU graduate, is a retired chief judge of the Kentucky Court of Appeals. He came to WKU after four years with the United States Air Force. Emberton was elected president of his class two years in a row and president of his fraternity, the Thirteeners, later renamed Delta Tau Delta. He was also business manager of the College Heights Herald.

In 1959, he attended the University of Louisville School of Law before being admitted to the Kentucky Bar in 1962. Early in his career, Emberton practiced law in Metcalfe County before he was recruited as executive assistant to Gov. Louie B. Nunn. In 1987, he was appointed to the Kentucky Court of Appeals by Gov. Wallace Wilkinson. He was re-elected twice and in 2002 as chief judge of the Court of Appeals.

His children, Laura and Tom Jr., graduated from WKU and his wife, Julia Lee Emberton, holds three WKU degrees. After graduation, Emberton remained involved. He is a former member of the WKU Board of Regents, past president of the WKU Alumni Association and after 22 years retired from the College Heights Board of Directors. 

In 1933, Travelstead, graduated from what used to be known as the Western Kentucky State Teachers College with a major in French and minors in English and music. Travelstead was a yell leader and member of the band. He later received his master's in music from Northwestern University and his Ph.D. in education from the University of Kentucky. After graduation, he was a professional jazz musician in New York.

Travelstead was commissioned into the United States Navy in 1943 as a communications officer on an attack transport in the Pacific. It was not until 1951, at the University of Georgia, that he began his prominent career in higher education. After the Brown v. Board of Education ruling in 1954, Travelstead gave a speech titled, "Today's Decisions for Tomorrow's Schools."

“We as educators of the South must begin to prepare for integration,” Travelstead said in the speech.

This led to his dismissal by the University of Georgia's board of trustees. When he was hired as the dean of the University of New Mexico’s College of Education, the University’s president Tom Popejoy said his dismissal was more of a recommendation than a mark on his record, according to a news release.

Travelstead was married to Marita Travelstead, who he met at WKU and they had two sons, Chester and Jimmie. He remained active in leadership in New Mexico until his death in 2006.

"The university is proud to honor these alumni who make outstanding contributions to their country, their state and WKU," Morrison said, restating a quote from the Hall of Distinguished Alumni's website. The new inductees will be recognized for this award during a luncheon at 11 a.m. Oct. 21 at the Sloan Convention Center.

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