With more than 190 years of combined service to the college, the retirements of Dr. Felix O. Ajokie, biology professor; Susan T. Graves, vice president of business affairs; Jill Knight, academic affairs specialist; Rhanda G. Miller, RN, BSN, assistant professor nursing; Carolyn K. Perry, Spanish professor; Dr. Doug Pruitt, psychology professor; Claudia R. Stoffel, MSN, RN, CNE, nursing professor and practical nursing program coordinator; and Debbie Swain, professor and surgical technology program coordinator, will be a significant loss to the college, said WKCTC President Anton Reece.
“Each of these retirees have had careers filled with distinction, achievement and dedication to teaching and learning,” Dr. Reece said. “Their work over the years has contributed to our college’s exceptional reputation as a top 10 community college. I’m honored to have worked with each and every one of them.”
Dr. Reece said the college produce the tribute video to help recognize the accomplishments of their retirees, noting that in-person celebration could not be held due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“I want to take this time to recognize and celebrate our retirees – our faculty and staff who have provided incredible, timeless service to this special place that we call West Kentucky Community and Technical College,” he said. “We hope that students and the community as a whole join us in celebrating these wonderful educators and supporters by leaving messages of congratulations on our Facebook channel after the video has been posted.”
2020 WKCTC retirees are:
Dr. Felix O. Akojie’s mom and dad did not have formal higher education, but they understood the importance of a college education. His father was the president of the tribal community in Lagos, Nigeria – the capital city, but he was forced to step down from that post because he was not educated.
In an interview with the Paducah Sun in 2019, Dr. Akojie recalled being awoken by his father after his father stepped down. “He was very upset. I was already sleeping and he woke me up. He said, “Son, let me tell you something. No matter what you do, your education should come first.’”
The oldest of eight children, Dr. Akojie was in high school when his father died. “And when he passed on, I made sure that all eight of his children went to college, each passing on the baton of responsibility to the next sibling.”
For him education, especially for those students of color, is the passport to success and he was instrumental in helping hundreds of young people see that success over the years.
He served as a biology professor at West Kentucky Community and Technical College nearly 30 years. A native of Nigeria, Dr. Akojie earned a master’s and doctorate in biochemistry from the University of Ife in Nigeria and a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry in 1978 from the University of Benin also in Nigeria. He has done postdoctoral studies in chemistry at Loyola University in Chicago and immunology at the University of Vienna in Austria.
In June 2003, Dr. Akojie was appointed to the Paducah school board seat left vacant by the late Bobby Jone’s death. That same year, Dr. Akojie was named Teacher of the Year by the WKCTC student body.
Dr. Akojie was first elected in November 2003 to the school board to serve the remaining three years of the unexpired term of the late Bobby Jones and has served as vice chair of the board from 2005 through 2008, and again in January 2014.
Dr. Akojie and his wife, Dr. Patricia Akojie, have four grown children, all graduates of Paducah Tilghman High School.
Dr. Akojie has belonged to the Immunological Society of Austria, the Kentucky Academy of Science and the Human Anatomy and Physicology Society’s Journal Editorial Board. He was named “Outstanding Black Man of Paducah” by Delta Sigma Theta in 1995. He has served as a volunteer with St. Nicholas Family Free Clinic and the United Way of Paducah-McCracken.
On being named to the Paducah School Board of Education, Dr. Ajokie said, “I think I am up to the task… There is not a situation that I can’t find a way to fit in.”
Dr. Ajokie was a member of the HAPS Journal Editorial Board, an Educational Testing Service (ETS) consultant, and a biochemistry professor for 10 years in Nigeria before joining Paducah’s college campus.
Susan T. Graves, vice president of business affairs at West Kentucky Community and Technical College, retired in June 2020 after working more than 25 years at the college.
A 1975 Marshall County High School honor graduate, Graves received a Bachelor of Science degree in political science with a minor in general business management in 1980 from Murray State University. She also completed 18 hours in graduate work in accounting from Murray State.
A Paducah resident, Graves taught business and accounting for a total of four years at Draughons (Franklin) College in Paducah before opening her a childcare facility called Wonderland Day Care. She was the owner and operator of the business for four years. She also was owner and manager of a Druthers Restaurant on Lone Oak Road from 1988 to 1992, before selling the business.
In April 1993, Graves joined West Kentucky Technical College (WKTC), today known as West Kentucky Community and Technical College, teaching Computer Fundamentals, Computer Application and other computer classes before becoming a full-time technology coordinator at the college in 1998, setting up new networks, maintaining more than 380 computers and writing special program applications.
Graves was part of unique project that brought technology training into different communities with the help of a mobile home turned into a $250,000 classroom. A March 1997 article in the Paducah Sun written by Bruce Gardner, said the vehicle was equipped with 10-computer workstation, printers and a VCR.
At the time, Graves said the classroom had advantages over traditional indoor classrooms. She said they are able to offer a more intensive class for the students. “We work with them six hours a day and that can be a plus,” she said.
In January 2000, Graves was named business operations manager at WKTC. When work began to consolidate West Kentucky Technical College with its sister college, Paducah Community College in 2001, Graves was named vice president of business affairs.
A College Business Management Institute (NACUBO) graduate, Graves served on Kentucky Community and Technical College System’s Student Services Transformation committee ,the Diversity Commission and the President’s Leadership Seminar.
For nearly 30 years, Melinda Jill Knight of Hickory has work on the West Kentucky Community and Technical College (WKCTC) campus, starting when the college was known as Paducah Community College (PCC). She retired in June 2020.
Graduating ninth in her class at Lowes High School in 1978, Jill married her high school sweetheart Timmy Knight that same year and began working full-time in the proof and transit department at Citizens Bank & Trust Company.
In October 1981, Jill left the bank to have her son, but returned back to work in March 1992 and worked as a part-time teller until January 1985 when she quit to have her twin daughters.
While taking computer classes at PCC in 1990-1991, Jill also worked in the college’s Admissions Office as an office assistant I. Her responsibilities included following and maintaining all admission records for incoming students, which included processing applications, corresponding with students, staff and University of Kentucky, registration of students and compliance with UK and government regulations.
Jill was secretary to an admission counselor, assisting with college fairs, letters and memos, and scheduling appointments. In 2002, as administrative assistant to the academic dean at PCC, Jill was selected by fellow PCC employees as Staff Member of the Year.
Jill, academic affair specialist, was recognized as WKCTC’s nominee for the Kentucky Community and Technical College Systems 2009 New Horizon Support Staff Award.
A mother and grandmother, Jill has always been very involved with her children and their activities as well as her church. Where she plays the piano and organ. She and her husband, Timmy, have been married for more than 40 years.
Assistant Professor Rhanda Miller, RN, BSN, retired in 2020 after working 28 years at West Kentucky Community and Technical College’s nursing program.
A 1982 Calloway County High School graduate, Rhanda of Almo gained a Bachelor of Science Degree in nursing from Murray State University in 1988. Before completing her degree, Rhanda worked as a nursing assistant at the Murray Calloway County Hospital.
After completing her degree, Rhanda worked as a registered charge nurse at Murray Calloway County Hospital for four years.
In 1992, Rhanda was hired as a practical nursing instructor at Paducah’s college. She was instrumental setting up and overseeing the practical nursing program when it was located in the Weaks Community Center in Murray in 2005.
Carolyn K. Perry retired in 2020 after 15 years at West Kentucky Community and Technical College.
A Spanish professor and coordinator of foreign languages at WKCTC, Perry was an active member of the college community, joining the faculty in 2005.
In 1974, Perry earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Spanish from Methodist University in Texas. She also received a master’s degree in Spanish from Miami University in Ohio and a master’s degree in businesses administration from the Garvin School of International Management in Arizona. She was awarded a teaching assistantship for Spanish and completed 18 additional graduate hours at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, NC. In 1979.
Perry worked for AMSCO/American Sterilizer in Erie, Penn. as an export account marketing representative before working as a cash management officer for the financial services division at First Republic Bank in Dallas, Texas for six years.
In 1988, Perry was a cash management consultant with M Bank Dallas. In the early 1990s, Perry and husband, David, became the co-owners of a landmark Paducah family business, Owen Cleaners.
In August 2001, Perry joined the WKCTC faculty as a Spanish instructor for all levels of Spanish. She also taught several Spanish classes at Paducah Tilghman High School for several years. At WKCTC, Perry has served as the advisor to the college's Hispanic Culture Club; the National Hispanic Honor Society, Delta Sigma Pi and co-advisor to WKCTC's chapter of Phi Theta Kappa.
Perry was instrumental in WKCTC joining forces with Starfish Orphan Ministry to host a dance fundraiser to help raise money for a WKCTC service-learning project in El Salvador in 2015. The first year Carolyn and students went to El Salvador they worked with orphans, special needs children and adults living in poverty. The next year, the group built a house for a family, organized special events for children and fed the homeless.
In May 2019, Perry received WKCTC’s Faculty Award of Excellence.
In 2014, Paducah resident Dr. Doug Pruitt celebrated his birthday with a surprise announcement. The professor of psychology was named West Kentucky Community and Technical College’s Teacher of the Year.
“Today is my birthday,” he said in a news article released by the college after the announcement. “Being selected Teacher of the Year really makes the day extra special.”
It was the second time Dr. Pruitt received the honor, having also been named WKCTC’s Teacher of the Year in 2005. Dr. Pruitt was one of eight WKCTC employees who retired in June 2020.
A Newport Beach, Calif., native, Dr. Pruitt earned an Associate of Art degree with honors from Valley College in San Bernardino, Calf., and a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology with honors from California State University in San Bernardino. He received a Master of Arts degree in experimental psychology from California State University.
Dr. Pruitt worked as a part-time assistant professor at Bowling Green State University and University of Toledo in Ohio. From 1995-1999, he was a teaching assistant at Bowling Green State. He was inducted as a member of Phi Kappa Phi in 1990.
In 2000, Dr. Pruitt completed a doctorate in experimental psychology from Bowling Green State University in Ohio.
Dr. Pruitt joined Paducah Community College in 2001 as a psychology instructor and has served as the faculty council representative in his division. In 2015, he received the Phelps Award of Excellence.
Vanderbilt University in Nashville has a special place in the heart of Claudia R. Stoffel, MSN, RN, CNE.
Not only was it the school her father recommended she go to not long after she graduated from high school, it was also the place she met her husband of more than 45 years, Dwight Stoffel.
Still, she never imagined that she might one day be recognized with distinction by her alma mater. Stoffel, a professor of nursing and practical nursing program coordinator at West Kentucky Community and Technical College, was one of two people selected as the 2011 recipients of the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing President’s Award of Distinction. Stoffel retired from WKCTC after 28 year at the college.
The Award of Distinction was in recognition of distinguished contributions to nursing and to the community by a Vanderbilt nursing graduate.
A registered nurse, Stoffel said she was humbled by the award. “I have truly enjoyed all of the things that I have been able to do,” she said. “I was shocked to be honored for doing the things that I love.”
A Chicago native, Stoffel graduated from Vanderbilt with a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing in 1972. She gained a master’s degree in nursing from Bellarmine College before beginning her career as a staff nurse on a pediatric oncology unit at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center in Bethesda, MD. After working as a nursing for 20 years, she joined the college as a part-time nursing instructor in 1992. A certified nurse educator, Stoffel is the coordinator of WKCTC’s practical nursing program and has served as an item writer for the National Council of State Board Nursing Experience (NCLEX-RN).
Stoffel and her husband, Dwight, are the parents to two sons and two daughters.
A Livingston County resident, Debbie Swain retired in 2020 after more than 25 years at WKCTC.
A 1975 Reidland High School graduate, Swain graduated from West Kentucky Technical College’s (today’s WKCTC) in 1982 and became a certified surgical technologist. Swain worked at Western Baptist Hospital (today’s Baptist Health in Paducah) for 13 years, assisting surgeons and operating room personnel with all types of surgical preparations and procedures.
In 1995, Swain joined the college a part-time surgical technology instructor. She because a full-time instructor in 2002 an became a professor in July 2014.
Swain gained a Bachelor of Science in 2008 from Murray State University. Swain has been member of the Association of Surgical Technologies and the Jackson Purchase Cardiovascular Society. In 2009, Swain received the Paducah Junior College Board of Trustees Award for Excellence in Teaching.
In 2018, Swain was one of 172 certified surgical technologists named a Fellow of the Association of Surgical Technologists (FAST). The designation recognized her for upholding the highest standards and traditions of the surgical technology profession, and whose professional activities have been devoted to the advancement of the profession toward improving the quality of surgical patient care.
She was honored in 2017 by the National Board of Surgical Technology & Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA) for her long-term service as a surgical technologist.
Swain and her husband, David, are proud parents and grandparents.