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WKCTC Honored Marshall County's Dr. Steve Freeman

PADUCAH, KY (06/13/2018) Spending more time with his family, including more fishing time with his grandkids is what Dr. H. Steve Freeman will be doing following his June 30 retirement from West Kentucky Community and Technical College after more than 23 years of service.

"You know when you hear your grandkids say 'Pappaw, when you retire, we can fish more,' you know it's time to consider retiring," said the Marshall County native during his comments to the audience of friends, colleagues and community members who gathered June 12 at the Skilled Craft Training Center(SCTC) in Mayfield to honor his dedication to the college.

Each one of the speakers who shared their memories of working with Dr. Freeman throughout his career thanked him for what he has accomplished for the college and the region, particularly in Mayfield and Graves County with the success of the SCTC. Many comments focused on the integral part Dr. Freeman played in the success of the college's Kentucky Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education (KY FAME) program that is offered in the center. The program saw its first cohort of WKCTC graduates last month.

"I was asked to speak on the impact of this center (SCTC) on Mayfield and Graves County, but I'd be remiss if I didn't talk about the impact the man that ran the center had on Mayfield and Graves County. Many of the things we have in this center is specifically because of him," said Ryan Drane, president of Graves County Economic Development. "I want to personally thank WKCTC, especially Dr. Freeman, for taking something that was a dream, planting the seed, cultivating the ground and watering it, and we are going to see results from this for generations."

A Marshall County resident, Dr. Freeman was instrumental in securing the SCTC for the college. The 60,000 square-foot facility was purchased through a partnership between the Lay Foundation of St. Louis, Graves County Fiscal Court, the city of Mayfield and the Graves County Growth Alliance for $1.2 million - a fraction of what it would have cost to build.

"In education, we've got to keep our passion. No matter what a semester was like, the next semester of these kids coming through deserves our very, very best." Dr. Freeman told the audience. "Every semester there is a new opportunity with new kids and new lives that we can change. If we can have an impact on our region, we can make their lives better. And if we can make their lives better, we make their kids' lives better... and we can make their grandkids' lives better. We are on the front lines where we can change lives."

Dr. Freeman was instrumental in securing the SCTC for the college. The 60,000 square-foot facility was purchased through a partnership between the Lay Foundation of St. Louis, Graves County Fiscal Court, the city of Mayfield and the Graves County Growth Alliance for $1.2 million - a fraction of what it would have cost to build. He has also successfully secured and/or overseen more than $40 million in grant funding awards and was instrumental in securing approximately $4.2 million in external and grant funding to purchase the SCTC and for program development, which includes the KY FAME program.

KY FAME offers education and training for high-paying and diverse career options in advanced manufacturing, partnering with business and industry companies who sponsor the students throughout the five-semester program. Program participants gain on-the-job experience with a sponsoring company 24 hours a week while attending classes at WKCTC two full days a week. This allows students to reinforce classroom instruction with paid, hands-on-training. KY Fame graduates earn an Associate degree in Advanced Manufacturing Technology.

Program sponsoring companies include iwis, Centrifugal Technologies, Inc., Vanderbilt Chemical, and Progress Rail. Jonathan Baker, KY FAME program coordinator at WKCTC, said additional sponsoring companies are joining the program soon.

"It has been a wonderful journey," said Freeman, reminding the audience not to lose their passion in their careers. "That's what gets you up in the morning, keeps you willing to fight the good fight, to keep the faith and to make a difference."