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2024 HODA Inductees
Lauren Thurmond

2024 Warren County Public Schools Hall of Distinguished Alumni Inductees

 

On Friday, April 12, 2024, Warren County Public Schools will induct twelve individuals into its Hall of Distinguished Alumni. The ceremony will be held at the Sloan Convention Center (1021 Wilkinson Trace, Bowling Green, KY 42103) with the doors opening at 5:00 p.m. and the program/dinner beginning at 6:00 p.m. Tickets are $35 each and can be purchased here: https://bit.ly/HODA2024

 

TaKeia Anthony Wyatt, Ph.D., a 2002 graduate of Warren Central High School, is the executive director of the A. Philip Randolph Social Justice, Law and Economic Policy Institute and dean of the Honors College at Edward Waters University in Jacksonville, Florida. As an associate professor of history, Dr. Anthony’s areas of expertise are the African Diaspora and Archiving. She has lectured and spoken on panels throughout the United States, South Korea, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Columbia, London and Ghana. She also curated the archival records of the James Weldon Johnson Branch (Jacksonville, Florida) of The Association for the Study of African-American Life and History (ASALH), where she is the branch historian. 

Dr. Anthony is a published author which includes a book, several articles, and book chapters. In addition, she was a member of the Council of Postsecondary Education’s (CPE) 2022 Cohort of the Academic Leadership Development Institute (ALDI); a member of Brown University’s 2022 inaugural Born Digital Publishing Summer Fellows; a 2021-2023 member of the Howard University Social Justice Consortium; the 2020-2022 Delta Research and Educational Foundation Vivian A. Ware Fellow, and a 2019-2021 Duke-NCCU John Hope Franklin Digital Humanities Fellow. 

Dr. Anthony is the first African-American woman from Bowling Green to earn a Ph.D. in History. She serves on the Board of Directors of the African-American Museum-Bowling Green Area and was the 2015 recipient of the Women of Achievement, Native Daughter Award, given by the Bowling Green Human Rights Commission. She is an alumna of Howard University in Washington D.C. and North Carolina Central University in Durham NC.

 

 

Mrs. Leyda M. Becker, a 1997 graduate of Warren East High School, was one of the first English Language Learners at WCPS.  She is the international communities coordinator for the city of Bowling Green, a position she has served since its creation in 2012. Mrs. Becker serves to coordinate the city's role in communicating and working effectively with the diverse international communities represented in Bowling Green and to serve as an advocate for Limited English Proficient (LEP) persons who may seek city services. 

 Since graduating in 2001 from Western Kentucky University, Mrs. Becker has made a positive impact in the community through her work with New Americans who now call Bowling Green and Warren County home. Her work was especially notable during the COVID pandemic response, as well as the deadly tornadoes that devastated parts of Warren County. 

 Mrs. Becker was instrumental in creating the first-ever city-wide policy on language access, while also developing new initiatives to support the inclusion of targeted populations such as the award-winning Academy for New Americans and launching, hosting and producing La Nuestra, the only local Spanish radio program for nine years.

 Mrs. Becker is an exemplary public servant who started her career working in the non-profit sector, serving in various capacities including program director for Girls Inc., director of communications for Hope Harbor and diversity and equity and inclusion trainer at Southcentral Kentucky Community and Technical College. She is also a member of Warren County Public Schools’ Equity Council and a board member of United Way of Southern Kentucky.  More recently, Mrs. Becker became an entrepreneur, launching Meriven Training and Consulting LLC, bringing her expertise to assist organizations and companies in building and managing an inclusive workforce.

 Mrs. Becker has been happily married to her husband Brian for 22 years; together they are raising two incredible children.  She was born in Merida, Venezuela but has made Warren County her home for the last 30 years. 

 

 

Allison Key Bemiss, a 1999 graduate of Warren East High School, has served as a classroom teacher, professional learning developer, community advocate, volunteer for Warren County Public Library, as well as an accomplished author of children’s literature and educational books. This spring marks another significant accomplishment as Mrs. Bemiss will have a children's book published by HarperCollins/Tommy Nelson, God Made Me from A to Z, 26 Activity Devotions. This new work combines her experience as an early childhood educator, mother and woman of faith to share family experiences that build knowledge of the alphabet and essential sensory experiences interacting with concepts of faith.  

Mrs. Bemiss graduated from Western Kentucky University with a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education in 2003, a Masters of Arts in Education, Curriculum and Instruction in May 2008, received her Gifted and Talented Endorsement in May 2008 and received an additional certification for Interdisciplinary Early Childhood Education in August 2022.

Mrs. Bemiss is also known throughout the community as a spokesperson for families of children with exceptional needs. These commitments extend across our community as she supports service providers at her church and other non-profits such as Kids on the Block. 

Mrs. Bemiss is currently a professional learning specialist for the EPIC Division at the Green River Regional Educational Cooperative (GRREC), where she designs and facilitates professional development services for classroom teachers and leaders to increase literacy and encourage innovative thinking in early childhood and elementary-age children. Previously, she served as project coordinator for the Little Learners, Big Ideas initiative at The Center for Gifted Studies at Western Kentucky University, where she wrote the scripts and directed the production and distribution of seven videos used state-wide to inform parents regarding strategies and resources to meet the needs of students and build thriving communities. Allison also taught Title 1 Reading and Intermediate grades three and four at Briarwood Elementary and was one of the two founding teachers and leaders at the GEMS Academy (currently 212 Academy), a STEAM school in Warren County Public Schools. 

 

 

Dan Edward Brawner (1938-2018), a 1956 graduate of Warren County High School, was a constant source of inspiration to his family and friends because of his dedication to making, painting, carving, assembling, engraving, turning, inlaying, scrimshawing, bluing, browning and inspiring others with his talent and generosity. A lifelong outdoorsman and artist, Mr. Brawner distinguished himself early in life through his art, craftsmanship, love of nature and keen sense of humor. He was the first artist in Warren County Public Schools and one of the first in the Commonwealth to hand paint the school’s mascot (a dragon) on the gymnasium floor, a practice now emulated across the nation at high schools and universities. 

Young Dan found added inspiration through drawing, painting and spending time in his mentor/uncle Frank Fitzgerald’s wood and metal shop. Encouraged to develop his art, he completed art instruction school courses through the mail and applied for and received the Ogden Foundation Scholarship for Academic Excellence from Western Kentucky University (WKU). Under the instruction of Professor Ivan Wilson, he continued to develop his art and design skills at WKU, minored in Spanish and further distinguished himself as a scenic painter for the theater department, pinstriper of cars, and hand-letterer of diplomas for the university. Dan graduated in 1960 with a Bachelor of Arts in Art Education.

Upon graduation from WKU, he moved to Nashville where he launched a successful career as a graphic designer and creative director, shaping brands and messaging for national clients through his employment at publishing houses and major public relations firms, while maintaining an active studio practice, dedicating time for shaping objects in his workshop and raising a close-knit family of three children with his wife and best friend, Shirley. His art continues to be recognized across the nation and globe. 

 

 

Tyrone Dunn, a 1996 graduate of Warren Central High School, is an accomplished musician. After graduation, Tyrone began to perform with his own group and with many other groups at various venues including as a vocalist for Orchestra Kentucky for 21 years, the Charleston Symphony Orchestra in South Carolina, the Augusta Symphony Orchestra in Georgia and the Winston-Salem Symphony Orchestra in North Carolina.

In addition, Mr. Dunn has performed at more than 100 weddings from Indianapolis, Nashville, Memphis and many other cities in the Southeast United States. He has been the headliner in many events in south central Kentucky including Bowling Green's Concerts in the Park series and similar events in surrounding counties, where his band consistently draws record-level crowds.

Mr. Dunn’s band, Tyrone Dunn and Kin-Foke, continue to be a highly sought-after band for various private venues and local clubs/restaurants in the region. Mr. Dunn has a heart for the community, performing as the headliner at events including Thunderfest, The Dream Factory, Taste of Bowling Green, Hospice Light Up the Night, The American Cancer Society’s benefit and many more.

 

 

Brenda Bunch Hale, a 1962 graduate of Bristow High School, is an alumnus of  Western Kentucky University and a lifelong public servant. In 1981, she began her career with the Warren County government, first serving as the administrative assistant to the Warren County jailer. In 1994, she served as the grant writer for Judge/Executive Mike Buchanon, a position she held for six years. In 2000, she was named fiscal court clerk, a position she held until her retirement in 2023 after 42 years of service to Warren County government. 

Prior to her work with the Warren County government, Brenda was nationally recognized as "Secretary of the Year" from the National Secretaries Association. Brenda has also received the highest honors from the American Business Women's Association, an organization in which she served in various capacities including president.

Mrs. Hale has proudly served as liaison for the nine volunteer fire departments in Warren County. She has also shown a deep commitment to the Bowling Green/Warren County community by providing exemplary philanthropic service as a board member for various nonprofit agencies including Barren River Area Child Advocacy Center, where she served as president, as well as Hope Harbor, Operation Pride, Community Education and the Women's Fund of Warren County. 

Mrs. Hale is married to her high school sweetheart, Terry Hale, and is the mother of three children - Amy, Heather and Brandon. She is also the grandmother of Abby, Chloe and Ruth Milliken, Hadley and Annie Boyd, and Millie and Rex Oliver Hale.  

 

 

Eric W. Mercer, a 1990 graduate of Warren East High School, has dedicated his life to the field of law enforcement. 

After graduating from Eastern Kentucky University with a Bachelor of Science in Police Administration and a minor in Sociology, Mercer was employed in law enforcement at the federal level for 25 years. He began his career in 1997 as a border patrol agent in Texas and served there for three years. He was then hired by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF). During his career spanning over two decades with the ATF, he served as a special agent in Lexington and a resident agent in charge in Bowling Green. He then moved to ATF Headquarters in Washington D.C. where he served as a project manager and branch chief of the Leadership Institute for ATF. He was promoted to the assistant special agent in charge (ASAC) of the Miami Field Division, serving there for four years before retiring in 2022.  

Mr. Mercer is now the owner of Mercer Investigative Services in Parkland, Florida where he specializes in private investigations involving insurance fraud, child custodial issues, wrongful death lawsuits and an array of other civil and criminal matters. 

Mr. Mercer has presented at conferences in Bowling Green, New Orleans and Columbia, SC on the topics of Gang Identification and Using Technology to Investigate and Prosecute Violent Crime.

 

 

Dr. Jeff Reynolds, a 1999 graduate of Warren Central High School, has made significant contributions to our community as a Christian minister for the past 21 years. 

A graduate of Warren Central, Centre College and The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he earned both the Master of Divinity and Doctor of Philosophy degrees, Dr. Reynolds served for nearly thirteen years at Hillvue Heights Church, where he helped students and adults of all ages grow in their faith. While at Hillvue, he served as president of the Western Kentucky University Campus Ministries Association from 2003-2007 and he also served as pulpit supply for regional churches. During his time at Hillvue, he preached in over sixty churches or ministry settings in Warren County and the surrounding area and served as an interim pastor in Franklin, Kentucky.

In 2016, Dr. Reynolds became Senior Pastor of the historic First Baptist Church of Bowling Green.  Because of the church’s broadcast and livestream ministries, Dr. Reynolds is able to bring hope every Sunday to people in the sanctuary of First Baptist Church, in the 45-county WBKO-ABC broadcast area and around the world. Dr. Reynolds has been invited to speak in multiple settings in Kentucky, Tennessee and Illinois, and has served as the spiritual guide for groups traveling to Greece and Israel. He also actively serves in various servant leadership capacities in the South Central Baptist Association and the Kentucky Baptist Convention.

In addition to his ministry, he has actively served the community in various volunteer roles. Dr. Reynolds served as a paraprofessional assistant football coach at Henry F. Moss Middle School in 2003 and Warren Central High School from 2004-2008. He has served as a volunteer coach for SKY Soccer, Warren County Pee Wee Baseball, Bowling Green Parks and Recreation Tee Ball, Warren County South Little League Baseball, Warren County Youth Basketball, Warren County Youth Girls’ Basketball, Bowling Green Parks and Recreation Girls’ Basketball and Warren County Youth Girls’ Volleyball.  He served on the board of Warren County Pee Wee Baseball and was a member of Rotary International. Dr. Reynolds has served as a member of the Warren County Regional Jail Reentry Council and as a volunteer with Saturday Meals on Wheels.  He is currently in his fifth year of service on the Site-Based Decision-Making Council of Jody Richards Elementary School and he currently serves as President of the South Warren Football Gridiron Club.  

 

 

Ms. Debbie Jones Richey, a 1973 graduate of Warren Central High School, is a retired educator after an exemplary career with Warren County Public Schools (WCPS) as a teacher, counselor, assistant principal, principal and district administrator. She is a graduate of Western Kentucky University (WKU) with a Bachelor of Science in Business Education, a Master of Art in Education and Rank 1 in School Counseling. 

In 1977, Ms. Richey began her educational career as a business teacher at Warren East High School (WEHS). In addition to teaching, she coached the Warren East Raiderettes for 13 years. This team was very successful in their performances with regular halftime presentations, as well as performances at the Aloha Bowl, Rose Bowl Parade, Disney World and other prestigious events. In addition to her teaching duties, she also sponsored the school's Future Business Leaders of America Chapter, started the Fellowship of Christian Athletes Chapter at WEHS and was an original member of the Warren County School's drug and alcohol prevention team called KIDS.

In 1989, Ms. Richey continued her career at the newly built Greenwood High School as a guidance counselor and later became assistant principal. In 2001, she was hired to be principal at the new Briarwood Elementary School where she remained for ten years.  After retiring, she came back to WCPS and served as director of principal leadership. She now works with WKU as a supervisor and mentor to student teachers, helping shape the future of education. 

In addition to her professional work, Ms. Richey has made her mark in the community with service to various nonprofit organizations including Kids on the Block and Barren River Area Child Advocacy Center. After the passing of her beloved son, Lance, in 2017, she also began working at Hardy & Son Funeral Homes, where she provides operational support, but more importantly, she serves to comfort grieving families. To this day, she continues this work in memory of her son and in honor of her daughter-in-law, Ashley Richey. 

 

 

Steve Riley, a 1976 graduate of Warren East High School, is an accomplished teacher, coach, administrator, and legislator.

After graduating from Western Kentucky University with a Bachelor of Arts in History and Government, a Master’s degree in Education and History, and a Rank 1 in School Administration, Representative Riley began his career in the Barren County Public Schools District in 1984. During his tenure, he served as a classroom teacher, an administrator and a coach. Whether in the classroom or on the court, he knew how to connect with students and athletes in a way that helped them understand their value and reach their full potential. Even today, when he encounters his former students, he remembers significant details and moments from their lives.

Representative Riley also served as head coach of the Barren County High School basketball team for 14 years, where he held the record for most wins in school history at 273. His time as coach included six district championships and two second-place finishes in the regional tournament. 

In 2017, Representative Riley was elected as a state representative and he continues to serve in this capacity today, advocating for our schools and striving to improve public education across the Commonwealth. He is also the recipient of several awards and recognitions including 2001-2002 4th Region Coach of the Year, KAHCF 2018 Legislator of the Year, 2019 KRA Legislative Affairs Award and the 2020-2021 KY Kids Champion for Children and the 2023 Kentucky High School Athletic Association Court of Honor for Coaches.

 

 

Kim M. Thomas, a 1988 graduate of Warren East High School, has distinguished herself as a community leader, both by her professional accomplishments in banking, as well as through her commitment to community service. Her career in banking spans more than 30 years of service to customers in south central Kentucky, including Warren, Barren, Simpson and Hart counties. She has risen to the position of regional senior vice president of retail banking of German American Bank, which includes nine branches and multiple employees. 

 Ms. Thomas is a 1992 graduate of Western Kentucky University with a Bachelor of Science in Finance, a 2000 graduate of Louisiana State University’s Graduate School of Banking of the South and a graduate of the Kentucky Bankers Association Commercial Lending School and General Banking School.  

While building a notable career in the financial industry, Ms. Thomas has proven herself as a selfless volunteer of her time and talents. Many in our community know her through her service with the Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce as a board member from 2009 to 2021. She was also selected as the Athena Award Recipient in 2005. She was the vice president for the Class of 2000 Leadership Bowling Green and a Bart Hagerman Leadership Award winner. She currently serves as a board member and chairman of the Bowling Green Area Chamber Foundation, as well as a current board member of the  Bowling Green Area Economic Development Authority, WKU Real Estate Corporation, Barren River Area Child Advocacy Center, and Boys and Girls Club of Bowling Green. Ms. Thomas served as a previous board member and chairman of the Community Foundation of South Central Kentucky.  She served as the chairman of the Distinguished Young Women of Warren County Program (formerly Warren County Junior Miss) for 25 years and serves as a regional director for the Distinguished Young Women of Kentucky. She is also a proud board member of the WCPS Education Foundation. 

 

 

Richard N. Wilson, a 1977 graduate of Warren Central High School (WCHS), worked his way up to market president within what is now Truist Bank. While attending WCHS, he started his career working in banking at Bowling Green Bank and Trust Company.

During his 43-year career, 23 as bank president, Mr. Wilson made giving back to his hometown a priority; he is a long-time supporter of Med Center Health’s Charity Ball. His pro-growth attitude assisted Commonwealth Health Corporation, the parent company of Med Center Health, in accessing the needed capital to facilitate the expansion of the original one-hospital organization into a six-hospital system serving the communities of South Central Kentucky.  During his career, he led Bowling Green Bank and its successor organizations from being the smallest bank in Bowling Green to being the largest bank in town for 15 years until his retirement in 2021. Under his leadership, Bowling Green Bank also earned the distinction of being the top performing bank in the state of Kentucky.

Mr. Wilson was also the founding sponsor of the BB&T Soap Box Derby and the Concerts in the Park series, both long-standing staple community events. He has been involved with many local nonprofits over the years including chairman of the following organizations; Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce,  Inter-Modal Transportation Authority, Inc. (Kentucky Transpark), Bowling Green Area Economic Development Authority, Junior Achievement of South Central Kentucky, Junior Achievement’s Hall of Fame Selection Committee, the Capitol Arts Alliance, Kids on the Block, WKU National Alumni Association and the WKU Business College Advisory Council. He is a current board member of the Southern Kentucky Performing Arts Center Foundation and the Intermodal Transportation Authority. For 27 consecutive years, he has served on various boards associated with the Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce.

Mr. Wilson was the co-chair of the Chamber's The Leader in Me Capital Campaign which brought leadership programming to area school districts, a program that has proven transformational in developing the leadership capacity of thousands of area students. He is known for his calm and caring nature, unfailing integrity and love of Bowling Green.

February 2024 Golden Apple Winners
Lauren Thurmond

The Golden Apple Awards program is a Warren County Public Schools staff recognition initiative.

The Warren County Public Schools district announces the February Golden Apple Awards winners with tremendous pride! Kamie Jourden from Bristow Elementary School, Claire Bellar and Betsy Andrews, both from Warren East High School, come highly recommended by their co-workers, supervisors, and parent communities. 

The Golden Apple Awards program is a Warren County Public Schools staff recognition initiative. The monthly awards are given to those who go above and beyond their job requirements, demonstrating a commitment to their job, district, students, and fellow employees. 

The winners of the Golden Apple Awards receive a unique, handmade award created by glass artist William VanTassel. The program is possible thanks to the generosity of our sponsors, as well as Tim Kanaly and Gary Force Honda.

The Golden Apple Awards program is made possible by the support of the following corporate sponsors: Gary Force Honda, Rafferty's, Double Dogs, and Montana Grille.

January 2024 Golden Apple Winners
Lauren Thurmond

The Golden Apple Awards program is a Warren County Public Schools staff recognition initiative.

The Warren County Public Schools district announces the January Golden Apple Awards winners with tremendous pride! Becky Graham and Tamela Haynes from Moss Middle School, and Theresa Goodnight and Wendy Mercer from Lost River Elementary School come highly recommended by their co-workers, supervisors, and parent communities. 

The Golden Apple Awards program is a Warren County Public Schools staff recognition initiative. The monthly awards are given to those who go above and beyond their job requirements, demonstrating a commitment to their job, district, students, and fellow employees. 

The winners of the Golden Apple Awards receive a unique, handmade award created by glass artist William VanTassel. The program is possible thanks to the generosity of our sponsors, as well as Tim Kanaly and Gary Force Honda.

The Golden Apple Awards program is made possible by the support of the following corporate sponsors: Gary Force Honda, Rafferty's, Double Dogs, and Montana Grille.

Greg Howard is named the new District Athletic Director of WCPS.
Lauren Thurmond

Mr. Howard is an accomplished athletic director, coach and educator.

Mr. Greg Howard has been selected as the next district athletic director for Warren County Public Schools (WCPS).  

 

Mr. Howard is an accomplished athletic director, coach and educator. He has served in the education field for over two decades, most recently serving as athletic director for Logan County Public Schools. In addition, throughout his educational journey, he has also served as health and physical education teacher, head track and field coach, head cross country coach and head basketball coach. Before working in Logan County, Mr. Howard worked in Todd County as a special education teacher and girls’ basketball coach.   

 

Stated Mr. Rob Clayton, Superintendent of Warren County Public Schools, "We are excited to bring someone with Mr. Howard’s experience and leadership to Warren County Public Schools. Greg has a heart for all children and his passion for every sport is evident in the time and effort he devotes to each sport. He will support our coaches and administrators as we work to continuously improve the athletic experience for all of our student-athletes. I have personally observed his work in Logan County for the past several years and we are fortunate to have Mr. Howard join TEAM WCPS. ”  

 

Upon learning of his selection as district athletic director, Mr. Howard said, “Joining the team and becoming a part of the Warren County Public Schools system is very exciting. I look forward to my new role as the district athletic director, getting my feet on the ground and visiting with everyone involved in athletics. I eagerly anticipate the many conversations that will be had and the work that needs to be done for the benefit of our student-athletes!” 

 

Mr. Howard earned his Bachelor’s degree in Physical Education and Rank II in Exceptional Children Education from Western Kentucky University.

 

Mr. Howard will assume his new responsibilities on January 26, 2024.  

December 2023 Golden Apple Winners
Lauren Thurmond

The Golden Apple Awards program is a Warren County Public Schools staff recognition initiative.

(Bowling Green, KY) - The Warren County Public Schools district announces the December Golden Apple Awards winners with tremendous pride! Tracy Woods from Jennings Creek Elementary School, District Academic Intervention Coordinator Arrah Holdsworth, District Digital Learning Coach Adam Vincent, and District Mental Health Counselor Ashley Barnes come highly recommended by their co-workers, supervisors, and parent communities. 

The Golden Apple Awards program is a Warren County Public Schools staff recognition initiative. The monthly awards are given to those who go above and beyond their job requirements, demonstrating a commitment to their job, district, students, and fellow employees. 

Winners of the Golden Apple Awards receive a unique, handmade award created by glass artist William VanTassel. The program is made possible thanks to the generosity of our sponsors, as well as Tim Kanaly and Gary Force Honda.

The Golden Apple Awards program is made possible by the support of the following corporate sponsors: Gary Force Honda, Rafferty's, Double Dogs, and Montana Grille.