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Joan McKinney retires from CU after 42 years

By Kaitlyn Fowler, Central Kentucky News-Journal reporter
Used with permission

After more than four decades, Joan McKinney has retired from Campbellsville University.

Joan met her husband Stan when they worked as reporters at The Sentinel-News in Shelbyville, where they dated a year in 1979 and got married Feb. 10, 1980. The McKinneys then moved to Campbellsville when Stan got a job as news editor at the Central Kentucky News-Journal.

The regulations at the time didn't allow Joan to also get a job there. So she applied for a position with CU's Office of Public Relations and began in September of 1980 despite a major mishap in the application process.

"I spelled Ginny Flanagan's name wrong! Ginny was my first boss, and I also worked with Diane Rogers then. And those who know me know I stress always spell a person's name right," McKinney said. "You dishonor a person if you don't get their name' according to famous photographer Dave LaBelle. My photographers know I won't use their pictures if they don't get the person's name."

Joan McKinney said she got to the position she was at today from dedication, hard work and being blessed by God working at a great university.

Over the years, tasks and processes have changed within the Office of Communication, including the office's name, Joan McKinney never went to college at CU. She graduated from Eastern Kentucky University with a bachelor's degree in journalism and a minor in English.

Even though she never attended CU, she said, "it felt like I did."

From her time at CU, she has made many memories, all of which she considers precious. Her favorites involve students.

"Working with students was the best part -- for sure," she said. "I loved working with them and teaching them in journalism and public relations. I loved working on The Campbellsvillian, the alumni magazine. It was such a great opportunity to reconnect with former students and staff.

Students are what makes a university, and we've had great students and a great university."

As she was getting ready to leave for the last time Friday, Feb. 3, McKinney, she left her current students with a last note encouraging them to always recycle and to write thank you notes.

McKinney will be leaving behind a legacy for both future students and staff. Even though she won't be around the communications office, her teachings will be there in the form of previous students and staff that worked with her.

"I hope I have taught both students and co-workers the value of journalism, public relations -- all parts of communications," McKinney said. "I hope I have taught them to be good people and treat people equally. I have loved working with international students and learning about their culture. All the students have taught me things -- especially about electronics and social media possibilities. I hope they will take my calls when I need help."

Although those in the Office of Communications are happy for Joan, it's a somber time.

"We are a family. From my very first day in the office, we have always been treated like more than just an employee," Alexandria Swanger Dalton, communications and project manager said.

"While I know we all wish she would stay, we do wish her the best of days in retirement. She has certainly earned them."

Gerard Flanagan, staff writer and photographer, hasn't been working at the Office of Communication long, though he never saw Joan as a boss, but as a friend and colleague.

"She's given her life to Campbellsville University for 42 years, and her contributions can't be properly summed up in words. Having her as a boss has been one of the great joys of my life.

While she has earned a well-deserved retirement, the Office of University Communications and Campbellsville University won't be the same without her wisdom, knowledge and personality to keep things humming along. When you think of Campbellsville University, you think of Joan McKinney."

Amber Meade, communications operations manager at Office of Communications said, "I will miss her caring and compassionate leadership. Not many bosses become your friend, but Joan has. I will miss seeing her every day, and I will miss knowing someone is in the office who can answer all of my questions or knows who to contact to get the answer."

McKinney developed a reputation as a hard worker. Many at the university had come to rely on her for help and needed information.

Dr. Keith Spears, chancellor for University System Advancement, cited "Joan's consistency and dedication to making sure the job was accomplished. We are a university community and having students involved has always been a quality that Joan endeared."

Spears said he could rely on her to ensure the integrity of the story and the clarity of the message.

With her position now open, the university plans a nationwide search.

"It is our hope that we can find the person with the same qualities," Spears said.

Not many could compare to the contributions Joan has made to the university.

"It would be impossible to measure the depth of contribution Joan has made to Campbellsville University through her tireless efforts and careful attention to detail," said Dr. Joseph Hopkins, the university president.

Her husband, Stan, who is now a part-time professor at CU, described some of the best qualities and her devotion to CU's mission.

"Joan has a kind heart and I don't think she has ever met a stranger. She also understands the value of hard work and the need to seek perfection. She instills that in students," he said. "She recognizes the value of every person and does her best to help them understand that they all matter and are loved. She believes in people and has always emphasized how much the university cares about its students. Students to her are more than a number: they are God's children and CU exists truly to help them find their calling. She is the best example I can think of how CU fulfills its mission."

As of right now, Joan McKinney doesn't have any specific goals for retirement but there are "I want to sleep late, play with my two cats, Dexter and Greyson, read many good books, exercise and do whatever I want, whenever I want," she said.

She mentioned continuing her involvement with the Campbellsville-Taylor County Chamber of Commerce Board and the Friends of the Library group and, after a period of rest, finding other ways to support CU.

This story was posted on 2023-02-18 12:38:22
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Congratulatory hug for Joan from Rev. Al Hardy

2023-02-18 - Taylor County, KY - Photo by Hector Santana.
The Rev. Al Hardy, former pastor of Columbia Baptist Church, was one of many long time friends to wish Joan McKinney a great retirement from Campbellsville University. He retired from CU in 2001 after 43 years of service. He shared at the special event that his wife Peggy is having health issues, prayers are extended.

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Dr. Frank Cheatham brings good wishes

2023-02-18 - Taylor County, KY - Photo by Hector Santana.
Dr. Frank Cheatham, retired CU Senior Vice President of Academics, was among many friends from the Campbellsville University family to personally deliver his best wishes to his friend Joan McKinney at her retirement from 42 years in Communications. He, too, served for 42 years at CU, in teaching and leadership positions.

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