Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Bruce Leslie, November 13, 2007

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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KLEE: The following is an unrehearsed interview by John Klee with Mr. Bruce Leslie for the University of Kentucky Community College System Project. The interview is being conducted in Greenup, Kentucky, at the offices of Bruce Leslie. The date is November 13, 2007.

KLEE: Mr. Leslie, if you would start by -- tell me a little bit about yourself, your background, personal background, where you went to school and so forth.

LESLIE: I'm a local product here, John. I was born and raised in Greenup. I went to high school in Ashland. Graduated from Ashland Community College in 1967 with an associate's degree, and then graduated from the University of Kentucky with a BA in education in 00:01:001969, and then graduated from the University of Kentucky College of Law in 1973. And since that time I've practiced law here in Greenup with the firm of McBrayer, McGinnis, Leslie & Kirkland. We have about 45 lawyers, of which seven practice here in the Greenup office. We also have offices in Ashland and in Lexington and Frankfort and Louisville, so I've basically been in the legal profession all my life. We also -- a partner and I own about eight radio stations that -- I'm president of the company that owns stations in Ashland, Portsmouth, Ohio, and Danville, Kentucky. So I'm also in the radio business as well, among other things that the law firm's involved in. So -- but I've practiced law here In Greenup since my graduation from law school in 1973.


KLEE: Tell me about your family background. Were -- what were your parents involved in? Were they here from this area?

LESLIE: They were. My -- both my parents were here locally. My father was raised in Greenup, my mother in Ashland. My grandparents ran the local pharmacy, which was sort of the social gathering spot, which is located or was -- the building is next door. It's no longer a pharmacy, but -- so it's basically a Greenup County background. My father was in the banking business, and my mother was a homemaker.

KLEE: When you were -- you went to school, you said, at Ashland?

LESLIE: I did.

KLEE: Ashland City Schools?

LESLIE: I was a transfer, went to the -- Paul Blazer. In fact, was in the very first class that went all the way through the new state-of- the-art high school, which was Paul Blazer back in the early '60s.

KLEE: What did you know about Ashland Community College in the -- in high school?


LESLIE: Well, of course, it was obviously a choice for some of the folks to go to school, because it was there in Ashland, so we were somewhat familiar with it. I took a -- in fact, took a class, as I recall, in -- at ACC in the summer after I grad- -- in fact, took two classes, if I remember correctly, in the summer after I was graduated from high school. So I was familiar with ACC, and family circumstances dictated that's where I needed to go the first couple of years. And it was very handy, very convenient, and to this day had some of the best professors I had throughout my educational career.

KLEE: Tell me about the physical location. Was it downtown at that time?

LESLIE: It was. It was located on Carter Ave, there in the old -- what they called the old Ashland Junior College facility. The point in time at which I was a student there, was all at the old -- I said 00:04:00Carter Avenue; it was actually Central Avenue -- location there in downtown where the old junior college had been, and where the Ashland Independent Board of Education's located now. I don't remember the exact date that that the new facility was built, as we call it, out on the hill, but it was sometime after 1967, but before 1973.

KLEE: Now, in those years I think the community colleges tried to have maybe a few more activities than maybe they did later. What kind of activities were available? Did you participate in any?

LESLIE: No, I don't -- I was working while I was in school. I was a disc jockey --

KLEE: I see.

LESLIE: -- at a station in Huntington, West Virginia, so I really don't recall, John, that there were a lot of activities, but I'm sure there probably were some. I just wasn't involved in a lot.

KLEE: What about the professors? Tell me -- give me some names of people that stand out.

LESLIE: Well, there were lots of -- we had some excellent professors. 00:05:00Of course, being -- at that point in time, I thought I wanted to be the next Cawood Ledford, so I was very interested in speech. And we had a wonderful speech professor by the name of J.B. Sowards, for whom the auditorium and theater at the new college, if you will, is named after Mr. Sowards. Had an excellent -- couple of excellent English professors, George Edwards and Nancy McClellan. I believe Dr. Edwards is deceased now. Nancy, I think, is still around. They were excellent teachers. I remember a gentleman by the name of John -- Dr. John Smith, who was a psychology professor who I was particularly fond of. He was just a wonderful teacher. There were -- ACC has some terrific physical science, biological science teachers, but Opal Conley was sort 00:06:00of an icon in the -- in ACC. I was not in that area. I knew Opal; her son and I graduated from high school together, but I never had either the privilege or the need to take any of her courses. But those are some of the names that that come to -- an excellent history professor by the name of Dick Hedlund, and I had several of his courses. And just -- I had every bit as good of instructors, if not better, at ACC as I had when I went down to the main campus.

KLEE: Yeah, Dr. Conley was an icon in system also.

LESLIE: She was, and indeed I think she was -- there for a while was the system's representative to the board of trustees, just a wonderful lady. And I -- of course, in my later years, becoming -- on the board and the chairman and all that, I -- she was the faculty representative a couple of times, so I got to know her in that respect. Just never 00:07:00had -- probably couldn't have passed any of her courses, so it's probably just as well I stayed away from her. She was great lady.

KLEE: Talking to other people, I've heard some stories. Does any -- are there any incidences or any things that stand out? I know that there was a little controversy at one time about a -- maybe a speaker that was on campus, an antiwar speaker or --

LESLIE: John, I, I really don't remember.

KLEE: You were busy.

LESLIE: Yeah, I was busy doing other things, I'm sorry. My time was completely without controversy, (Klee laughs) as I remember.

KLEE: Right. And you say that when you -- the transition to UK was not a hard one for you?

LESLIE: No, it was very, very easy. The -- a couple of factors there. First of all, you'd had a couple of years to mature, a couple years to understand that you could do college work, and some of the fright was gone. And I think I was very well-prepared to go to the main campus, so I never -- it was really not a factor at all in my mind. I -- when 00:08:00I hit campus, I had probably 65 to 70 hours, and was well prepared to do the work that I needed to do there and did just fine.

KLEE: Now, while you were going to Ashland, you were disc jockeying in Huntington?

LESLIE: Huntington, West Virginia. It was the --

KLEE: What was the station?

LESLIE: WKEE. It was the -- sort of the number-one rock station in the Tri-State. That was back when rock 'n roll was big and that sort of thing, so it was a lot of fun, and also paid the bills as well.

KLEE: And so when you went to UK, did you have to end doing that? Or did you do it on --

LESLIE: No, I worked a little. I didn't work a lot at UK in the radio business. I did some work for some of the stations there in town on a part-time basis. But I was also a musician, and I played tenor saxophone and played in a lot of rock 'n roll bands and in a lot of big bands. So I kind of got more toward that than the -- but still did 00:09:00some of the disc jockey stuff.

KLEE: So you were playing a lot then?

LESLIE: In both the figurative and literal sense. (Klee laughs)

KLEE: So at what point in the undergraduate career did you decide about law?

LESLIE: Well, I think that actually had always been in the back of my mind, and in fact, that was really sort of a goal. And I suppose that -- I had an abiding fondness for education and understand the value of it, particularly in an area that's perhaps not the economic hub of the world. But if you're going to be successful, you just have to have education. And so I'd always wanted to go to law school since I was, I guess, in high school really, so the education was just -- obviously got to get a degree in something, and I thought, Well, if law doesn't work out or I don't like it, then I always thought I would like to be a teacher.

KLEE: Right. When you were finishing up in the early '70s, what kind of 00:10:00factors -- I guess you thought about coming back here?

LESLIE: Yeah. I guess I'm just a sort of a homebody, if you will. That had always been a goal of mine. My senior partner, Terry McBrayer, is from Greenup, and literally grew up next door to me, and was quite a role model. And I'd always -- in fact, the circuit -- our circuit judge was -- we all went to the same church here in town. And I just had some excellent role models, and I always figured that it would be neat to come back home and practice law with Terry. And we never let Terry forget that we may be the only major law firm in the state that started in a town of 1,500 and expanded to Lexington. It's usually it's the other way around. (both laugh)

KLEE: Right.

LESLIE: So that was sort of a big motivational factor. That was -- so I've been real fortunate. My game plan's pretty well worked out the 00:11:00way I wanted it to.

KLEE: And he had the door open here for you?

LESLIE: He did, yes, he did. He had another -- my partner -- senior partner here in the Greenup office, John McGinnis, had come in to practice with Terry between the time that he had opened his office, and then I was away at school and that sort of thing, so it made a nice transition. Then it was also not too long thereafter, John, Terry moved to Lexington, and that was -- as you may recall, he was majority leader in the House and big in politics, and ran for governor. And so they were in the transition of moving him to Lexington to get him more known across the state. So we practiced together for two or three years, but it was a wonderful opportunity. And then when he left, it obviously opened some doors within the law firm, because he went to another law firm. He went to the old Bert Combs law firm in Lexington, which was part of the political strategy to get him more in the urban areas and 00:12:00so forth. And then when he lost the election to John Y. Brown, the primary, then he decided he wanted to stay in Lexington. And we sort of reacquainted the professional relationship, and he opened an office there in Lexington as McBrayer, McGinnis & Leslie at that point.

KLEE: I see. Going back to the community college and its history, did it help Ashland that there had been a long history of a community college here, as far as the perception in the community?

LESLIE: Oh, I think so. I mean, Ashland Junior College, while I'm not quite old enough to remember that as such, it began in -- back in about 1937, 1938, something like that. So the transition from the old Ashland Junior College to the Ashland Community College was, in my view or memory, just a change on the letterhead. Ashland had always had a 00:13:00-- I say always, since the '30s -- had had a two-year institution, so there really wasn't much of a change there.

KLEE: Now, you were appointed by Julian Carroll?

LESLIE: I was.

KLEE: And you were in your 20s, I guess?

LESLIE: Goodness, John, let's see. I was appointed in 1978, so I actually would have been 30.

KLEE: Thirty. Okay, right there.

LESLIE: Just barely, just barely.

KLEE: How did that come about?

LESLIE: You'd have to ask Gov. Carroll.

KLEE: (laughs) Okay.

LESLIE: I don't know. I just received a call one day and asked if I would be interested in serving on the board, from his appointment secretary. And I was very much interested, because it was an opportunity to become part of an institution I had graduated from, and had a -- certainly an endearment to. So when the opportunity was presented, I was flattered and immediately accepted.


KLEE: So you mentioned some of the early faculty there, and now you came on as a board member; really not too far removed from your student years.

LESLIE: It was a little unique.

KLEE: So tell me about some of the people at the college, starting maybe with some administrators. I know Dr. Goodpaster was a --

LESLIE: Well, when you -- yeah, you bet.

KLEE: -- kind of a founding president.

LESLIE: When you mentioned ACC at the time, of course, Bob Goodpaster was Mr. ACC. He'd been there since the early '60s, and if you knew Bob or had the pleasure of knowing him, he was just a dynamo. I've never to this day met a person that had a more positive outview on everything. I just don't think the guy ever had a bad day, (both laugh) except probably when he learned I was his new chairman at about age 32. And he said, "What am I going to do now?" Just being facetious.

KLEE: Yeah, sure.

LESLIE: He was just a wonderful administrator, and as I said, I don't 00:15:00think the guy ever had a bad day. He was just always so upbeat and so positive, and such a great promoter of the institution. And I don't think from that regard we've had anyone better since. He just lived and breathed Ashland Community College, and was known far and wide, you know, just a wonderful guy.

KLEE: What accounts for that? I mean, his energy and his -- I mean, I know it was a personality trait, but you know, some people leave it at home occasionally.

LESLIE: No, I just think he truly enjoyed what he was doing. I think he was one of those very fortunate folks that had a job that he just truly enjoyed. And I'm sure that there were some days better than others, and he was able to maybe mask that a little bit. But I just think he truly enjoyed what he was doing. I mean, it was clear that it was not a persona, that it was -- I mean, if it was, he should have been in 00:16:00Hollywood, because, I mean, it was just the same thing day after day after day after day.

KLEE: Well, you saw him as a student and as a board member. Was he pretty -- was he out and about a lot? Students see him?

LESLIE: Yes, he was. Yes.

KLEE: Did he know some of the students' names?

LESLIE: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. He was a -- of course, it was a pretty small institution at that point; it was like a very small high school. But yeah, you would see Dr. Goodpaster in the halls, and he would know certainly not all of the students, but a good many of them, and call them by name and was very involved. And if there was a function at the college, he was always there. And I don't know that that changed, even as the institution got bigger and we got to a bigger campus and that sort of thing, where, you know, some administrators tend to a bit standoffish and do their thing and don't mingle. Bob was just quite the opposite. He was always out and about, and I think he thrived on 00:17:00that, and I think he used that -- it energized him to do that.

KLEE: Was he strong in every aspect? For example, with the community, how did he --

LESLIE: Well, I think that's probably his absolute strength, was his community relations and the reservoir of goodwill that he built up for the college. I mean, he just -- I'm sure there are other Bob Goodpaster types across the system, but I mean, if we got into a comparison situation, I just -- I can't imagine anybody that had more of an influence on or was -- let's put it like this, was a better ambassador for his college in his community than Bob was in Ashland. I just remember one incident, John, very, very well that -- back in -- my gosh, this would have been -- you know how time goes, late '80s, 00:18:00something like that, whenever we were building the first addition to the college, to the basic structure that was built by the -- by state government back in the late '60s, early '70s. And we had outgrown that; we needed another building, which is now what's called the Learning Resources Center. And we had been lobbying the legislature to be put in the budget and so forth and so on. And we got a call one afternoon from one of the legislators, who said, "I've got some good news and bad news. The good news is we've got you included in the budget for your new building," which was obviously good news. He said, "But the bad news is the strings that are attached to it are that you have to raise locally one half of the first year's interest on the bonds," which was 00:19:00-- now, we're talking 1980 dollars, but it was only about $100,000, but at the point -- we didn't have a foundation, we didn't -- and the only money we had was funding from state tuition, that sort of traditional funding. And Bob called me, probably one of the few times I could hear some trepidation in his voice, he said "What are we going to do?" I said, "Bob, we have never asked his community for a nickel." And now, you know, 25 years later when we have a flourishing foundation and all that, it's really hard to remember back when we didn't have any private dollars, period, zero. And I could hear Bob was a little bit nervous about that, because, you know, it would be terrible to get this big building, and then the next thing you know, we can't raise our part of it, which was not insignificant at that point in time. I said, "Bob, Ed Maddox," who was a longtime board member and just wonderful fellow, 00:20:00had been on the board much longer than I, I said, "Ed and I can raise that before dinner." He said, "You're crazy." I said, "You don't have any idea if we call up and say, 'Bob Goodpaster wants us -- you know, we're calling on Bob's -- you know, we need some help here.'" And I don't think we raised it before dinner, but we raised it in a couple of days. It was amazing, and it was a tribute to Bob Goodpaster. We had never asked the community for any money whatsoever. And it was just -- I don't think we had a single person say no. And we went to half a dozen corporations and individuals, and boom, we -- not only did we have it raised, but we raised twice more than we needed, which was the seed money for our current foundation. So I think that was a wonderful tribute to the effect that Bob had on the community, you know.

KLEE: I was told by one individual -- I guess he was a hunter, was he a kind of a --

LESLIE: He was.

KLEE: Was he an outdoor kind of guy?

LESLIE: He was, he was. He was a hunter. Bob enjoyed deer hunting; he 00:21:00enjoyed quail and pheasant hunting, bird hunting. And that was sort of his passion, was always -- I particularly remember that he liked pheasant and dove. And I'm not a hunter myself, but that was his thing, that and driving way too fast.

KLEE: (laughs) Is that right?

LESLIE: Yeah, yeah. We had at least two occasions that we went to meetings in Frankfort, and he got a ticket coming back both times. And I had some connections and was able to take care of both those for him, and he was forever grateful. But he was a wonderful, wonderful person.

KLEE: But he related, then, pretty well to the community, as far as --

LESLIE: Absolutely. Yeah, he -- I just --

KLEE: No town-gown separation there?

LESLIE: No, none whatsoever. And I would challenge any -- as I said, any community college in the system to name me a person that was more integrated into the community than Bob was into the Ashland area.


KLEE: Are there other -- along with people that worked with Bob Goodpaster, you mentioned Ed Maddox on the board.

LESLIE: Uh-huh.

KLEE: Other people that stood out in that college side of it? Any particular administrators?

LESLIE: Well, not in that era. Bob was a very dominant sort of person in a good way.

KLEE: Right.

LESLIE: In a good way, but his -- and that's been years ago, John, to tell you the truth. But his personality was such that you knew he was the president, and not saying that in a bad way at all. He was just so all-encompassing that everybody else was just sort of swept up in his mantra, but -- so I don't really -- nobody really jumps out at me other than -- in that era, anyway.

KLEE: I'm going to take you over, maybe, a pretty broad period, but if you, you know, can start back in the earlier years. You were on board 00:23:0029 years?

LESLIE: Well, actually, I'm still on the board.

KLEE: Oh, are you? (laughs)

LESLIE: Well, I actually resigned -- I was appointed in 1978, became chairman in 1980, and I served until I resigned in December of 2006, so 27 years as chairman, and 29 years on the board. And then I agreed to continue to serve on the board, and -- my term was actually up December 31, '06. So Dr. Adkins asked if I would continue to serve. And we had a brand new chairman and that sort of thing, and you know, I said I'd be happy to, never thinking we'd be sitting here in November of 2007 and I still haven't had a replacement, which is fine, and I'm happy to do it. So technically, I guess, I'm just about to end my -- what would that be, 31st year.


KLEE: Yeah.

LESLIE: But I did resign the chairmanship. I just decided it was time for -- we had a very, very good fellow in place, who's very -- who's a contemporary of mine, John Stewart, who's a -- John and I went to high school together, and he came on the board -- oh, I don't know, he was on the foundation board first, and then got appointed to the college board, and just is very, very active, and does a terrific job. And I'm happy to serve, you know, for -- till he gets his feet on the ground, which I think he has now.

KLEE: And somebody finally makes some appointments.

LESLIE: There you go. (Klee laughs) I never -- I thought that's what governors did, but apparently not. We'll see.

KLEE: Well, the follow-up question to that is, tell me about some of the board members. Usually, there are some people that stand out one way or another. You've worked with a lot of different people.

LESLIE: Oh, yes, yes, absolutely. And we've had some wonderful board members that -- you know, it's just a -- when you don't have a four- year college, people obviously gravitate to what's there, which is 00:25:00the two-year college. And we've just had such a wonderful reservoir of goodwill, that people, I think, really consider it an honor and a privilege to serve on the board, because it's a good institution. I mean, you're not walking into a situation that's full of problems.

KLEE: Right.

LESLIE: And I've seen -- and have had -- have counseled some friends of mine who were chairmen of some boards around the state where they did have problems, and it's not much fun. You're a volunteer, and it's a whole lot more fun to serve on an institution where things are going well. So yes, we've had a lot of good board members. Ed Maddox is the first one who comes to mind, just because Ed was there when I got there. He'd been there several years when I got there, and was just a wonderful supporter of the institution, one of those sort of guys that 00:26:00would do anything that you asked him to do. I was pretty darn young when I became chairman of a such an important institution in our area, and Ed, of course, was -- had quite a few years on me, and was just very supportive. And just -- I'll always remember that at that age you just kind of wonder if a guy that's 20 years older than you looks at you like, who's this young whippersnapper, you know. But Ed was always so supportive, and just anything he could do, suggestions and so forth. And he's one person I certainly remember as an outstanding board member. And I know if I tried to list everybody, I'd forget somebody, because we've had so many. But Sonny Martin, who's an attorney in Ashland, who's the -- also a graduate ACC and is -- has been city attorney in Ashland for years and years and years, is a dear friend and 00:27:00made a great board member. He's, you know, just one of those pragmatic sort of guys that could always not get bogged down in personalities or -- you know, colleges, like most corporations, are -- you know, what they probably do best is, is plan. You know, we're always planning. And that's a good thing, but Sonny was the kind of guy that could see through the plan, and say, "Now, this isn't really going to work. It sounds pretty good, but we really need to be thinking about this," and just a very -- as I say, a very pragmatic sort of guy, very supportive, and always had the institution -- the best interests of the institution at heart, and being -- as I say, he's an alum. Those are two people that jump out at me as having served long periods of time with me.

KLEE: These colleges try to serve, like, a region.


KLEE: Were there -- what -- were there some people on -- in the outlying areas or --

LESLIE: Not too much. That was something that we've worked very hard at 00:28:00in the last, maybe, six, eight years to expand that. We have a five- county service area, which is Greenup and Boyd, which is kind of the hub. If you go from Greenup County to Boyd County, you'll never know you're crossing county lines, if you see -- unless you see the sign, one of those sorts of situations. But our other counties are Carter County and Elliott County and Lawrence County, and they're a little more rural, a little more outlying. And for the longest time our board members were almost exclusively from -- almost exclusively from Ashland, not so much Greenup County, but just Ashland. So we've worked real hard in the last six or eight years to try and get folks involved. Of course, we don't have any say on the gubernatorial appointments, but we've certainly made suggestions about folks from the other counties. And then on the foundation, which we can appoint, we've 00:29:00tried to involve these folks, but it -- that was a -- something that became apparent to me, maybe a decade ago, that we needed to get some folks from these other counties involved and we've tried to do that.

KLEE: Let me ask you about the -- of course, Ashland is the center here and -- the corporate-industrial-banking connection, you talked about earlier how that -- you didn't have to ask for money for a long time, and then increasingly that's become one of the roles of these colleges, to ask -- to build a foundation for scholarships and so forth.

LESLIE: Right.

KLEE: Can you tell me some industries or corporations that stand out as being partners with the college?

LESLIE: Yes. We just -- are just concluding our -- I guess our second major fundraising campaign. The first one was just sort of a blitz that I was talking about back in the late '80s, early '90s. We did 00:30:00another one in the mid-'90s that was much more structured. And then we've just concluded one that's -- was extremely successful. We set a goal of about -- these are round figures, but we set a goal of about $3 million, and we've ended up raising over $4 [million]. And of course, probably the biggest player here was Ashland Oil -- or Ashland Incorporated. And of course, they've relocated now, but they were extremely supportive of the -- this first little mini-campaign we had. And in fact, the first formal organized campaign we had, their chairman was the honorary chair of the fundraising campaign. And they made the lead gift of --

KLEE: I should know his name.

LESLIE: It was probably Paul Chellgren, I think, at the time. I believe John Hall had already retired, but Paul was -- of course, has been extremely supportive of the University of Kentucky, and through his 00:31:00company was -- I think they made the lead gift in that 19- -- mid-'90s campaign. I think it was about a quarter-million dollars, something like that. So -- and they were -- made a nice contribution to this last campaign as well, but when they were here locally, were just -- they were the go-to guy.

KLEE: Right.

LESLIE: No question about that. Since then, it's sort of been more splintered. We don't have a huge Fortune 500-type corporation, such as Ashland was, Ashland Inc., and it's been a little more splintered. The financial institutions have all been supportive, but -- we've had several foundations of their own come forward. I can think of the Mansbach Foundation, which is a -- had a huge scrap metal operation 00:32:00on the Ohio River. They've been extremely supportive of the college. The Simons Foundation, who owned a clothing -- large clothing store, and his family have been very supportive. But it's been more -- we haven't had that one huge contributor that we were blessed with. It's just been more here and there, a lot of individuals. We just -- we had a building donated by -- a historic building downtown donated by a gentleman named Perry Madden and his wife, Susan, that was valued at several hundred thousand dollars, that we're in the process of trying to restore. And it's kind of central downtown, and that sort of thing.

KLEE: So is the college planning on utilizing the building or reselling it?

LESLIE: Yes, yeah. No, we're going to utilize it. In fact, the plan at this point is to move some of the health science classes and labs and that sort of stuff downtown, which is a little closer to the hospital, who's the main employer in town now, King's Daughters. And then also 00:33:00to fit some conference space and this sort of thing that downtown needs. So that's all in the planning phase, but the building itself was a gift from an alum, Mr. and Mrs. Madden.

KLEE: Oh, is that right?

LESLIE: Yeah, we've just had a lot of folks step up. I know the -- Harold -- the late Harold Kelley, who was an entrepreneur here in town, donated his home to the foundation, and that's the president's home. Very -- it's a lovely house in Ashland and a very nice recruiting tool for the --

KLEE: I didn't realize that. They have a home for the president.

LESLIE: Yeah, they have a very nice home. It's not a double-wide sitting down on the corner. It's a -- Harold was a great supporter of the college, and several years ago he donated his house. And we've refurbished it a bit, and now it's the -- belongs to the foundation, but it's -- we lease it to the president for, you know, a nominal dollar or something like that. And basically, free housing for the 00:34:00president, which is a very nice recruiting tool.

KLEE: I was going to ask -- and I think you've mostly answered it about, you know, after you have the large companies and the banks usually, there's families that you can go to. And you mentioned some of those, I guess. Was there any other families that come to mind?

LESLIE: Oh, John, there's a bunch of them.

KLEE: Is that right?

LESLIE: Those are just ones that come to mind. But we've had -- I know Guy Spriggs, who's a local entrepreneur as well, is -- and was cochairman of this last campaign, his personal foundation has been -- made a large donation. So we've really had to look elsewhere once Ashland left, but we've been really fortunate that folks have stepped up.

KLEE: Address the relation- -- excuse me. Address the relationship between the community and the college, and you mentioned part of that. The college is going to be in cooperation with the city trying to provide some room -- conference room.

LESLIE: Yeah, in fact, ACC -- or ACTC now, of course, has always been 00:35:00the -- sort of the background player in the economic development of the community, because of both the resources it has, and then the -- we've become, I think, quite noted for the responsiveness that we've given to the business community in training. And of course, that's -- that was the case well before the merger with the -- that brought the technical colleges into play. We were doing that way before. And so I think from that standpoint we've always been very much responsive to the needs of the community, which is something that's always -- very, very important to me, that I think that's what -- in addition to educating 00:36:00folks for transfer programs to four-year institutions, I think you've got to recognize that that's not for everyone. And in this day and age, not only training, but probably retraining is critical, and I think the college is responding to that very, very well.

KLEE: City and county have been supportive of the college?

LESLIE: Oh, yeah, yeah absolutely. We have a wonderful relationship with both county governments. Of course, the college -- the main campus is in the city of Ashland, but now the other two campuses we now have are actually in Boyd County proper. And they just -- anything that we've asked for -- in fact, we've even got a deal right now going with Boyd County where they're supplying security, a full-time deputy, you know, as a security -- so yeah, the governmental relationships couldn't be better.

KLEE: I read about those two campuses. Can you just -- where are they 00:37:00-- there's one that's being worked on now, and one's complete, as I understand it.

LESLIE: Well, actually there's one that's several miles from downtown Ashland. It's the old traditional vocational school campus that's been there for years and years and years. It's out in a part of Boyd County, and it's probably not long for its existence. We've recently built a new technical college out in what we call the industrial park, which you came across -- no, you wouldn't have come across that, just coming from Maysville. But it's in a connector between I-64 near Grayson and about three miles up the road here from Greenup.

KLEE: I think I came that way before --

LESLIE: May have.

KLEE: -- when I was interviewing Mr. Maddox.

LESLIE: May have, may have. And went across the connector there, and so there's -- we built a new, multimillion-dollar building out there 00:38:00that we've occupied now for a few years, and we're in the process of breaking ground for a second building. And once that building becomes constructed and occupied, then the current -- what they call Roberts Drive campus will be -- I won't say it will be shut down, because I think there's some plans to do some stuff with it, but perhaps not even related to the college directly. So most of the technical instruction, then, will take place in these two new -- brand-new buildings out on the Industrial Parkway.

KLEE: I see. Are there ways that you can think of that the nature of the community shaped the college, and then vice versa? Is there -- I mean --

LESLIE: Well, I think certainly the community shapes the college, to the extent that while we have the traditional academic programs that 00:39:00students need to do the transfers to a four-year traditional academic institution, I think the community certainly shapes the college by what's going on in the community to the extent that we have to serve their needs. So their needs change, the college has to change. If we don't change, then we're not serving our needs. And with the relocation of Ashland Inc., we had a lot of folks that were in need of training. The downsizing of the refinery, the downsizing of Armco Steel, displaced a lot of folks and they needed to be retrained to do different -- have different job skills. So I certainly think the needs of the community probably shaped the college more than the college shapes the community. I think -- I'd like to think that -- well, I know this to be the case because it was a major philosophy of mine, and 00:40:00that is that we need to respond to what the community -- what's going on the community. We don't need to dictate to the community what they need; they need to tell us.

KLEE: Speaking of those changes -- and I'm just assuming here -- but when you were at Ashland Community College downtown, I'm -- I suspect that most of your -- you and your fellow students were transfer students.

LESLIE: Yeah, I would say that -- yes, def- -- very definitely.

KLEE: And there's been a shift over the years to bring in more technical programs and so forth, and you were right in the middle of that all along. Were there any growing pains or any problems there?

LESLIE: Oh, I think yes, I think there were. I think you're exactly right. For years and years and years, we were a -- more of a transfer institution than a destination institution. That started to change a little bit, I believe, when healthcare became so pervasive in our 00:41:00community. And like a lot of communities, the two hospitals are the -- it used to be the school boards, now the hospitals are the major employers, so they're -- when that started becoming -- to come into focus, we had a real emphasis on two-year nursing degrees and things like that, that were end diplomas in and of themselves. Even before the merger of the community colleges and the technical colleges, we were starting to see a shift in folks that were coming to us to get a degree from which they would immediately go into the job force. That was not the case for years and years and years. Now of course, it's -- percentage wise, would even be much, much, much higher, because most of the technical certificates are two years, and that's that. They're not there for any other reason. Numbers-wise, no question, it's not the four-year transfer program that it used to be.


KLEE: This is kind of a general question, but in your years on the board there, do you recall any crisis situations, any humorous situations, anything come to mind that really stands out?

LESLIE: Well, the only cri- -- real -- money's always a crisis, you know. I mean, you're always trying to do less with -- or do more with less, so money's always been -- I can't remember a time when -- like just, I guess, every institution around, where budgets weren't an issue. I know we had a -- I guess the -- of course, I would say it was a crisis of sorts when this merger was in place and first started becoming a reality and all that. There was a -- I commend Dr. Adkins for the way he handled that transition, but I think it would be -- it 00:43:00would certainly be less than candid to say that there weren't a lot of stressors in place at that point with a lot of folks, including myself. I mean, I think anybody that had been with the college so long, you know, it's just the fear of change and the uncertainty of change and so forth and so on. So that was certainly a crisis. We had -- we were sort of blind-sided with a probation issue from Southern Association a couple years ago that we were just shocked. I mean, it was one of those things that we had a -- some deficiencies in some paperwork with some of the academic credentials, I believe. And rather than going through a here's-what-you-need-to-do process, just boom. I remember distinctly I was in Memphis on a matter, and Dr. Adkins called very, 00:44:00very early, and said, "You need to know about this." And it was just a shock to everybody.

KLEE: Sure.

LESLIE: We got it -- I guess it was a shock, because we'd never even had a hint of any kind of academic problem for my -- all my years, and then boom, you know. And so I'd certainly say that was a crisis, and it was -- you know, probably was a bigger deal in the media than it really was realistically. I mean, we were never ever in danger of losing accreditation -- I mean, you understand all that stuff -- and you know, having any problems in granting degrees or anything like that. But in a small town -- and I -- every president that I've hired, I've always told them the same thing, is that you can expect to be on the front page of the paper at least once every 2 to 3 weeks. And that's just the way it is a small town. With a very important institution in a 00:45:00small community, you're going to be very public. And so this was a very public event, and we had to struggle through that, but we did, and it's long forgotten at this point.

KLEE: I wanted to bring you back to those searches. You were involved in several of them.

LESLIE: Yeah, yeah. I know I had a -- did an interview, John, when I was retiring from the chairmanship. And someone asked, you know, "What was the -- what was your biggest accomplishment?" And clearly it was being involved in the process of hiring good presidents, because the job -- and I've seen bad presidents, and I've seen fellow board chairs struggle with bad presidents, and it's not much fun. So hiring good presidents has been something I've been extremely proud of. And we've -- from the day Dr. Goodpaster resigned, all the way through our current president, we've had extremely effective leaders.

KLEE: Yeah. I've seen the hall with the, with the --


LESLIE: --is that right?

KLEE: --with the pictures down in the building, and I don't remember all the names. I know Dr. Newberry.

LESLIE: Yeah. Tony was a very nice fit when he was our president that we hired right after Dr. Goodpaster.

KLEE: That was probably a hard act to follow too.

LESLIE: It was an extremely hard act to follow and I think Tony fit in very nicely because he was different than Bob and he was very low key, very much an administrator, uh, uh, and, and I think to have tried to hire another Bob Goodpaster who was, not that he wasn't a good administrator, he was an excellent administrator, but he--

[End of side 1, tape 1]

[Begin side 2, tape 1]

KLEE: I got to let that play a little bit on that, there's a little lead on that tape.

LESLIE: Alright.

KLEE: This is side two of a tape by John Klee with Bruce Leslie for 00:47:00the University of Kentucky Community College System Library, or System Project. You were talking about Tony Newberry coming in--

LESLIE: --yeah.

KLEE: --after Dr. Goodpaster and how there was a kind of a change in personality there.

LESLIE: Yes. Very much so and I think that was good. I was very much in favor of hiring Tony when we did, and one of the strengths that I thought Tony brought was that he was not going to try to be another Bob Goodpaster, and I think that would have been a mistake, to try and replace Bob with another person who had the same personality traits as Bob, because he was always going to be compared with Bob. And to try and follow that act with the same act would not -- in my view, would not have been a good thing. Tony did a terrific job for us; he was a top-notch guy.

KLEE: And you're pleased with the present president, been there about six years?

LESLIE: Yeah, he's one of my personal favorites. He's -- Greg's -- 00:48:00I guess he -- well, we -- as I say, we've just been blessed with wonderful presidents that go back to Chick Dassance, who was our president after Tony left. Chick's now at a large community college in Florida, just a top-notch guy. We hired -- after Chick, we hired a lady by the name of Angie Dvorak, and Angie was just not here very long. She was only here about -- right at two years, and she had an opportunity back -- she was from Alabama, and she had an opportunity to take a really, really good-paying job with the state of Mississippi. And so I think Angie would have made an excellent president; she just wasn't here long enough to sort of -- to either get her feet on the ground or us to get our arms around her. So she left unexpectedly, but 00:49:00as does happen sometimes, there are blessings in disguise. And I would say I'd be pleased if Angie were still here, but Greg is just -- back to talking about Dr. Adkins, is just a -- I guess he's as close to Bob Goodpaster as anybody I've had the pleasure to serve with. He's always up and positive, and seems to really get along well with his staff and faculty, and has just immediately immersed himself in the community, which is a -- was a priority of mine with all these presidents.

KLEE: I was going to ask you about that. When you bring these people in, how do they -- I mean, what kind of reactions do you get about the community?

LESLIE: Well, I think -- I've been told this anyway -- that, you know, community college presidents or academic deans or folks that are high 00:50:00up in the administration of -- in the community college programs across the country, I'm sure they're like lawyers, that -- you know, lawyers talk among themselves and find out, you know, what's a good court to practice in and what's a -- who's a good judge to practice in front of. You know, it just sort of the war stories that we tell within our professions. And I have been told by more than one interviewee that they did not know where Ashland Community College was when they first saw the advertisement in the national publications, but after making some phone calls, were told that it was one of the best community college institutions in this part of the country, and if that they came, they would be -- you know, they would probably be very pleased professionally. So that's something we've always taken great pride in, 00:51:00is that -- generally -- to my knowledge, we've never offered a position to an applicant that turned it down. So I think -- it's kind of one of those things, if you can get them into town and get them on campus and let them meet people, then they're generally impressed. Sometimes it's hard to do that because of where we're located and that sort of thing, but it's a -- as I say, I cannot recall, John, that we ever offered a job that wasn't accepted.

KLEE: You were gone when they built the first building up -- and --

LESLIE: I was.

KLEE: -- I say it's on the hill. I don't know if it is or not.

LESLIE: It is. It is.

KLEE: Do you recount -- or recall -- and about these other buildings too, was there any controversy? Sometimes that's a hot topic, where to put a college. I mean, did -- sometimes, you know, people want it in a certain business district.

LESLIE: You know, John, that's a gap that -- all that occurred -- I have heard -- and it's just rumor, because that -- the building of the first 00:52:00main cam- -- or not main campus, but the central building, did occur while I was off at UK in law school.

KLEE: Right.

LESLIE: So I wasn't here, but I have heard from some other folks that there was some controversy, not so much about the fact that a new building was needed, but where to physically locate it. I mean, and it's like one of those other things now, it's been there so long, why was that an issue? But apparently at one time it was. And of course, now we have a third building, in addition to the Learning Resources Center. We have another building called the Goodpaster Building, named after Dr. Goodpaster.

KLEE: Quite a little campus.

LESLIE: It is. It's a very nice campus.

KLEE: These other two sites, of course, that were added, there wasn't any controversy to speak of?

LESLIE: Well, of course, the first site, the Roberts Drive thing, the old technical college, has been there forever. And yes, there was a lot of controversy about putting the technical college where it is, 00:53:00because it's so far out of town. I was a proponent of it; I thought it was an excellent location. I understand the drawback, that it's not handy to the extent that you can't just drive down the street. But it's also located in what, 25 years from now, will be, in my view, a booming industrial park. We're one of the few industrial parks in the country, just a handful, that can go to a potential industrial client and say, "We can train your workforce, literally, in the same industrial park." You know, "You don't have to go anywhere. You know, you can send them to us in the morning, and they can go eat lunch with you in a five-minute drive, and we're right there." And I just saw that as a major advantage for the area. And yeah, it may be a tad inconvenient for some folks, but when you look at the big picture, I 00:54:00think it's just a wonderful place for the -- for our entire service area. It opens up -- and we've seen the enrollment. It opens up Carter County, Elliott County, some of these other outlying counties. They're now -- it's now handier for them than it is for somebody sitting in downtown Ashland. So yeah, there was some controversy about that, but I think it will prove to have been a wise decision.

KLEE: Okay. The UK connection, when you were a student, and in the community, what was the role of the UK connection?

LESLIE: Well, like many communities our size, the University of Kentucky was the pervasive institution within the community. I mean, that's where -- although we're bordered by Marshall University, and by -- at that time, Morehead State in Morehead. Of course, they now have 00:55:00a campus on our campus. But UK was always the 800-pound gorilla that -- a lot to do with the sport connections and all that, but it was the state university, and it was the -- without question, the connection -- or the association with ACC and UK was a very positive thing. It was -- like all across the state, it was extremely controversial here when the strings were going to be broken, and KCTCS was formed. So --

KLEE: Let me follow up on that in just a second. But to take you back one other time, did it help for you to make a choice to attend there, that it was UK, or for your fellow students?

LESLIE: No, not me, because that's where I -- always where I wanted to go anyway.

KLEE: I see.

LESLIE: I suspect that somebody that was either ambivalent or undecided or something like that, the transfer issue could very well have been 00:56:00an issue, because while transfers within the -- from KCTCS to the -- UK and the regionals and so forth now is not a big deal, back then it was a big deal because a lot of stuff -- you know, you can probably recall, there was always issues about, would Eastern accept this course, would Western accept this course, would UK accept this course. So there's a lot of -- it's not nearly as seam- -- it was not as seamless then as it is now. So yeah, for somebody that was probably teetering, the connection could have been a big deal. Me, personally, that's where I wanted to go, so it wasn't an issue. But if you were -- you know, if you wanted to go to Eastern, and they say, "Well, you've got, you know, 35 hours, but we're only going to take 25," and UK says, "We'll take all 35," I can certainly see how that might sway you.

KLEE: I don't know who I was talking to, but they called the Patton-led 00:57:00reorganization, "the divorce." And I know Gov. Patton came around to all the colleges and had -- held meetings. You were chairman of the board at the time.

LESLIE: Paul came to Ashland for the very first -- his very first public presentation and got booed.

KLEE: Is that right?

LESLIE: Yeah, it was tense. It was embarrassing. It was unfortunate, but --

KLEE: Now, where did he come to? Did he go out to the college?

LESLIE: Yes, the college. That was his very first public presentation of the --

KLEE: Proposed split, I guess.

LESLIE: -- proposed -- yeah, whatever you want to call it. Divorce is probably not my word. But yeah, that was his very first public presentation, had protesters.

KLEE: I'm not very familiar with the campus. Is there an auditorium?

LESLIE: Yes, the J.B. Sowards Auditorium.

KLEE: Okay, so he went to the auditorium.

LESLIE: He went to the auditorium, and of course, the guns and lights blazing. And there were literally protesters there and --


KLEE: Is that right?

LESLIE: There were some boos when he was speaking. And I remember distinctly trying to head that off by introducing him, and telling them, "Yeah, one, we're here to listen and understand, and we need to give the governor the respect his office deserves." And I mean, I might as well have been talking to that wall over there, you know. (Klee laughs) But yes, there was -- I remember that very, very well.

KLEE: What about your personal feelings at that point? It's -- you know, you're in a unique position.

LESLIE: I was -- yeah, I was not in favor of it because of my strong ties to UK. So personally I was opposed to it. Whether it's -- who knows if it was the right move or not. To this day I don't know if we would have been better off staying where we were or where we are. A lot of good things have happened since then, and I'm certainly not 00:59:00at all critical of the -- of -- I just think it's the way it is. And my idea was that if that's what the legislator -- legislature voted to do, then I rallied my folks up here, because this is -- let's make the best of it. And as a board we were opposed to it, but I think most people that had the strong UK ties at that time were opposed to it. And I think most -- and I don't know this for a fact, but I suspect probably, you know, when the then-UK Community College folks were trying to rally support, I remember a presentation being made by Dr. Wethington requesting the board to pass a resolution in opposition, and so forth and so on. We did all that; we were good troupers. But once the decision was made, This is the way we're going to go, then I very quickly took the attitude and imparted it to the board, that, 01:00:00"We're to have faculty that are not going to be pleased about this, but as a board, these are the cards we're dealt, and let's be positive and let's make the best out of it. And let's not sit around and whine, and -- you know, and wish for what might have been. Let's grab it and make it the best we can make it." And I think we have.

KLEE: A question I intended to ask you earlier when I was talking about the different people in the community and so forth, the college obviously gets state money and it's a political animal. Can you say a few words about some of the -- over the years, some of your legislators or people that you had to go to, and what their role was?

LESLIE: That's an excellent question. We've had a pretty stable political representation in our service area for quite a few years, probably 15 to 20 years. And it's been very unique in that respect. 01:01:00And I can say categorically that we have never been to our legislative delegation, which is comprised of about two state senators and then four or five representatives, from both sides of the aisle, and we've never gone to them with a project that we needed or wanted -- and we've been selective; we haven't gone just every time that, wouldn't it be nice. We've waited till we really needed something. And I'm glad you asked that question, because they have been remarkably supportive, I mean, just remarkably supportive. Rocky Adkins, who's minority leader now or some leadership position down there -- majority leader, I'm sorry.

KLEE: In the House.

LESLIE: Yeah, in the House. Has been just incredibly supportive.

KLEE: It always helps when you have somebody in a leadership position 01:02:00too.

LESLIE: You bet, you bet. Rocky's been an ACC-ACTC supporter since -- as long as I can remember. And I've worked with Rocky on any number of projects, and he's always been very supportive. John Vincent, who's the legislator that represents Boyd County -- he's a Republican -- has been right there, as has Tanya Pullin, who represents Greenup County. Walter Blevins, who's a Democratic state senator, represents Boyd County and some other areas there. Just -- you know, those guys and gals have just been -- I just couldn't say enough nice things. They have just been so supportive. And I think the fact that they get along so well and work together so well and recognizes, you know, it's not a Democrat or Republican issue. And I understand there are politics at work, but I mean, I could not say -- I could sit here all afternoon and not tell you all the things they've done for us. They've just -- 01:03:00I think longevity and continuity has certainly been a player, because they're -- it's the way Frankfort works. I mean, the longer you've been there, the more influence you have. And our folks have been there for a long, long time. We had a senator from Greenup County, Nelson Allen, who was chairman of the education committee back in the '70s and '80s, and Nelson was -- while he was a secondary school principal, he was very supportive of ACC at that point. And so we've just been blessed beyond belief with a good legislative body.

KLEE: That's great. The merger that came about with -- the Patton split from UK led right into a merger with the technical college.

LESLIE: Right.

KLEE: And that was not an easy thing, because --

LESLIE: No, it wasn't, but I've got to tell you that I know from some 01:04:00colleagues across the state that there was a good bit of bloodletting on some of the campuses, but -- and I won't say that there wasn't any in Ashland, but I'd say it was minimal. And I give all the credit there, not to me or to the board, but to Dr. Atkins. He was a magician in putting that together, holding together all the factions from the traditional academic side to the more technical side. And he -- I think he accomplished that in great manner by his personality, but also he -- I just remember distinctly it seemed like we were always voting on stuff. You know, he really involved everybody. He had everybody's input, and did it in a democratic manner, to the -- I'm 01:05:00sure there's some things he just said, "This is the way it's going to be," and didn't tell anybody, and it wasn't that he put everything up for discussion and votes, but a lot of things he did. And I think that caused everybody to feel like that, Well it may not have gone my way, but at least I had my say. And I just give Greg a tremendous amount of credit for -- he wants to use the term consolidation.

KLEE: Right, sure.

LESLIE: So we've adopted the term consolidation.

KLEE: We don't use merger, consolidation.

LESLIE: Exactly. So he's done a great job. I'm sure he had a lot of good leadership from Dr. McCall in that respect, and support as well, but it was about as congenial, I guess, as something like that can be.

KLEE: Wasn't a lot of rancor?

LESLIE: Really wasn't. It was minimal. I mean, it was surprising to me, because there was such a support -- or such an opposition -- 01:06:00support for UK, opposition to the new programs, that I thought there would be a lot of folks that were a lot harder to bring over than there were. And you know, you're melding academic folks and technical folks, and sometimes the -- one side or the other can -- you know, can look down their nose at the other side or whatnot. And I just -- as I said, I give Greg -- I give the board credit for being supportive. And had we wanted to be antagonistic, it could have set the wrong tone. But as I said earlier -- I mean, we had a -- I can remember having at least one board meeting that I can think of where it was sort of closed-door, "All right, let's get this out of our system, now let's go on." And the board was -- backed me up on that, and they were very supportive, which I -- as I said, I give Dr. Adkins the credit, but the board certainly could have made it a very difficult time for him if they were -- if 01:07:00they wanted to. And fortunately, they saw the wisdom in, you know, If we're going to do it, let's do it as positively as we can. And I think we probably came through that about as well as anybody in the state.

KLEE: What about the college's role in the intellectual and cultural life of the community?

LESLIE: I think it has a great role there. We have a wonderful performing arts theater, and a lot of local musicals and theater, and put on a lot of that sort of presentations for the community. We encourage -- the college has a speakers bureau, where we encourage the professors and others to go out into the community and speak to service clubs, and let them know what's going on at the college and so forth. We have a really, really active continuing education program, 01:08:00everything from -- oh, I don't know, you know, we probably don't have this, but how to install drywall to Shakespeare.

KLEE: Cake decorating.

LESLIE: Yeah, exactly. So it's a very, very broad and very well attended continuing education program. So -- and a lot of it is what I would call more intellectual than other things. So I think the college plays its role there, and plays it very well.

KLEE: What about -- you've mentioned this before, the college and the economic -- like trying to attract industry and businesses and being responsive for retraining and so forth? It's a pretty big -- you know, these colleges now are pretty big operations themselves, as far as bring in salary and people.

LESLIE: No question. And when -- during our last endowment campaign, I think there were some numbers put together that showed the community the -- you know, the economic impact of the college sitting in Ashland, 01:09:00being a vibrant institution, growing in -- student enrollment going through the roof and all that, the type of dollars that circulates into the community and brings into the community. And by and large, those are state dollars that are -- of course, there's tuition dollars, I guess, that are generated here that would be here anyway. But all the state money that flows in that pays the professors and the administrators and those sorts of things, we try to do a good job of letting the community know that this is a large employer, one of the largest employers in town. I don't know where we'd fit, but we'd certainly be top 10.

KLEE: Sure. And financial aid now that comes into the community is in the millions of dollars.

LESLIE: Yeah, you bet.

KLEE: Were there questions I missed that I should ask?

LESLIE: Oh, I think you've done a good job, John. I always enjoy sitting around talking about -- it's a bit nostalgic now after all these years, 01:10:00and getting ready to -- I guess if either Governor Fletcher or the new governor-elect decides to appoint somebody, then -- but I'm still very active, I'm still a member of the foundation board and on the board -- foundation executive committee. And so I'm going to keep my hand in that, but no, I think you've covered the ground very well.

KLEE: Well, once they've got you, they don't like to let you go.

LESLIE: Well, it's been -- I've really enjoyed it. It's been -- I'm just one of these kind of old-fashioned guys that I think if a community's been good to you, then you need to -- whatever little bit of talent you have, you need to give back to the community. And I -- that's kind of -- you know, it sounds a little geeky, I guess, but I really believe that. I think if you've got folks that are fortunate enough to be somewhat successful, they ought to give back to that community that helped them. And it's always been a -- to use a trite word, it's always been a labor of love, because I think it's a very, 01:11:00very important institution to our community, and I've enjoyed every minute of it.

KLEE: I appreciate it.

LESLIE: I've enjoyed chatting with you.

KLEE: All right.

[End of interview.]