Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Lois Combs-Weinberg, October 29, 2007

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:00

LANE: --and this, the cool thing about this is that even in a noisy environment, it picks up. I recommend Radio Shack--(both laugh)--if you ever need one.

WEINBERG: Go for Radio Shack.

LANE: Well, I don't know if you know Betsy Brinson. You know Betsy?

WEINBERG: Yes, I do.

LANE: I interviewed Gordon, her husband. He was in Lexington for a conference a couple of weeks ago.

WEINBERG: Oh really? So they're doing well?

LANE: Yes. He was--

WEINBERG: They're back from New Zealand.

LANE: Yes. And he said, "She's going to be amazed that you interviewed me with something smaller than a pack of cigarettes." And so, she e-mailed me and said, "I've got to know every detail--is it working?" I don't think technically the Oral History Commission wants you to use digital yet, but honestly it's, it's safe. It's safe as anything.

WEINBERG: So, are they back in Lexington or just visiting?

LANE: No, he, no, they're still--is it Virginia? Is that where they live? I think that's where they went.

WEINBERG: Uh, yes. Yes. Um-hm.

LANE: No, he came back for Dr. McCall's President's Leadership Seminar.

WEINBERG: Oh.

LANE: And he said, "You know," I thought oh, I can do this when I sat down. I knew Betsy was this world-famous oral historian, and here I am interviewing Gordon, and then he said, "You know, this is the first time I've been back in Kentucky since I left." I didn't know that.

00:01:00

WEINBERG: No, well--

LANE: But he was--

WEINBERG: --that's the first time I've known about it.

LANE: --he was, he was welcomed with opened arms. So--

WEINBERG: Good.

LANE: --so, it went, and of course he's a great interview. He, he knows lots of stuff. (both laugh) Oh, but if you would, um, Lois, and there's, there's something else, before we leave I want to talk to you about your days at the Governor's mansion too, a little bit--if we have time, and if you have time, because I never did get to sit with you and, and record that for the Governor's Mansion book. And I want, I'm gonna do a second ed-, not a, maybe not a second edition, but I want to do a companion book about the entertainment and social life and the flowers and the food--(Weinberg laughs)--and all that someday. But anyway, for now, would you just for, for the KCTCS oral history record tell us what you've been doing and then we're going to go back to the '96, '97, '98 era and talk about that just a little bit. But I know 00:02:00you're doing lots of--

WEINBERG: Well here in Hindman--

LANE: --traveling.

WEINBERG: --well here in Hindman, I work with the James Still Learning Center through the Hindman Settlement School, and a group of parents and I started that in 1981, uh, because of own children, and um, it started as an after-school program, then a summer school program, and now a full-time school. So obviously, uh, there's lots of work to be done, because we are proud to say that no child is ever turned away because of lack of funds which means, um--

LANE: Lots of fundraising. (laughs)

WEINBERG: There's lots of fundraising and there's lots of volunteer work, uh, to be done. And, so we have, uh, consolidated schools until the forties.

LANE: Oh. Oh okay. So you had them separate?

WEINBERG: Um-hm.

LANE: Okay. (clears throat) That's good.

00:03:00

WEINBERG: And the settlement school had an active program until really the sixties--of kids boarding and um, gradually you know, public schools have taken over, but the roads were so bad Margaret--

LANE: Oh yeah.

WEINBERG: --that people just couldn't get around. And, um--

LANE: Now, do the children still board at the Settlement School?

WEINBERG: Only in the summer.

LANE: Okay. So you have a summer program?

WEINBERG: We have a summer program.

LANE: That's really neat. And how many, how many students do you have?

WEINBERG: About fifty-, right in the fifties for the summer, and they come from all over the region. Uh, it's an undertaking. These are, these are challenging children. (laughs)

LANE: Hmm. What ages?

WEINBERG: Uh, first grade through, in the summer high school.

LANE: Wow. Oh wow. That's a challenge. Really.

00:04:00

WEINBERG: Um-hm.

LANE: A wide ra-, range of ages.

WEINBERG: In the full-time school we only do, um, well basically first through eighth.

LANE: Okay. And they're day students, then.

WEINBERG: Um-hm.

LANE: Okay.

WEINBERG: They're day students and it's, uh, a fairly--you know, it is a unique arrangement because we are um, public private arrangement and technically the kids are still public school students--

LANE: Um-hm. So you have that arrangement with your public school system?

WEINBERG: Um-hm. Um-hm. We have a contractual arrangement. And the kids come and we follow all the rules and regulations, but our teachers are specially trained and use special materials and technology and the whole nine yards.

LANE: How many staff people do you have?

WEINBERG: Five for thirty kids in full-time school plus maintenance and 00:05:00you know all that stuff--support people.

LANE: Um-hm. Hmm. Now, don't you, are you still consulting and doing some national work?

WEINBERG: Unh-uh.

LANE: No?

WEINBERG: Unh-uh. This is plenty. (Lane laughs) This and two grandchildren.

LANE: And that, that's--you stay at home as much as you like which is wonderful.

WEINBERG: They live very, very close and--

LANE: Oh, that's terrific.

WEINBERG: I mean we've got the best of all worlds.

LANE: I'm so glad for you. I think that's wonderful when they're close.

WEINBERG: The best of all worlds.

LANE: (laughs) Now, during the time when you were serving on the UK Board of Trustees though you had a national position, didn't you?

WEINBERG: Unh-uh.

LANE: Were you not involved with one of the national education?

WEINBERG: Unh-uh.

LANE: Okay.

WEINBERG: Prichard Committee.

LANE: Yes, I knew about that. Okay.

WEINBERG: Um, actually in '96, '97, Bill and I went to Boston.

00:06:00

LANE: Maybe that's what I'm thinking about.

WEINBERG: And I got a master's in education, and Bill was a visiting fellow and so we just had a really great year.

LANE: Oh that's neat.

WEINBERG: Um-hm.

LANE: When did you first hear about that notion with Governor Patton particularly of separating the community colleges from the university? There had been rumblings over the years.

WEINBERG: There had been rumblings and my dad was strongly in favor of the community colleges being part of UK.

LANE: Um-hm. Um-hm. Yes.

WEINBERG: So we had had this discussion before.

LANE: Okay.

WEINBERG: Um, but, when I was on the board it was clear from our reports that we weren't getting that many community college students to come to UK. And then House Bill 1 came along and incorporated the notion of 00:07:00technical and community college, which made so much sense in terms of sort of a seamless progression for students of any age.

LANE: Right.

WEINBERG: So I thought it was a great idea. It was a difficult idea because, um, Governor Breathitt--

LANE: Right.

WEINBERG: --didn't support it--

LANE: --was chairman at the time--

WEINBERG: --and certainly um, I respected his leadership, his friendship, his everything and so to not agree was difficult. (laughs)

LANE: Um-hm. I read the minutes and your letter to the board. While it's all perfectly professional and lovely, I, but I thought, oh yes, isn't this amazing? And you know, I talked to, uh, a couple of former 00:08:00governors this week. I'm getting some comments from them and I sensed without them saying it, that they felt their opinion about keeping those community colleges with the university had something to do with loyalty to your father which I, which I find, I find admirable and interesting as well.

WEINBERG: Um-hm, and I don't doubt that.

LANE: No, no because the governor had done this.

WEINBERG: Um-hm. Uh, of course, my rationale was, you know, my dad changed and grew with the times and, uh, perhaps he would have changed his mind. I don't know that. (laughs)

LANE: Well, but perhaps he would have. You're right. Um, because our, our work-force situation has changed so dramatically in this region, don't you think?

WEINBERG: Oh definitely.

00:09:00

LANE: As far as what is needed in the workplace and I don't mean even particularly lack of a liberal arts four-year degree--I will always be in favor of that--I think that makes us a well-rounded person, but I have a niece who just graduated from Transylvania with a lifetime of debt and no job and she's going to have to go back to a KCTCS program and get a certification in the field she's interested in.

WEINBERG: I believe that.

LANE: I still think she's very well-educated, uh, and that's not an issue, but you know, we have to deal with that practically and financially for our students, don't you think?

WEINBERG: There's no other choice, and perhaps your niece will find a place more likely in administration ultimately, because of her background but in the short-term, she's got to make ends meet.

LANE: That's right, and start paying back the debt which the meter ticks right away. I did hear someone say that Goldman Sachs and Google, some 00:10:00of the larger companies who are known to be pretty, you know, pretty good with their employees, look for four-year liberal arts educated students. They bring them in, they hire them, and then they send them to training because they need somebody who can operate in a team, and someone who can think critically and they feel like that four-year background has given them that. So that's fascinating in itself.

WEINBERG: Sure.

LANE: But I think there's room for both, don't you?

WEINBERG: Well, the technical skills that all of us need, um, are in a variety of fields that no four-year liberal arts college can possibly touch.

LANE: No, you can't, you can't. Can't, don't have the time to do that.

WEINBERG: Don't have the time nor the money. Um, my alma mater is currently undergoing a terrible time in just keeping the doors open. Randolph-Macon Women's College in Lynchburg.

00:11:00

LANE: Oh, I heard about that.

WEINBERG: And I'm just horrified, but I also recognize the reality. Um, students need to, um, to see where they're headed, and somehow the financials, uh, just have not worked out. Anyway, that's a longer and deeper story.

LANE: Well I think it's a national--but I think that's a national trend. We're, we're just seeing, you cannot continue to raise tuition with the, with the costs of an education--astronomical really--what it really costs to educate students. So--I think we're starting to deal with that. I'm sure you've heard about the recommendation from Brad Cowgill and the, and the CPE. Are you on that? On the CPE?

WEINBERG: No.

LANE: Have you been? Haven't you been on higher education?

WEINBERG: I was on CPE when it first started.

LANE: Okay.

WEINBERG: On the first group and I had been such a backer of, uh, House Bill 1--

00:12:00

LANE: Um-hm.

WEINBERG: --that when Paul Patton asked me to be on the first CPE I said, "Oh yeah that'll be exciting." Sort of be out there forging, forging ahead.

LANE: Yeah.

WEINBERG: And in a lot of ways we were. Um, didn't have as much authority as we needed. Just like they still don't.

LANE: I know. (Weinberg laughs) That's, that's Gordon's, you know, his take on that as well which is very true but I don't know--I'm not sure how I feel about that as far as the KCTCS situation but we'll see how that all works out. On the other hand, I don't think--I was thinking about UK the other day and thinking my goodness how can you argue with what they have done, not necessarily because the community colleges aren't there, but they have concentrated a billion dollars raised--

WEINBERG: I know.

LANE: --for heaven's sake. I mean, I think that's wonderful.

WEINBERG: Plus, you've got the gross financially endowment-wise of KCTCS.

LANE: Oh yes. Most definitely.

00:13:00

WEINBERG: That has just taken over.

LANE: It's a very strong program with, with the headquarters or the system office helping, helping--there were some of those community colleges that had very strong programs already. Foundations and endowments. Some didn't have any at all, but you just see that really going great guns.

WEINBERG: Well, over in Hazard, they've done a tremendous job and we thought Ed Hughes was the end of the world and he was and then he left and went to Northern.

LANE: Um-hm.

WEINBERG: But now--then we had Dr. Box and he was fabulous too. (laughs)

LANE: We have him now. (Weinberg laughs)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Can you tell anything in it?

WEINBERG: Oh, I think we're doing--

LANE: It's really good. Thank you.

WEINBERG: I know it is.

LANE: Um-hm. Delicious.

WEINBERG: You all are doing well.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: If you need anything, just holler.

WEINBERG: Oh, we will.

LANE: Yeah, Jay is at the system office. He's, he's a nice fellow. Very smart. I think he's concentrating on the, uh, well, it's the online course work and that sort of thing now. I mean I think that's one of his major charges. So.

00:14:00

WEINBERG: Well he was tremendous because he really made himself a part of the community.

LANE: Um-hm.

WEINBERG: Hook, line, and sinker.

LANE: Oh, the first presentation he gave he dressed up in a superman suit at the, at KCTCS. It was very clever but professional and fun. I thought, now he's a cool guy. (laughs)

WEINBERG: Well people just in this area fell in love with him in a very short period of time and the results that he got.

LANE: Well, that's, I think that in my study of the whole situation has been one of the keys to the success of KCTCS, they have attracted very quality, very qualified people. People who are invested in education.

WEINBERG: But Margaret, don't you think it would be more attractive for a post-secondary administrator to want to come to something that's a little bit more independent, than to come as part of, uh, a cog in the 00:15:00big wheel. A huge big wheel.

LANE: Oh, I think most, most definitely. I don't think there's any question.

WEINBERG: So you attract talent almost beyond what you, uh, could hope for, 'cause people want their own, their own domain and a way to grow without having to ask every single time, "Can we write this letter? Can we copy this bulletin? Can we do anything?" (laughs)

LANE: And you felt like that and that was the situation before. They were one of the programs, one of the departments if you will at the university. Now, did you, did you have a frustration about that even before this Paul Patton's proposal came about?

WEINBERG: Well, I actually did because I felt that for Eastern Kentucky, the community colleges had more to offer and that's really what my dad 00:16:00saw you see to begin with is that was our toe-hold in post-secondary other than the regionals, but Eastern Kentucky University is not in Eastern Kentucky.

LANE: No. No, it isn't.

WEINBERG: And Morehead is a long way away from many of us.

LANE: That's right.

WEINBERG: So, um, our community colleges become our focus of growth. Before, when we finish I want you to go see the new Opportunity Center that's a stone's throw from here, um, that is the housing for--well, the programs. It's Hazard Community College, it's Morehead. I guess we've got programs in there now from UK.

LANE: Wow.

WEINBERG: Um, but this is how we could grow. Kept under the lid of UK. It was just too difficult. I don't think it ever would have changed.

LANE: To unwieldy.

WEINBERG: Um-hm, because they were busy doing their own thing and 00:17:00there's always been lots to do at the university.

LANE: Oh sure. It's a big ship to run.

WEINBERG: It's a huge ship and this, these little community colleges were just little, little cogs in the wheel, and I think that at one time--I'm sure this was the feeling that--uh, politically it was felt that, that legislators would be more supportive of the university, and the funding for the university if, uh, their little community college was part of it.

LANE: I think so. Oh, I sense that and I've read that. I've read numerous interviews that have done with lots of folks involved and that's, that, it was considered political, the political power for the university to have these community colleges out in the state. But you know, the, the--this is so obvious but somebody spent lots of money 00:18:00on a study saying that that people, if they have no interest in higher education are much more likely to go to something that's in their community. I mean, I know that's obvious, but it, it was funny. I read it in the, uh, Chronicle of Higher Ed and then if there's not one close, they go to the one that's got the best road to it. And you know what? We're just practical animals. That's, that's the way it is.

WEINBERG: Well practical and limited by funding, by transportation, by family.

LANE: Family commitments. Um-hm.

WEINBERG: --a job--

LANE: A job or two.

WEINBERG: All of the above and so, um, if it's not handy, it doesn't happen.

LANE: No.

WEINBERG: Now that the Opportunity Center houses, uh, the library as well.

LANE: Wow, that's great.

WEINBERG: Well, the Settle-, it's on the Settlement School property that we deeded but the fact is that the library is more accessible, it's 00:19:00on the ground floor. You can drive up and drop your books that you're returning, your videos, they're computers. I mean it's amazing how much more traffic.

LANE: How wonderful.

WEINBERG: Plus, the community college is up on the second and third floors and all of those students drift down through the library. I mean it's the way it ought to be.

LANE: It's a natural mix. It sounds great.

WEINBERG: It's the way it ought to be.

LANE: How long has that been in operation?

WEINBERG: Probably about six years.

LANE: Sounds wonderful.

WEINBERG: It was all part of the community development initiative.

LANE: Oh good.

WEINBERG: And um, the School of Craft, which is part of KCTCS state of the art. If we have time I'll just--I mean I won't tarry--we can just run through it. It's--

LANE: I am at your--

WEINBERG: --unbelievable.

LANE: --disposal this afternoon. Because I, I just need to get to Benham before dark--(both laugh)--because I don't want to drive where I don't know where I'm going. And what will that take me, an hour, an hour and a half, two?

00:20:00

WEINBERG: No, two.

LANE: Two hours.

WEINBERG: For sure.

LANE: Okay. Okay.

WEINBERG: I have a commitment at three.

LANE: That's all I have. Okay, we will, I don't want to, but you can point them out and then I can wander around.

WEINBERG: But, the, uh, the community actually got together and discussed, well, where, where do we think that our greatest resources are in terms of economic development. And everybody concluded it's not having a big industrial site. You know, we don't have the land unless you go out way, way out of town anyway.

LANE: Right. Right. Right.

WEINBERG: Um, and it was decided that it was our heritage and our creativity and our artisans.

LANE: Hmm. That was very smart actually.

WEINBERG: Well, it didn't, uh, some folks thought it was pretty loony-- (laughs)--that we would hang our hat on, on the economic engine of, uh, 00:21:00just local people and arts and crafts.

LANE: Instead of in a new factory or something.

WEINBERG: Right. Right. Some new idea but it's still in the works. It hasn't, uh, totally come to fruition but this is happening and then there's an artisan incubator down the street--

LANE: Oh, wow.

WEINBERG: --and then there's the School of Craft and the Opportunity Center and it's all coming together. It may take another so many years.

LANE: But what if you hadn't begun?

WEINBERG: No, really. And as Phyllis George was so great in helping us to calculate. She came to do our speech, uh, for the community dinner- -fundraising dinner this spring and she quoted all these wonderful numbers about how many millions of dollars arts and crafts bring in tax money to the state of Kentucky. Well, we hadn't really stopped to calculate all that but, uh, clearly, you know, it can be a livelihood 00:22:00for people. Um--

LANE: Well I think it--

WEINBERG: --and a draw.

LANE: --makes a lot of sense to me because you just--you do have such world-class talent and you've got to show it, you've got to figure out how to get it to the world--

WEINBERG: And market it.

LANE: --or the world to you.

WEINBERG: Exactly. Even the children at James Still Learning Center, many of them are--well, they're all hands-on learners and we're going to make a concerted effort to introduce them to the School of Craft even before they go to high school--

LANE: Great.

WEINBERG: --so that they have it in their mind, oh I could go be a jeweler, or a woodworker, or a blacksmith.

LANE: Perfect. We have to capture them.

WEINBERG: Um-hm.

LANE: Early I think.

WEINBERG: Before we lose them. So, it all works together. And I think KCTCS gives us the vehicle to do that. I think it helped us modernize 00:23:00our technical schools.

LANE: Um-hm. And gave them a little more of a standing if you will in the academic world.

WEINBERG: Absolutely.

LANE: You know, you know how that happens sometimes. As Tom Layzell said, "You know how in academia you have a little bit of--you always have the turf, turf and that sort of thing and hierarchy." And I said, "Yes, I do." And I think this has helped level that playing field a bit.

WEINBERG: Um, Gordon used to talk about the silo mentality in everything that we do and how the really successful pieces of our economy are the ones that have flattened out. And so as we were trying to make policy and think about how we do higher education in Kentucky, we try to keep that in mind to the extent that you can.

LANE: Yeah. Yeah.

00:24:00

WEINBERG: Obviously, they are bureaucracies.

LANE: Oh, obviously--(both laugh)--several layers.

WEINBERG: And we, and we may have created some extra layers now but we also reduced some layers.

LANE: Um-hm. Well, and even though there are layers, they are local. Hopefully a lot of that begins at home where you can stay at home and work through it, instead of having--

WEINBERG: --to go to Frankfort or Lexington.

LANE: --or wherever. Yeah. I mean I just think that's a wonderful community effort and I know you all are much thanked for that.

WEINBERG: I'm thanked just because I love to see kids going in and out of libraries and schools.

LANE: Oh yes, and, and Tom Clark used to say, "If we could get just one of them, one of those little ones who walks through this building could capture the spark." They could ch-, and that's what you're saying. You're doing early with these children. You're giving them another road sometimes compared to what has maybe been a family tradition. And 00:25:00then sometimes just a different one.

WEINBERG: Well, it, with the economy of coal here, breaking out of that with kids is really hard. At James Still Learning Center, uh, the teachers will ask the kids at sixth grade, "What do you want to be?" "I want to be a miner just like my daddy." But the only problem is that at whatever age forty-five or fifty, their daddy is done in--physically often times and um, it's a very difficult, dangerous, dangerous--

LANE: But just for them to--

WEINBERG: --career.

LANE: --even, from as you say, I think that's so smart from early on--grade school--capturing that little thought, ooh I could do this. (Weinberg laughs) And I sort of know how 'cause I've been learning. You know? It's hope.

WEINBERG: It is hope, um, and I think, uh, it's what we live on. It's 00:26:00what we live on here because we're still economically way below the state average in terms of income, health care.

LANE: So co-, mining is the predominate occupation?

WEINBERG: Mining and, uh, education. (laughs)

LANE: Okay.

WEINBERG: Mining and education. Uh, those are two of our biggest employers. We have some plants like, um, over in Perry County, the woodworking plant--(clears throat)--excuse me. Um, and in Pike County. You know we have brought in some, but it's not nearly enough to give, um, young people a reason to stay here.

LANE: Right. Right.

WEINBERG: And our population is aging of course, like everywhere--

LANE: Sure.

WEINBERG: --but young families continue to leave and our grade schools 00:27:00are closing.

LANE: Oh, they are?

WEINBERG: Oh yeah. We lost Caney Creek. Um, we lost Beckham Combs and there are a couple of others hanging, hanging in the balance in the next few years and that's because we're losing, uh, young families.

LANE: With children.

WEINBERG: We've just been really blessed to have our oldest son who could be here and work in the family business and, uh, so that we still--

LANE: Get to keep the grandchildren close. (laughs)

WEINBERG: We get to have the kids here. (both laugh) Otherwise you know, they would have gone too.

LANE: Yeah. Hmm.

WEINBERG: But, um--

LANE: But, what you're doing is, is--again I'll use a Tom Clarkism--it's the seed-bed, it's your seed-bed for growing those crops. Growing those kids up.

WEINBERG: And I think developing our interest in our belief in our 00:28:00people which is what this artisan thing is all about and it's our people whatever level of education.

LANE: Right. Right. Their talent if you will.

WEINBERG: And creativity and sense of heritage. This is what we have to cherish and build on and so that's where we are.

LANE: Wow. What, what gave you such, uh, uh, deep interest in education? Was that passed along to you?

WEINBERG: That was passed along and I guess it was from my dad's--well, my dad's mother, but also my mother's mother and father who lived in a very remote area here, Beaver Creek, and I mean education at all costs. Whatever it took. You know they were willing to move, they were willing to ship kids off, whatever it took--

00:29:00

LANE: To get an education. Wow.

WEINBERG: --to get that, that education. My dad was just um, fixated on it--(laughs)--and so there was no question you know for me ever, uh, about going to college or--and then when my oldest son was six years old and couldn't read and then we determined he was dyslexic--

LANE: Um-hm.

WEINBERG: --well this is unacceptable. (both laugh)

LANE: Right. Right. This won't work.

WEINBERG: A bright child that can't read is, um, is doomed and so whatever you have to do, you do it and if that means, um, you know organizing a community of other parents in order to deliver and create services that are not available in most communities anywhere as it turns out, then that's what you do.

LANE: That's what you do.

WEINBERG: And, uh--

00:30:00

LANE: So, it, it appears that in the past education may have been seen as your ticket out but you're hoping that education will be the ticket to stay.

WEINBERG: Sure.

LANE: Yeah.

WEINBERG: Sure.

LANE: I just think that's--that, that makes a strong community.

WEINBERG: Well, it's the place we want to stay and what we find, um, is that people will go and do a career and then move back when they retire.

LANE: Yes.

WEINBERG: And we have a number of very talented people who have come back and who continue to give and give and give in the community.

LANE: That's a great baby boomer phenomenon isn't it? Which I think is just going to strengthen our communities. It'll change a bit of our demographic, but I think it will be a positive change and I love the mix of the ages. I just think the multi-age learning is the best kind.

WEINBERG: Well it's, um, happening here because people love the mountains. We all do.

LANE: Um-hm.

WEINBERG: And um, you know, even when you go, like when we went to 00:31:00Boston for that year I loved it. I could not wait to come home in June. Not one more week. And it's, uh--(Lane laughs)-- we're just all built that way. (laughs)

LANE: Well I think we are especially if we just you know our families are there and we loved it growing up, and the whole thing was, there's something to appreciate. Like my husband, when we travel, after several days he'll say, "Okay, I have to see grass and cows. I just have to." Not, not a very long time either.

WEINBERG: Well, when we sent our oldest son off, our dyslexic son off for a summer program in Boston, we, he was sixteen and I was driving him home from the airport and he looked out of the car window and he said, "Gosh, it's nice to see weeds by the side of the road." (laughs)

LANE: Oh, I love it. I love it. Isn't that great? Weeds. Even good 00:32:00old weeds.

WEINBERG: Just plain old, just plain old weeds. (both laugh)

LANE: That's great. That is wonderful. Well, during the past ten years too Lois since House Bill 1 was enacted, and of course KCTCS was forming, and that was a massive undertaking to put those technical schools who almost came from a different culture--state government, different work hours, different pay rate, different, uh, organizational structure, together with the community college that had been with UK operated on the credit hour and the semester system. I mean, what they had to put together and make operate as a new entity was totally amazing. What have you heard over the years maybe highlights and low- lights even?

WEINBERG: Well, I think that we all did have a confidence that Mike McCall was the right man for the job.

LANE: Had you known him before?

WEINBERG: No. Just when he came to interview. And, uh, I remember at that time he still had glasses--(laughs)--

00:33:00

LANE: Um-hm, contacts now.

WEINBERG: --and um, he was just--seemed to be the kind of man who was able to, uh, uh, take, as my dad would have said, "Take the bull by the horns." And great credentials in terms of his own experience but also somebody who wasn't afraid to walk on that new ground.

LANE: Um-hm.

WEINBERG: And, um, yet had enough diplomacy to keep from alienating as you say, the technical schools that came from a different part of our, not just our system, but our government. So I think you know he's um, he's been instrumental in, uh, helping it move forward. I think Gordon was, was instrumental in those early years because he also believed in 00:34:00the concept as did we on the CPE, um, that this is what we should be doing and there wasn't, uh, there wasn't a lot of backbiting that I knew about in those early years, there was a lot of you know, we're pushing forward with, um, the virtual university, and what that was going to mean for the KCTCS system, but also high schools and we see that more and more now. Um, but there was a vision that may have been dimmed somewhat, um, but definitely, uh, in the beginning it was bright and progressive and I think the momentum of that has carried forward. Uh--

LANE: What has dimmed it in your opinion?

WEINBERG: Well frankly I think the, the, um, in the last four, four 00:35:00years, uh, or five years, there's been, uh, and, and, you know, I went off CPE I guess in nineteen, I mean 2004.

LANE: Okay.

WEINBERG: I think that was my last year, uh, and there just seemed to be a foot dragging in terms of helping, uh, move policies along throughout state government, funding. Uh--but I sus--

LANE: Is that for all of the univ-, all of higher education or simply KCTCS?

WEINBERG: No, I think, I think all of higher education. You know, as tuitions have had to be raised because our state funding went down.

LANE: True.

WEINBERG: Uh, I think that's been a drag of the whole system. Um, I think there's just been an attitude that, well, higher education was 00:36:00out there in the fore-, forefront for all these years, now let's shift gears and whatever.

LANE: Um-hm.

WEINBERG: Now, I don't know what we've shifted to. (laughs)

LANE: Let's concentrate on something else, but what? Yeah. So, I think it just has to be continued for us to be successful. Do you see in your national contacts that that Kentucky--how's Kentucky regarded because of that change? Has there been any change in our--

WEINBERG: You mean the change in the last four or five years?

LANE: Well, I'm thinking in the last, yeah, five or six. Since House Bill 1 and since we got organized and our community colleges have--

WEINBERG: Well I think we--

LANE: --grown.

WEINBERG: --got a lot of, of recognition for how we were on the cutting edge and, uh, you know we made progress in terms of, uh, even now slightly, a little bump up in our ACT scores and, uh, NAEP scores and that, that kind of thing.

LANE: But of course the enrollment for KCTCS has gone, it's nearing 00:37:00ninety thousand.

WEINBERG: Sky-, it's skyrocketed.

LANE: With many more online courses. Uh, I don't, I don't know about the four-year institutions. I think, have they, have they leveled or are they growing as well?

WEINBERG: They were the last time I really checked the numbers.

LANE: Um-hm.

WEINBERG: Um, they were growing. And um, and also the GED. Don't forget the GED initiative--

LANE: That's right. That's right.

WEINBERG: --that so was critical, uh, in those early years because we recognized that we had lost through drop-outs and attrition so many people who need to be part of the work-force.

LANE: Right. Right.

WEINBERG: So whatever, whatever it took or takes, we need to be doing. Also down at the Opportunity Center there's a GED program--

LANE: Great. Great.

WEINBERG: --under--

LANE: --excuse me--

WEINBERG: --under one roof. Uh, but just this real strong effort, uh, that I think we were recognized for. I'm not sure that we're still in 00:38:00the forefront.

LANE: Really? Several other states have endeavored to, to copy, copy if you will, or to, to formulate similar, uh, entities. I think some have succeeded. Some have not. Uh, but, uh, if you had to look back at the last ten years, um, what would, what would your comment be? You know, I mean I know you said you're just delighted we did it and it was not easy to do because you were kind of in the middle of a lot of the fray there.

WEINBERG: Well I think we forged ahead and we created a momentum with just a confluence of so many sort of uh, new and exciting ideas about higher education and putting that into one package that we call House Bill 1 and there hasn't been anything like that in the last ten years. 00:39:00Um, I think to, to maintain that momentum, we're gonna have to go back and find new and renewed, uh, energy, funding, uh, determination.

LANE: How do we do that--

WEINBERG: Leadership.

LANE: --in today's--

WEINBERG: Leadership.

LANE: --political climate? Okay.

WEINBERG: Leadership.

LANE: Um-hm.

WEINBERG: Um, you know that's I think how the community colleges got started to begin with was the vision that places in the hinterland of Kentucky needed education and higher ed--post-secondary education just as much as Louisville and Lexington, uh, and Northern Kentucky. Heck, in my dad's day, Northern Kentucky was the hinterland. (both laugh)

LANE: It was, wasn't it. It was. You're so right. We're so much more 00:40:00mobile and we're just, we're so connected. Literally and physically I think these days but, but still those community values of wanting to stay close to home still prevail.

WEINBERG: Well, and I think--there have been studies done that show, um, Kentuckians, probably more than any other state, or just as much as any other state, any other state, wanna stay home.

LANE: Um-hm.

WEINBERG: A friend over the weekend was talking about globalization and how--well you know, if a displaced worker wanted to really make money they could go and work in construction in Iraq.

LANE: Um-hm.

WEINBERG: And I thought, do you know what you're saying? (Lane laughs) Nobody I know would, for any amount of money, um.

LANE: I mean the money, the money looked good at the beginning but then the other things certainly outweighed that.

WEINBERG: Far--

LANE: Oh, my.

WEINBERG: --far more concerns, but just the idea of, unless you're starving, and many Eastern Kentucky people have gone to Ohio and Indiana 00:41:00and Michigan through the years, uh, to work in the car factories.

LANE: Right, but Ron Crouch tells us that they're all--

WEINBERG: Coming back.

LANE: --coming back. And the South is, will be the area that's, you know, is sensed. If you're, if you're not from here, even sensed as, as a softer, calmer place to, to live. So, I'm watching that with interest. He's such a great speaker.

WEINBERG: He's incredible. He's been um--

LANE: He's the only guy I know that can take stats and make 'em interesting, you know?

WEINBERG: He used to use his building blocks and then he'd pull out those bottom blocks because, or have so few of them that they couldn't support the pyramid--

LANE: Right.

WEINBERG: --because that's our work-force.

LANE: That's true. He's a good teacher. He's a great teacher but, but I think those people who have left, as you say, I see that a lot in our community as well, moving back and it does a lot to refresh the community I think 'cause a lot of them have--

WEINBERG: Skills.

LANE: --the funds, the skills, the expertise to just make the community 00:42:00richer so that's going to be fun to watch.

WEINBERG: Well, it's, it's happening.

LANE: Oh?

WEINBERG: It's happening. Um, I'd be glad to show you the Opportunity Center.

LANE: I would love to see it.

WEINBERG: Well--

LANE: I would love to see it.

WEINBERG: Well, let's see, I'll unload my front seat.

LANE: Oh, well, let's see, or we can just--you direct and I'll drive 'cause I don't have that much in my front seat, and you won't have to worry about that.

WEINBERG: I loaded--with grandchildren--

[End of interview.]