Three joining WKU’s Hall of Distinguished Alumni
BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) - The longtime face and voice of the Kentucky Derby, a leader in agriculture and education, and the coach of Lady Topper Volleyball will join the 29th class of WKU’s Hall of Distinguished Alumni this fall.
John Asher, Dr. Jack Britt and Travis Hudson will be inducted during WKU’s 2020 Homecoming Celebration.
Journalist, spokesman, storyteller, family man, Hilltopper. Words that describe the life and career of John Asher. But for many people, including those in the horse racing industry, Asher was known as “Mr. Derby.”
In his two decades as Vice President of Racing Communications at Churchill Downs, Asher became synonymous with the Kentucky Derby. A lifelong horse racing fan, Asher was a walking encyclopedia of horse racing and the Kentucky Derby.
His booming baritone voice coupled with keen insight, quick wit and heartfelt words could captivate an audience. The man who never met a stranger easily related to billionaire horse owners, workers in the stables and fans in the grandstands.
Asher, who grew up near Leitchfield in Grayson County, covered the Kentucky Derby as an award-winning radio journalist for WHAS and WAVG in Louisville, where he earned five Eclipse Awards for “Outstanding National Radio Coverage of Thoroughbred Racing” as well as other honors from the Society of Professional Journalists, Radio and Television News Directors Association, Kentucky Broadcasters Association and The Associated Press.
He landed his dream job at Churchill Downs in 1997 and became Vice President of Racing Communications in 1999. As publicist for the track, Asher was charged with promoting and protecting its legacy. In 2001, he helped lead the $126 million renovation of the historic facility.
Asher’s horse industry honors include the Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners’ Warner L. Jones Jr. Horseman of the Year award; the Charles W. Engelhard Award for excellence in media coverage from the Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders; the Dean Eagle Award from the Knights of Columbus; and a media award from the Kentucky Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association.
Asher received a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from WKU and was well-known for his support of and enthusiasm for his alma mater. A Lifetime Member of the WKU Alumni Association, he was a member of the WKU Greater Louisville Alumni Chapter and a member of both the Mahurin Honors College at WKU Parents Advisory Council and the WKU Alumni Association Board of Directors, where he served as President in 2007-2008. Asher also received a Volunteer of the Year Award from WKU and was honored by the WKU School of Media.
Asher died Aug. 27, 2018, at the age of 62. He is survived by his wife, Dee, and three daughters.
Among the tributes after his death: The John Asher Scholarship Fund was established at WKU; a portion of Kentucky 259 near Leitchfield was renamed as the “John Stephen Asher Memorial Highway”; and a section of Central Avenue near Churchill Downs was renamed as “John S. Asher Way.”
Dr. Jack Britt has been making a difference in the fields of agriculture, education, research and entrepreneurship since his days on the family farm in Warren County.
As teenagers, Dr. Britt and his twin brother, Jenks, began building a herd of registered Holstein cattle on the 400-acre farm. After earning their bachelor’s degrees at WKU, the brothers sold the herd to finance graduate school.
At WKU, Dr. Britt was a campus leader, including President of the Senior Class, was a co-founder of Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity in 1963 and graduated in 1966 with majors in Agriculture and Biology.
Dr. Britt entered graduate school at North Carolina State University and earned a master’s degree in Physiology with a minor in Animal Science in 1969 and a doctorate in Physiology with a minor in Biochemistry in 1971.
Dr. Britt’s career included leadership roles at three land-grant universities. He joined the faculty at Michigan State University and later served as head of one of the world’s top dairy science departments. He returned to North Carolina State University in 1977 where he served as a Professor in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Programs in the College of Veterinary Medicine and Assistant Director of the North Carolina Agricultural Research Service.
In 1998, he joined the University of Tennessee System as Vice President for Agriculture and presided over academic programs at the Knoxville campus as well as extension programs and agricultural and forest research stations across Tennessee. In 2004, Dr. Britt was named University of Tennessee Executive Vice President and led the development and implementation of the UT System’s strategic plan.
Even though he retired in 2007, Dr. Britt remains active as a consultant on animal agriculture and as a visionary for the dairy industry. He leads a team of experts from around the world who have been studying what dairy farming may look like in the future.
As a researcher in reproductive physiology, Dr. Britt’s work on compromised ovarian function of dairy cows during reduced nutrition, known as the “Britt Hypothesis,” is still being studied by graduate students worldwide. As an author, he has had 720 technical articles, papers and more published in numerous journals. Dr. Britt has received numerous awards and recognition for his teaching, research and service.
He remains a supporter of WKU where he established the Jack and Frances Britt Fund for Innovation and Learning in 2018.
Dr. Britt lives in Etowah, N.C. He and his late wife, Frances, had two daughters, Heather and Stephanie.
In the past 25 years, Travis Hudson has turned the WKU Volleyball program into a consistent conference champion and a player on the national stage.
Hudson, who grew up in Bee Spring in Edmonson County, came to WKU with a goal of becoming the first person in his family to earn a college degree. He worked two jobs while pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Business Management with a Marketing emphasis. He graduated in 1994.
Hudson joined the WKU Volleyball program in the early 1990s, served as an Assistant Coach for three years and was Interim Head Coach on two occasions. In 1995, Hudson was named Head Coach at the age of 24, making him the nation’s youngest head coach at the time.
His first team finished with a 7-26 record and the next two teams went 18-17 and 9-22. Then in 1998, the team posted a 26-10 record and has never finished below .500 since, as Hudson has built WKU into a championship-caliber program that has appeared in 12 NCAA Tournaments.
Hudson’s Lady Toppers earned 10 Sun Belt Conference regular-season championships and five conference tournament championships. Since joining Conference USA in 2014, WKU Volleyball has won five of six possible regular season and tournament championships.
In 2018, WKU Volleyball posted its 19th straight 20-win season, and Hudson earned his 600th win as Head Coach. In 2019 the team made history again by reaching the 30-win mark for the eighth time in 10 seasons and earning the No. 15 national seed. More than 9,500 fans attended the first-ever NCAA Volleyball Tournament matches held in Diddle Arena. WKU closed with a 32-2 record to secure the team's best-ever season winning percentage of .941.
After the 2019 season, Hudson was named the AVCA South Region Coach of the Year for the sixth time of his career and won conference Coach of the Year honors for the eighth time. Hudson has also worked with USA Volleyball, helping guide the USA Women’s Junior National Training Team in 2017 and the U.S. Women’s Collegiate National Team in 2019.
Hudson continues to push his players to climb higher on the court and in the classroom. The Lady Toppers boast a 100 percent graduation rate in Hudson's tenure and have earned numerous academic awards. The program also supports Hope for Harlie and the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation, a charitable, non-profit organization that strives to enhance and strengthen the support system built around children with pediatric brain tumors.
Hudson and his wife, Cindy, live in Bowling Green. They have two sons, Andrew and Tyler, an incoming WKU freshman.
The Hall of Distinguished Alumni is presented by Franklin Bank & Trust, a longtime supporter of WKU. For more information, contact the WKU Alumni Association at (270) 745-2586 or visit //alumni.wku.edu/hoda.
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