Robert P. Ramsey named 2021 WKU Philanthropist of the Year
BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) - Robert P. Ramsey, a prominent Bowling Green-based businessman, is the 2021 WKU Philanthropist of the Year, which honors the generosity, leadership, and commitment of the recipient.
“From his roles on many volunteer boards where he offered his service and business expertise, to philanthropic support promoting access and opportunity for WKU students and student-athletes, to showing up and demonstrating the WKU Spirit at athletic events at home and on the road across the country, Robert Ramsey, and his late wife, Willanna, are genuine and dedicated Hilltoppers,” said WKU President Timothy C. Caboni. “We are happy to recognize Robert in this way for all he has done for our students and for WKU.”
Ramsey first enrolled at WKU in 1957 but was called to active duty with the Army National Guard during the Berlin Crisis in 1961. He served 10 months of active duty and a total of 10 years with the Army National Guard. Ramsey returned to WKU in 1963 and received a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics with minors in Physics and German.
During his time as a WKU student, Ramsey remembers failing a mathematics class from his favorite professor, Dr. Hugh Johnson.
“It was near the end of the semester, and he told me I owed him more than a thousand homework problems,” Ramsey said. “I was getting 90s on my tests, but I did not like to study. I told him, ‘There is no way I can get those done, so you’ll just have to fail me.’ And he did. But I liked him so much I took him again and got an A.
“My education at WKU taught me how to research problems and learn new things,” Ramsey added. “That’s something I tell people when they ask me if they should go to college—you may not end up in the field you studied, but the main thing you discover in college is how to learn new things. Having to learn new things in college made it easier for me to learn new things later.”
Ramsey, and his wife, the late Willanna K. Ramsey, were high school sweethearts at Bowling Green High School. In 2021, the Ramseys retired after 60 years in business and sold The Ramsey Group, from which they ran the very successful businesses Ramsey Oil Company, Ramsey Mobile Home Supplies, Container World Inc. and many other ventures. Willanna Ramsey passed away in June 2021.
Longtime supporters of WKU Athletics, the Ramseys have been well-known attendees of WKU Men’s and Women’s Basketball, Football and Volleyball games. When asked if they would be attending a particular game, Willanna Ramsey once replied, “They’re playing, aren’t they?”
“Robert Ramsey is a tremendously deserving recipient of WKU’s Philanthropist of the Year award,” said Todd Stewart, WKU Director of Athletics. “He and his late wife have been loyal supporters of our sports programs and student-athletes. They truly care about our athletes. Their consistent support has helped us remain competitive at the highest level while also enhancing our athletes’ overall experience.”
The couple’s love of WKU Volleyball happened by chance.
“We were at a football game, and the announcer mentioned that there was a volleyball game going on,” Ramsey said. “We went over to watch, and we got hooked. My wife really loved volleyball, and I do too.”
“For many years, I could count on seeing the Ramseys’ faces at every home volleyball match as well as at many other WKU Athletics events throughout the year,” said Travis Hudson, WKU Volleyball Head Coach. “It is very clear how important WKU is to their family. From the unwavering support in the stands, to the support provided financially, Robert and the Ramsey family have impacted so many people throughout the WKU community.
“Our volleyball program has developed into a nationally recognized, Top 25 program, and it is through the support of people like Robert that we have been able to achieve such incredible things,” Hudson added. “We are forever grateful for all of his support and congratulate him on this prestigious and much-deserved award.”
Ramsey, a Lifetime Member of the WKU Alumni Association, served on the WKU Board of Advisors from 2005 to 2017 and the WKU Foundation Board of Trustees from 2007 to 2017. Ramsey is recognized for annual, cumulative and consecutive years of giving to the University. He is also recognized for including WKU in the couple’s estate plans, ensuring that the funds he and his wife supported during their lifetimes will continue to prosper in perpetuity.
The Ramseys had one daughter, Anita Kay Ramsey, who passed away in 2003. She was a 1982 graduate of WKU with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and Mathematics. Like her parents, she was an ardent supporter of WKU, including WKU Athletics and the departments of Computer Science and Mathematics.
Ramsey said he was shocked when President Caboni called to share that he had been selected as the WKU Philanthropist of the Year.
“We have never really looked for a lot of recognition, my wife especially, but I hope it will inspire others to give to WKU to support students,” Ramsey said. “WKU has been like a family to me for years. After Anita passed and after losing my wife, Western is just like family. I don’t know if I deserve it, but I am very appreciative.
“There are some really nice names on the list of people who have been WKU Philanthropists of the Year,” Ramsey added. “To be associated with and recognized with those people is a great honor.”
The Philanthropist of the Year award has been presented since 2000. Previous recipients are Tim and Sarah Ford, Belle Lady Hunt, George, and CJ Nichols, Laura Dugas, C.M. “Bill” Gatton, Linda and John M. Kelly, Houchens Industries Inc., Dale Augenstein, Dorris “D.B.” and Lula Burchett, Dixie and Pete Mahurin, Rick and Ann Guillaume, Donald J. and Jennifer Waddle Greulich, Suzanne Vitale, Jerry E. Baker, Lowell Guthrie, Bud Layne, Don S. Vitale, Leon Page, Gordon Ford, and Raymond B. and Hattie Preston and the Preston Family Foundation.
Ramsey was recognized during the WKU vs. MTSU game on Jan. 29, 2022.
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