The South Central Kentuckian of the Year Award annually honors an individual or organization for excellence in leadership as demonstrated by outstanding initiative, impact of work and inspiration of others. The purpose of this award is to honor people in the community who are making significant contributions through their life’s work. Every day people in our community make a difference. We want to celebrate these people who make giving back a priority for themselves, their family or their business.


Jerry Baker Named 2018 South Central Kentuckian of the Year

Jerry Baker never sought recognition for charitable works during his lifetime—sometimes they just came.

Western Kentucky University made a big splash when Baker decided to donate his property off Morgantown Road to the school. The 115-acre arboretum is a living laboratory for WKU students. It and the Downing Museum are open to the public and for special events. The museum features one of the largest collections of Downings art.

Im not sure Jerry Baker ever really wanted to highlight that gift, but it was something Western wanted to do,longtime friend Harvey Johnston said. At the time it was one of the largest gifts ever to a public university.Western placed the value at $17 million for the 2006 donation.

Now the Community Foundation of South Central Kentucky is naming Baker, who died in 2017, its South Central Kentuckian of the Year.

Any honors or accolades that Jerry Baker receives are well deserved,Johnston said. I think he would enjoy it more now than when he was alive because he wouldnt have to be embarrassed.

Johnston said many people know about Baker because of his gift to Western and arts-related organizations in the community.

But he was a giver to a lot of different things that no one would ever really know about it. It might have been to just an individual,Johnston said.

Johnston said Baker thought nothing of providing a scholarship for WKU Lady Toppers basketball, a program he followed religiously, or of establishing a horticulture scholarship in the name of his late friend and noted nurseryman Mitchell Leitchhardt.

Baker also gave of his time and talent to serve on various boards in the community that became his home. He was one of the founding members of the Community Foundation in 1995.

He was a successful businessman at the helm of a company that later became known as Airgas, a large distributor of commercial gases.

The Community Foundation also has been a beneficiary of Baker’s generosity. His estate created a $1 million endowment in the Community Foundation. The endowment will be invested, with the interest generated each year being made as grants to organizations that Baker set out, according to Jennifer Wethington, executive director of the Community Foundation.

Those organizations include Med Center Health Foundation Community Clinic and Dental Clinic, Orchestra Kentucky, Phoenix Theatre, Symphony at WKU and The Boys & Girls Club of Bowling Green.

“Jerry was an extremely generous person and wanted to establish this permanent fund to continue his support of the community, in perpetuity,” Wethington said at the time the endowment was announced. “The Community Foundation is honored to be the steward of his gift, which will provide thousands of dollars to bolster nonprofits in our community.”

The foundation bestows the South Central Kentuckian of the Year honor to highlight the importance of charitable giving in the community.

“Anyone can make a gift to the Community Foundation. Donors to the foundation come from a variety of backgrounds with a common commitment to the community’s well being,” Wethington said.

By helping establish the Community Foundation, Baker had the forethought that “… every person in the community can make a difference.”



Four Irish immigrants, John J., Peter J., Thomas J. & William J. Murphy established a limestone business in Bowling Green, KY, circa 1886. They were stone masons and engineers known as the MURPHY BROTHERS COMPANY. The brothers operated a stone quarry where they removed and cut limestone for many of the initial infrastructure projects in South Central Kentucky and other parts of the Commonwealth.
Many of the buildings, first constructed more than a century ago, remain today as a testament to the foundation upon which they sit. Some of the most notable are State Street Methodist Church and the Burton Memorial Baptist Church. In addition to buildings, the Murphys quarried and cut the stones for the street curbing for many communities including Bowling Green.
When John J. Murphy’s grandson, G. Michael Murphy began his career in construction in 1976, any opportunity to salvage these “stones of the foundation of our community” was preserved as a memory of their family’s business beginnings in South Central Kentucky.
Just as the philanthropic work of the individuals who receive this award are foundational to their community, the base of this award is salvaged limestone and is intended to represent the purpose of The Community Foundation of South Central Kentucky.



In 2017, Col. Robert and Cora Jane Spiller were honored as the South Central Kentuckian of the Year. Col. Spiller was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Cora Jane was born in Louisville, Kentucky in 1928. Cora Jane grew up in Bowling Green, Kentucky where she went to school from first grade through college graduation at Western Kentucky University where she met Bob in 1950. They were married in Bowling Green, Kentucky in 1951. For the next 30 years they moved around the world due to Col. Spiller’s position in the service and ended up back in Warren County where they call home. Their dedication and service to this community has been shown through their involvement with the Salvation Army, The Boys & Girls Club of Bowling Green, The Houchens Center and the American Red Cross.


Bob Kirby Named 2016 South Central Kentuckian of the Year

Bob Kirby is the fifth honoree selected for the South Central Kentuckian award given by The Community Foundation of South Central Kentucky. Several community members, friends and family gave him a standing ovation during the luncheon honoring him for his individual contributions to the community and philanthropic causes. .

The South Central Kentuckian of the Year Award annually honors an individual or organization for excellence in leadership as demonstrated by outstanding initiative, impact of work and inspiration of others. The purpose of this award is to honor people in the community who are making significant contributions through their life’s work.

Bob was born in Murray, Kentucky, but has been a resident of Warren County for most of his life. After graduating from Bowling Green High School in 1951, he served as a Sergeant in the 25th Infantry Division in Korea. After military service, he graduated from Western Kentucky University in 1960 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Commerce and from the National Graduate Trust School at Northwestern University in 1978. He and his wife, Norma Jean, have four children; Kent Kirby, Kim Kirby, Kay Roberts and Gena Gooding. They also have six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Bob and Norma Jean have been married for 64 years.


  • Sergeant 25th Infantry Division – Korea
  • Salvation Army – lifetime member – currently in his 42nd year
  • Western Kentucky University – Board of Advisors
  • Bowling Green Warren County Chamber of Commerce
  • South Central Kentucky Community and Technical College Foundation – Founding Board MemberCommonwealth Health Foundation – Founding Board Member
  • Historical Rail Park and Train Museum – Founding Board Member
  • Bowling Green Warren County Community Foundation (now called Community Foundation of South Central Kentucky) – Founding Board Member
  • United Way of South Central Kentucky – Board Member (1983-1985)
  • United Way of South Central Kentucky – Campaign Chair (1982 and 1986)
  • Warren County Public Library – Former Board Member (1997-1999)
  • Western Kentucky University National Alumni Association – Former President (1999-2000)
  • Central Kentucky Jefferson Award – 1999
  • Western Kentucky University Summit Award – 2001
  • Bowling Green High School Hall of Honor – 2003
  • Warren County Citizen of the Year, presented by Noon Lions Club – 2003
  • Junior Achievement Business Person of the Year – 2008
  • Naming of Bob Kirby Branch of Warren County Public Library



Laura Turner Dugas is the daughter of Laura Goad Turner, and Cal Turner Sr., the founder of Dollar General. A native of Scottsville, Laura has served as the chairman of the Laura Goad Turner Charitable Foundation since its founding in 1989. Established by Cal Turner in honor of his wife, the Foundation is an important source of philanthropy in Allen County and South Central Kentucky.

Under Laura’s leadership, the Laura Goad Turner Charitable Foundation has been a lead funder for services devoted to the citizens of Allen County.  Non-profits and civic institutions with which the Foundation has partnered include: Allen County Public Schools, B.R.A.S.S., Community Action of Southern Kentucky, the Core, Haven4Change, Heart of Scottsville, Kentucky Legal Aid, the Scottsville Medical Center, and the City of Scottville.  Four different scholarships serving graduates of Allen County Scottsville High School have been endowed at the College Heights Foundation, and the Laura Goad Turner Charitable Foundation has made significant investments in both SKyPAC, and the Community Foundation of Southern Kentucky.

In 1998, Laura and her husband Wayne Dugas established the Dugas Family Foundation.  Philanthropy is an authentic family trait, with sons Foster, Steve, and the late Bruce Dugas all having served on the Dugas Family Foundation board. In Northwest Florida the Dugas have provided transformational funding to the Alaqua Animal Refuge, Children’s Volunteer Health Network, Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation, Okaloosa and Walton County Schools, Pace Center for Girls and Sacred Heart Hospital.  n Middle Tennessee, the Dugas Family Foundation has made charitable investments in Abe’s Garden, Nashville Education Community and Arts Television, the Nashville Zoo, Saddle Up!, Second Harvest Food Bank, and Walden’s Puddle.

Laura has always been humbled by the responsibility of serving as chairman of her family foundations, taking the opportunity to serve others in the community very seriously. Honored to be recognized as the “South Central Kentuckian of the Year,” Laura Turner Dugas does on behalf of her family, and the past and present members of the Laura Goad Turner Charitable Foundation board.