EKU to give $1,000 bonuses as part of investing in staff; new provost named


RICHMOND, Ky. (WTVQ) – Eastern Kentucky President Dr. David McFaddin has just completed his first year as interim and permanent president.

And already he has chalked up a number of successes even during one “of the most difficult years” imaginable.

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And he’s not done, staking out along with the EKU board of regents bold goals and agenda for 2021.

And it starts with the university’s employees. And next week, they’ll be happy.

The regents approved Thursday McFaddin’s plan to give all 1,600 full-time workers a $1,000 ‘thank you’ bonus in next week’s paychecks. It’ll cost the university about $2 million.

It’s part of what McFaddin’s long-term plan of investing in workers. That’s been overlooked too long, he told the regents. He noted the university has built new dorms, classrooms and recreation facilities and now it’s time to focus on building the people who make it all work.

“But now and hopefully and every year going forward, we will do what is necessary to invest in our people as well. This payment is not merit-based but is intended as a sincere thank you for the incredible work in this most difficult year,” McFaddin said.

McFaddin said he will ask the board to revisit staff pay each year after enrollment goal results are finalized and EKU knows its revenue estimates.

The university, which managed an enrollment of more than 13,000 students in the fall not including e-students and graduate enrollees, is losing a veteran educator.

But the university has a familiar face to step in.

Dr. Jerry Pogatshnik is retiring as provost effective next June. The regents approved McFaddin’s recommendation to name Dr. Sara Ziegler to replace him.

Ziegler has been with the university since 1997 and most recently has been the Dean of University programs.

During Thursday’s meeting, Pogatshnik was praised for his innovation, especially in developing aerospace and other new programs the last two years.

Ziegler was recognized for her institutional knowledge and unique approach to difficult problems.

After what the students have not been able to enjoy this year, having an in-person graduation is a worthy goal, school leaders said Thursday.

This fall, Eastern Kentucky managed to control coronavirus cases as well as any college.

And it expanded programs and set a record for retaining students, the EKU board was told Thursday.

But everyone is admittedly “zoomed out,” Regents President Lewis Diaz said, referring to a months of where meetings and even casual conversations have been done almost constantly by Zoom or some other virtual platform.

Now administrators are challenging themselves to be able to have an in-person graduation in May. With vaccines looming and prior accomplishments, they think it can happen.

“Let’s see what we can do about a live graduation. We owe it to ourselves, we owe it to our students. If it can’t be done, then it can’t be done, but we owe it to ourselves to try,” said Diaz, who is an EKU alum.

“There were many institutions that didn’t have the will to attempt the things we attempted this year. Many of those are Ivy League schools, many have more resources than we do,” added McFaddin.

The board said they looked forward to everything being “business as usual” by next August.