September 07, 2011 12:00 AM
He was governor of the Commonwealth when the East Kentucky Expo Center was formed.
It was his idea to build it in his adopted hometown in an effort to raise the quality of life here. And now, in the midst of what he calls the “most rewarding” part of his amazing career, he was surprised to have his name permanently attached to the facility.
Basketball games held at the Expo Center – including those of the University of Pikeville, of which he is now the president – will be played on Paul E. Patton Court.
The naming was announced and the signage unveiled at a press conference held at the Expo Center on Tuesday morning.
“I'm very surprised and honored by this,” he said.
Patton thought he was on hand for a press conference to announce a major promotion for basketball season. That was held as well. Appalachian Wireless, Bruce Walters Ford and East Kentucky Broadcasting will give away an automobile for the third consecutive year at a Bears game.
This year's automobile will be a UPIKE Ford F150, personalized and signed by Coach Kelly Wells.
It was at the end of this announcement that Pikeville City Commissioner Barry Chaney took the podium to make the announcement.
“Gov. Patton recognized for years that Pike County needed a more diverse economy,” Chaney said. “He also saw that we needed an improved quality of life, and as a result he brought the Expo Center to Pikeville.”
Because of the efforts of those like Patton, Chaney said, “people are excited to come to the city of Pikeville.”
Chaney added, “I certainly think it is very fitting, and can think of no one else that this floor should be named after than Paul Patton, president of the University of Pikeville.”
Patton was humbled by the announcement. “I've lived a blessed life here,” he said. “Nothing has been a bigger blessing for me than working to bring education to the people of Central Appalachia.
“I'm really surprised by this, and honored at the same time. I'm very proud of what is happening here in our community and I'm proud to be a part of it.”
Gov. Patton became the 18th president of Pikeville College in August 2009.
Patton was the first Kentucky governor in nearly 200 years to serve two successive terms (1995-2003). A national leader, particularly in education policy, Patton was known as the “higher education governor.” He proposed and championed the successful passage of Kentucky's Higher Education Reform Act in 1997, an effort which has been recognized as a model of progressive higher education policy. He also made substantial improvements in Kentucky's pre-school and adult education programs, as well as successfully maintaining the momentum and funding for the Kentucky Education Reform Act. In February 2009, Patton was named chairman of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education.
Patton has called being president “the crown jewel” in his lifetime, and his faith in the school is as strong today as it has ever been.
“The University of Pikeville is going to make a difference in Eastern Kentucky,” he said.
From left, Keith Casebolt, Danny Vanhoose, Wells, Chaney, Patton and Bruce Walters II.