Alumni Spotlight

Frank Welch

By: Whitney E. Copley
October 03, 2012

The University of Pikeville holds a special place in the heart of alumnus Frank Welch. Attending then Pikeville College, he received more than he could have ever fathomed: an education, which provided him the foundation to become the quintessential Kentucky educator, a relationship with Jesus Christ, and a loving wife.

Welch obtained a bachelor’s degree in English from Pikeville College in 1957. “I could have gone this world over and not have found better teachers than I had at Pikeville,” said Welch. “Very few people who go to school at the University of Pikeville would find a place that would be any better. Success, joy, friendship, and camaraderie are second to none – no question about it.”

Small class sizes allowed Welch to develop meaningful relationships with his professors and administrators. Serving as editor of The Record, the school newspaper at that time, Welch became close with the college president, Dr. A.A. Page. Welch recalled, “I’d always check with him to see if there was anything he’d like for me to look at. Occasionally he’d suggest something, but most of the time he’d say ‘You’re doing fine; keep it up!’”

Lucy Hole, English professor and newspaper advisor, had a reputation for being a strict educator. Welch explained that she never provided hints to students during lecture when she asked a question. Therefore, his classmates were astonished when Ms. Hole coached Welch along to answer a question to which he did not know the answer. Unbeknownst to the class, Welch had developed a friendship with Ms. Hole as a result of spending many afternoons discussing upcoming issues of the school newspaper in her campus apartment. His response to the class that day was, “Well guys, I just looked like a soul in need!”

Welch also developed a close relationship with the dean of the school, Philip Bembower. In fact, Welch was so fond of Bembower that he asked him to preside over his wedding ceremony. Bembower united Welch with his Pikeville classmate, Geraldine, in holy matrimony.

His most cherished memory of Pikeville surrounds Bible professor, Alma Culton. Welch reminisced, “I was sitting out on the campus during spiritual emphasis week. Miss Culton came by and asked if I was going to services that night. I said, ‘I don’t plan on it. I’m a pretty good guy. I don’t cheat, steal, smoke, or drink. I’m a pretty good guy.’” Her response was, “Frank Welch, let me tell you something. You can be a perfect person on this earth, but if you don’t accept the Lord as your savior you are lost.” She asked if she could have prayer right there with him and they did. Welch said, “I went to service that night and went forward and accepted the Lord. That’s the main thing I’ll always remember; she made a difference in my life.”

“I think you can see a trend in the teachers I had. They cared about each individual student and were interested in seeing them receive a quality education,” Welch reflected.

Upon graduation in 1957, Welch began teaching at Belfry High School. Throughout his career he worked as a teacher, assistant principal, principal, and superintendent. He also served as assistant dean of education at Morehead State University. The majority of his time as an educator was spent as superintendent of the Pike County School System in Kentucky. A lifelong learner, Welch obtained a master’s degree from Morehead State University, Rank I from Eastern Kentucky University, and performed post graduate work at Syracuse University, all while working tirelessly for the students of the Pike County School System. “The foundation that I received at Pikeville College provided me with the opportunity to be successful in my work and furthering my educational career,” said Welch.

Throughout his career, Welch received numerous recognitions for leadership excellence in education. He received Kentucky State Secondary Principal of the Year in 1988. In 2004, he was named Kentucky State Superintendent of the Year and received the honor of placing in the top 10 in National Superintendent of the Year. Most recently he received the coveted Kentucky Association of School Administrators (KASA) Distinguished Service Award, which is presented to a retired school administrator who has exhibited exemplary education leadership ability and has brought honor to the profession.

A member of a number of educational organizations, Welch also serves on the Pikeville Rotary Club, the University of Pikeville and Morehead State University Alumni Associations, and the Sidney Missionary Baptist Church. Welch was inducted into the Morehead State University Hall of Fame in 1999. In fall 2011, the University of Pikeville Alumni Association presented him with the Gary Thrash Outstanding Ambassador Award recognizing those whose service to the University and the Alumni Association exemplifies commitment and dedication to the institution.

Now retired, Welch remains active in the field of education, providing consulting services to schools in Kentucky and instructing master’s degree and Rank I education courses at Morehead State University, which he has done for 25 years.

He and his college sweetheart, Geraldine, reside in Pike County, Ky. They have two daughters, Melody Coyle and Claudine Barrow, and three grandsons, Clay Coyle, Tanner Barrow, and Brady Barrow.

“I tell people today that the University of Pikeville is a great place to get an education, and I mean that from the bottom of my heart,” Welch said. “It’s an honor to have gone to the other schools I’ve attended, but I think I owe all that to the foundation I received at Pikeville.”

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