2019 Honorary Alumni Award

Dr. Kenneth Wright

WrightWright, a longtime Blandinsville veterinarian, grew up in Macomb – literally next door to the Western Illinois University campus – and in 2007 he and Betty, his wife of 44 years, decided to donate his boyhood home to WIU and make it a permanent part of the WIU campus. The Wright House at 333 N. Ward St. has served as the WIU Veterans Resource Center since 2009.

In addition to donating his boyhood home to Western, the Wrights also established the Kenneth T. and Betty L. Wright Scholarship for qualifying students entering Western as freshmen who graduated from a Hancock, Henderson or McDonough county high school.

"We are so pleased to award the 2019 Honorary Alumni Award to Dr. Ken Wright," said Amy Spelman, director of Alumni Relations. "Now that he's an 'official' alumnus of WIU, his new school colors of purple and gold certainly fit the legacy he has left at Western Illinois University."

Wright is a graduate of Western High School, which was located in Simpkins Hall, just across the street from his home in 1956, and he attended Western for two years before transferring to the University of Illinois, where he earned his degree in veterinary medicine. While attending the University of Illinois, Wright still came back to Macomb each summer and took courses at Western, returning to Urbana in the fall. When he graduated with his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree in 1962, he came back to west-central Illinois to join the Blandinsville practice of Dr. C. M. Rodgers. When Rodgers retired in 1973, Wright purchased his current building on the east end of Blandinsville on Route 9 and has been in private practice since. Like her husband, Western holds a special place in Betty's heart: her mother and her mother's six siblings all graduated from Western Illinois State Teacher's College.

"We are honored by and grateful for Ken's and Betty's many contributions to WIU over the years," said Brad Bainter, executive officer of the WIU Foundation and Wright's nominator. "Because of Ken's father's service in the U.S. Navy, it's fitting that the Wright House is serving our student-veterans. It's truly a place they can call home thanks to the Wrights' generosity and their affinity for WIU."

This is the 23rd year for the WIU Honorary Alumni Award presentation. Previous recipients include LaVern McEntire (2018); C. Don Weston (posthumously, 2017); Jeff Mabrey (2016); Garry Johnson (2015); John Biernbaum (2014); Dan O'Neill (2013); Lisa Ward (2012); Al Goldfarb (2011); Gil Belles and Marion Blackinton (2010); Bob Anstine (2009); Jack Stites (2008); Bill Brattain (2007), Marilyn Johnson (2005); Donald Dexter (2004); Mark Martin (2003); Mel and Judy Kerr (2002); Charlene Callison (2001); Ed Holzwarth (2000); Donald S. Spencer (1999); Laura Kent Donahue (1998); Cathy Early (1997); Dick Miller (1995) and Dennis Iversen (1994).