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Turns 50

A letter from Shae

Shae Hopkins

On August 16, 1971, a small group of volunteers formally established the Friends of KET. Early contributions included acting as tour guides and efforts to help make the first, modest program guide self-supporting.

Over the next 50 years, the group would grow to include members representing 35 districts across the Commonwealth, supporting activities that made them an essential part of KET’s operations and services.  

Today, in addition to participating in KET events and fundraising efforts, the Friends serve as passionate advocates and knowledgeable ambassadors. They help promote KET programs and services while also providing indispensable feedback, as well as a direct connection to the many communities we serve.

As one of the most active and effective Friends groups in public media, The Friends of KET have received national recognition for their efforts and impact. 

How fortunate KET is to have such a wonderful network of generous and talented individuals – past and present – that have helped KET in so many ways over the last five decades. We salute and thank our outstanding ambassadors, The Friends of KET, for their endless and passionate efforts, and most of all … their friendship. 

Congratulations and thank you for 50 amazing years! 

Shae Hopkins, Executive Director and CEO

In the beginning

In his memoir The KET Story: A Personal Account, KET’s founder O. Leonard Press noted that KET was not the brainchild of any one person, but rather the collective product of ordinary citizens, advocates and volunteers who led a statewide campaign to promote the idea of creating an educational network for Kentucky. 

“The first sentence in the account I wrote of the history of KET recognizes that KET had literally thousands of founders,” Press wrote. “These citizens came from all levels of influence, from the schoolhouse to the statehouse, without whose persuasive and persistent voices KET would still be an egg trying to hatch.”  

The Friends of KET is the organization, founded 50 years ago this month, that still today continues in that spirit. The organization, comprising regular citizens from every region of Kentucky, has been an invaluable contributor to the network’s fund drives, programming, and educational efforts in the Commonwealth.

Friends of KET presidents

1974 Margaret Griffen
1974-1976 Priscilla McElvein
1976-1977 Maryann Davis
1977-1979 Mrs. James Adams
1979-1981 Anne T. Hall
1981-1982 Jewell Cline
1982-1983 Hugh Wittich
1983-1984 Margie Pope
1984-1985 Jane Winkler Dyche
1985-1986 Patti Acquisto
1986-1987 Paul Sartori
1987-1989 Russ Powell
1989-1990 Ruth Wesley
1990-1992 Dan Griffith
1992-1993 Carrie Cinnamond

1993-1994 Tommy Hines, Jr.
1994-1995 Kathy Guyn
1995-1996 Romanza Johnson
1996-1997 Betty Pogue
1997-1998 Barbara Burdette
1998-1999 Jewell Deene Ellis
1999-2000 Bobby Humes
2000-2001 Neal Tucker
2001-2002 Elsa Spurlock
2002-2003 Matt Gandolfo
2003-2004 Gee Gaither
2004-2005 Marie Piekarski
2005-2006 Don Parrish 
2006-2007 Will Cox, Jr. 
2007-2008 Maggie McElvein

2008-2009 Carol Beirne 
2009-2010 Cheryl Lawson 
2010-2011 Cheryl Lawson 
2011-2012 Jim Carter 
2012-2013 Barbra Ledford 
2013-2014 Mary Butler 
2014-2015 Maude Teegarden 
2015-2016 Nancy Thames 
2016-2017 Sean Mestan 
2017-2018 Donna Wear 
2018-2019 Martha Deener 
2019-2020 Sean Mestan 
2020-2021 Lora Suttles 
2021-2022 Rebecca Rose