Bill Gatton, namesake of WKU’s Gatton Academy, dies at 89

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – Carol Martin “Bill” Gatton, the businessman and philanthropist the Gatton program is named after, died on April 18, 2022, at 89 years old.

Gatton’s generosity made The Gatton Academy’s founding and subsequent expansion possible, according to Western Kentucky University. His initial gift in 2007 established an endowment that continues to fund students’ opportunities to take part in intensive research experiences every summer, as well as funding a needs-based study abroad scholarship.

His second gift, and the gifts he inspired from others, funded the renovation of Florence Schneider Hall to serve up to 200 students, an increase of 80 beds. The Edith Martin Gatton and Harry W. Gatton Sr. wings were dedicated in 2015 in honor of Gatton’s parents.

Since opening in 2007, The Gatton Academy has served 1,251 students from 117 of Kentucky’s 120 counties, giving students the opportunity to pursue their STEM-related interests through classes at Western Kentucky University while living in a supportive residential environment designed specifically for them, stated WKU. While state funding provides students scholarships for tuition, housing and meals, individual donors such as Gatton ensure students can have access to high quality enrichment experiences during their two years in the program.

WKU stated Gatton recognized the importance of investing in Kentucky’s future by providing paths for equitable education.

“Mr. Gatton’s gift has left a living legacy through opportunities he made possible for our students. Not only has he directly impacted the lives of Gatton Academy students, but his investment in Gatton inspired the establishment of other specialized STEM programs in schools across the Commonwealth,” said Dr. Lynette Breedlove, Director of The Gatton Academy. “Mr. Gatton’s life and philanthropy serves as a positive model for our students, illustrating the ripple effects of investing in young people.”

Each time Mr. Gatton visited The Gatton Academy, he read a poem called “The Bridge Builder” by Will Allen Dromgoole, which highlighted his altruistic mindset and dedication to Gatton’s students. The poem is on permanent display in Florence Schneider Hall along with photos of Mr. Gatton, his parents and both building dedication ceremonies.

Dr. Julia Roberts, Executive Director of The Gatton Academy, said, “Mr. C. M. (Bill) Gatton’s dedication and generosity have continued throughout his lifetime. He has been the one who created the bridge for those who came before him. He will be missed by many, including staff and students at the Gatton Academy.”