Leon Owens, president of Swift and Staley contracting company in Paducah, was appointed Thursday by Gov. Matt Bevin to the Murray State University Board of Regents to fill the vacancy of outgoing regent Susan Guess.
Guess, senior vice president of marketing for Paducah Bank, resigned her position with the Board of Regents after serving on the board since 2010. She was the board chair during the 2018-19 school year and served as the vice chair for two years before that.
"It was a wonderful experience," she said. "It was an honor to have the opportunity to serve the university that gave me so much. I was one of nine children and the only one to graduate from college. I was able to attend Murray State because my father was a disabled World War II veteran, so they paid my tuition.
"I believe in the power that education gives you. To have come full circle and not only serve on the board but as chair of that board, it shows all students that you can do whatever you want to do. You can dream and be whatever you want to be. Circumstances don't determine success."
Guess said the greatest pleasure she got as a board member was helping students like herself. She graduated from Farmington High School in Graves County before it consolidated into Graves County High School, and said she wanted other students from rural backgrounds or from families who had no college graduates gain a diploma.
Guess graduated from MSU in 1987 with a degree in public relations.
Owens serves on the Greater Paducah Economic Development working board and is a past chair of the Paducah Area Chamber of Commerce Board. He worked for 15 years as a production officer at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant.
"I'm just honored and privileged," he said. "Murray State is near and dear to our hearts not only personally but also from a work standpoint as well. We're just honored to give back, and I'm elated and looking forward to the challenge."
Owens earned a degree in political science from Eastern Illinois University in 1986 and a master of business administration degree from Murray State in 2014 through its Paducah campus.
"I was thankful to be able to be in the first cohort of the MBA class (at the Paducah campus)," he said, adding that it shows people they can get a master's degree while working 40 or more hours a week and being a nontraditional student.