It is with immeasurable sadness that we mourn the shared loss of a transformative figure in the life of the University of Kentucky. On February 18, 2014, Dr. Wimberly Royster, a professor emeritus of mathematics and former administrator at the University, passed away.
For those who knew him – and there were many – they know this Henderson County native believed that Kentucky could compete at any level; it just took vision and persistence to see it through.
That level of resolve was ever present in Dr. Royster’s work. During his tenure at UK, he was dean for both the Graduate School and the College of Arts & Sciences, as well the first vice president for Research and Graduate Studies and a special assistant to the president of the University.
Professor Royster helped propel UK to a new level of research activity. Under his tenure as director of research and graduate education, external support for research increased six-fold. As our ability to compete for and earn extramural funding improved, so did our graduate and professional programs.
Notably, as principal investigator he was instrumental in the Appalachian Rural Systemic Initiative at UK, supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF). Over ten years, the University received $18 million in federal resources for research and outreach in rural Kentucky. His work was instrumental in the development of the Appalachian Mathematics and Science Partnership – a $22 million NSF funded project and UK’s largest single grant.
He established UK’s Partnership Institute for Mathematics and Science Reform and began the Partnership Enhancement Program (PEP), which is a collaborative effort with school districts to improve Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education.
Having been both an academic and administrator – and serving on doctoral dissertation committees in several STEM fields, he believed deeply in the value of faculty working with students to shape their intellectual development.
After he retired from the University of Kentucky, he joined the Kentucky Science and Technology Corporation as the statewide director of the Kentucky Experimental Program to Stimulate Research (EPSCoR) initiative for several years.
In 2001, he was recognized by his alma mater with an honorary doctorate from the University of Kentucky and was later inducted into the College of Arts & Sciences Faculty Hall of Fame during its inaugural year in 2009. Throughout retirement, Professor Royster remained an active member of the University community and most recently served as an adviser to College of Arts & Sciences Dean Mark Kornbluh.
Universities in general – and UK in particular – are served by transformative individuals like Wimberly Royster. He forever altered the trajectory of the University, and through it, Kentucky. The entire Wildcat family – generations of his colleagues, students, friends, and those who never knew his name but felt his impact – is profoundly indebted to the service he rendered in pursuit of a higher purpose.
In memory of those who change lives,
Eli Capilouto Lee T. Todd, Jr.