Professional News

Breathitt, Neal named to public service hall of fame; Blom named Martin School’s 2023 Outstanding Alum

Former KY Governor Edward Breathitt
Senator Gerald A. Neal

LEXINGTON, Ky. (March 20, 2023) The University of Kentucky’s Martin School of Public Policy and Administration will honor the late Gov. Edward T. (Ned) Breathitt Jr. and State Sen. Gerald Neal as the newest members of the Kentucky Public Service Hall of Fame in an April 14 program at UK’s David Rosenberg College Law.  Also being recognized is Prichard Committee President/CEO Brigitte Blom, who will receive the Martin School’s 2023 Outstanding Alumni Award.

Established in 2012 and overseen by the Martin School’s Board of Visitors, the non-partisan Hall of Fame award recognizes local and state leaders who have demonstrated extraordinary public service.

"Both Governor Breathitt and Senator Neal represent the highest ideals of public service and are most deserving of this recognition,” said Ron Zimmer, the Martin School director. “Kentucky is the better for their years of leadership and dedicated service as well as their collective accomplishments for the public good."

A Hopkinsville, Kentucky, native with undergraduate and law degrees from UK, Breathitt served as Kentucky’s governor from 1963-67. His term is remembered for the 1966 enactment of landmark civil rights legislation as well as increased support for education, a renewed focus on economic growth and industrial development, and expansion of the state highway and park systems. During his years as governor, he served as chair of the UK Board of Trustees, chairing the board again from 1992-99. He passed away in 2003 at the age of 78.

Neal, of Louisville, currently is the longest-serving member of the Kentucky State Senate. Elected in 1989, he is the first Black American to hold leadership positions in the Kentucky General Assembly. He served as Senate Democratic Caucus Chair from 2014-16 and earlier this year was elected as the Senate Democratic Floor Leader. He also is on the Executive Committee of the National Black Caucus of State Legislators (NBCSL). A graduate of Kentucky State University, he pursued graduate studies at the University of Michigan before earning his law degree from the Brandeis School of Law at the University of Louisville.

Blom, a 2007 Martin School graduate with a master’s degree in public policy, has been an education leader for over 20 years. Before being named to lead the Prichard Committee in 2015, she was director of public policy for United Way of Greater Cincinnati. She spent 10 years as an elected member of the Board of Education in rural Pendleton County and is the former vice chair of the Kentucky State Board of Education, where she served from 2008-14. She has an undergraduate degree in economics and international studies.

“Brigitte is widely respected for her efforts in both the public and private sector to affect policy decisions that result in an improved quality of life,” Zimmer said.  “Over the course of her career, she has worked on a variety of important public policy issues ranging from early childhood education and poverty to state taxes and budgets. We are very proud to claim her as a graduate of the Martin School.”

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.