It was just a normal work day at Beshear Funeral Home for Jenny Sewell.
The phone rang, and the Governor of Kentucky, Steve Beshear, was on the other end.
“He called and asked if I would do it – be on the Board of Regents,” Sewell said. “I didn’t anticipate it at all. I just let him talk and I heard him out.”
On July 29, Beshear appointed Sewell of Dawson Springs, Ky., to the Murray State Board of Regents.
Sewell said that Beshear thought she was a good fit, having been from the Western Kentucky area with more than enough experience to take a seat on the Board. Sewell replaces Bill Adams, whose term on the Board expired this past summer.
Through his term of service, Adams eventually became Vice Chair of the Board of Regents and remained active in Board affairs, nominating many chairpersons to positions currently held.
“(Beshear) has continued interest in the growing college and wanted to select someone from the region who understood,” Sewell said.
Sewell finished with her undergraduate and master’s degrees in education from Murray State. She spent 23 years on the Dawson Springs School Board, taught music and was director of choir. Sewell also sold real estate and insurance for 15 years and is currently the owner and president of Beshear Funeral Home in Dawson Springs.
Sewell currently serves on the Pennyrile Area Development District and is the former chair of the Dawson Springs Main Street Board of Directors.
Sewell said she was honored by the selection.
“This is my alma mater,” Sewell said. “Of course I will do what I can to help out furthering education in our area.”
As the governor’s first cousin, however, critics could potentially point to nepotism on the selection of Sewell.
“It was brought up in conversation, yes, and you will always have those people,” Sewell said. “This is not a paid position at all. He felt that I was qualified, I’m from the region, and he knew how well I would perform due to past experience.”
Responsibilities include attending four meetings a year, sitting on multiple committees, discussing important University issues and ensuring fair enforcement of University policy when situations arise.
University President Randy Dunn said he thinks the selection of Sewell will have a positive impact on the Board.
“I see that as a wonderful opportunity to have someone who is so close to the governor’s ear being aware of what we do, the excellence we’ve achieved, the needs that we have for the future and given that I think her relationship with the governor is a valuable asset,” he said.
Dunn added that he thinks other Board members will find Sewell to be beneficial and effective.
Sewell plans to be an active member of the Board. She is interested in the constant growth of Murray State, strengthening education in the area and understanding the importance of workforce development, especially a workforce trying to feed families in hard times.
“We must keep our fingers on the pulse of the populous to be educated,” Sewell said.
The Board of Regents will have its first retreat on Aug. 25 at Land Between the Lakes, and proceedings for the new school year will begin on the following day in Hopkinsville, Ky.
“I’m honored to be involved and I’m ready to get my feet wet,” she said. “I’m learning as I go.”