Union College to honor major donors and distinguished alumni

Published on
April 01, 2014

Union College is proud to host some of its most distinguished alumni for two events in April. On Tuesday, April 22, renowned racehorse owners and three-time Eclipse Award winners Ken Ramsey and Sarah Kathern Ramsey will be honored during the public dedication of the newly renovated Center for Health and Natural Sciences, which is being named for them.

Also honored during this donor recognition event will be Phillip Sharp, Ph.D., winner of the 1993 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, and his wife, Ann Sharp, for their generous support of the project. The building’s Natural Sciences Wing has been named for the Sharps. In addition, on Monday, April 21, this world leader in molecular biology and biochemistry research will discuss his current projects and new happenings in research that could impact Kentucky during an exclusive dinner event. 

The dedication of the former Knox County Hospital will take place at 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday April 22 at the Center for Health and Natural Sciences, located just off Union’s campus. Bishop Lindsey Davis will formally bless the building during the ceremony. Union’s board chairman, the Hon. Paul F. Isaacs, and Union President Marcia Hawkins will each say a few words. The event is free and open to the public.

The repurposing of old Knox County Hospital is a result of a local, state, regional and national partnership. Advocates on the project have included the Knox County Fiscal Court, Knox County Judge-Executive J. M. Hall and the city of Barbourville. Through the generous support of private donors and government grants, including $1.5 million from the U.S. Department of Commerce, the old hospital building has been transformed into a new, ultramodern facility designed for the most advanced health and science instruction. Ken Ramsey took a lead role in the purchase of the hospital building, which was especially meaningful to him — he was born there, and his father passed away there — and his generous gifts toward the project were vital to the renovation project. 

“Ken Ramsey was instrumental in acquiring the Knox County Hospital property to house Union’s health and natural science programs,” said Hawkins. “He and Sarah Ramsey have been loyal supporters of Union College for many years, and we are pleased to recognize their continued support by naming the renovated hospital building for them.”  

The Ramseys both attended Union College — Ken Ramsey in 1953, and Sarah Ramsey until her graduation in 1962. They are natives of Artemus, Ky., which is located just a few miles from Barbourville, and owners of Ramsey Farm outside of Nicholasville, Ky., where they have been immersing themselves in the sport of horse racing since 1994. The Ramseys are among the world’s leading racehorse owners and breeders, shattering the record for purse earnings in a single season, with more than $12.1 million in 2013. They have earned the highest recognition for owners and breeders in the sport, including the coveted Eclipse Award in 2004, 2011 and 2013. Their champion horses have included Kitten’s Joy, Roses in May, Major Marvel and Admiral Kitten.

In addition to honoring the Ramseys and the Sharps, Edna Jenkins Mann, a Barbourville native for whom the nursing school has been named, will be acknowledged during the event. The renovated facility is home to Union’s fully accredited nursing and athletic training programs, natural science classes and psychology department. Classes have been meeting in the building since the start of the fall semester. A ribbon cutting was held in October.

“We are so thankful to our many generous donors for understanding the vital need to invest in our health and science education programs,” said Hawkins. “With their help, we have able to modernize and expand our offerings to ensure that a health- or science-related degree from Union positions our students for the highest level of success in their fields.”

April 21, “An Evening with Phillip Sharp, Ph.D."

The Monday evening before the formal building dedication and naming ceremony, Nobel Laureate Sharp (’66) will appear during a special presentation at 7 p.m. at Union’s Sharp Academic Center Atrium. In addition to sharing insights about his own research and others in his field, Sharp will offer general observations about the impact of molecular biology and biochemistry research on his home state of Kentucky, and why he believes Union is a vital part of science education in the state. He also will offer advice to future Union graduates.

Cost to attend the Sharp dinner event at the $500 Gold Level includes a table of six, sponsorship of two students to attend the event, and a private social hour with Sharp and his wife from 6 to 7 p.m. The Silver Level package includes a table of six for dinner and sponsorship of two students at a cost of $250. Individual tickets are $50 each. A portion of each ticket price is tax deductible. RSVPs must be received by April 16. For more information or to purchase tickets, contact Meghann Chesnut at (606) 546-1226 or lgaunt@unionky.edu

More about Ken and Sarah Ramsey:

Ken and Sarah Ramsey are natives of Artemus, in Eastern Kentucky. After graduating from the University of Kentucky on the G.I. Bill, Ken Ramsey worked in trucking and real estate. He later owned cellular telephone network franchises. He sold that business in 1994 for an estimated $39 million, which allowed him to get back to an earlier hobby he first tasted in 1969 — horse racing. That same year, the Ramseys bought Almahurst Farm, outside of Nicholasville, Ky., birthplace of 1918 Kentucky Derby winner Exterminator and Standardbred legend Greyhound, and renamed it Ramsey Farm. Since their immersion in racing, the Ramseys have experienced incredible success. They received the 2004, 2011 and 2013 Eclipse Awards for outstanding owners. Winning an unprecedented nine race meets during 2013, the Ramseys shattered the record for purse earnings in a season, their total of $12,231,045 outdoing the $11.1 million earned by Stronach Stables in 2000. They have received numerous other racing awards, including a record 12 leading owner titles at Churchill Downs. Ramsey Farm now covers more than 1,200 acres and is home to 161 broodmares and the stallion Catienus, and homebred champion turf male Kitten’s Joy, who entered stud duty in 2006. For more on the farm and the Ramseys’ history in horse racing, visit www.ramseyfarm.com.

More about Phillip Sharp. Ph.D.:

Phillip A. Sharp is Institute Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the current president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Much of his research has been conducted at MIT’s Koch Institute, which he joined in 1974 and directed from 1985 to 1991. He led the university’s Department of Biology from 1991 to 1999 before assuming the directorship of the McGovern Institute from 2000-2004. His research interests have centered on the molecular biology of gene expression relevant to cancer and the mechanisms of RNA splicing, which he discovered in 1977. This discovery, which fundamentally changed scientists’ understanding of the structure of genes, earned him the 1993 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Sharp has authored more than 385 scientific papers, received numerous awards and honorary degrees, and has served on many advisory boards for the government, academic institutions, sci­entific societies, and companies. A native of Kentucky, Sharp earned a B.A. degree from Union College, KY in 1966, and a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana in 1969, with postdoctoral training at the California Institute of Technology. Prior to joining MIT, he was Senior Scientist at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. In 1978, Dr. Sharp co-founded Biogen (now Biogen Idec), and in 2002, he co-founded Alnylam Phar­maceuticals, an early-stage therapeutics company. Ann Holcombe Sharp is also a Union alum; the couple met as students on the Barbourville campus.