Majority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks to U.S. Army leaders at the McConnell Center
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell

Throughout the last 25 years, the McConnell Center has grown by leaps and bounds. Founded in 1991, the non-partisan center identifies, recruits, and nurtures Kentucky’s next generation of great leaders.

“McConnell Center graduates are thriving in every field, directly benefiting Kentucky and the country, and are putting the University of Louisville on the map,” U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said. “What began in 1991 as a simple scholarship program for kids has grown into one of the most acclaimed programs in the nation and I couldn’t be prouder.”

As the center celebrates its silver anniversary, it has launched the yearlong “25 Faces” awareness campaign that highlights the faculty, friends and McConnell Scholar alumni responsible for its growth and success.

“It’s not our location but our people that make the McConnell Center so special,” center director Gary Gregg said. “The McConnell Scholars, our teachers, staff and faculty partners make the McConnell Center the most diverse, dynamic, and stimulating atmosphere I know of, where big ideas are debated and outstanding young people mentored.”

Throughout the last quarter century, the center has awarded more than $3.5 million in scholarships and produced more than 200 alumni – including 12 Fulbright and three Truman Scholars – in a variety of fields, including engineering, medicine and, of course, politics. 2014 graduate Meghan Waters is one of the youngest communications directors working in the U.S. Congress and says the experience of being a McConnell Scholar changed the course of her life and career.

From left to right:  Meghan Waters, Communications Director to Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-OH); Justin Tooley, Legislative Assistant for Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN); Shannon Rickett: Legislative Assistant to Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY); Daniel Cameron: Legal Counsel to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
From left to right:
Meghan Waters, Communications Director to Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-OH); Justin Tooley, Legislative Assistant for Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN); Shannon Rickett: Legislative Assistant to Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY); Daniel Cameron, Legal Counsel to Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

“My experience as a McConnell Scholar had a huge impact on me because of the people I met and the exposure to a broad range of ideas that challenged my convictions and made me look at issues from a different point of view,” Waters said. “The program is built to help the next generation of leaders meet new people, encounter new ideas and take their skill set to the next level.”

While the center may have McConnell as its namesake, it prides itself on being focused on civic and public service, not politics. Dr. Jonathan Ballard, MD, the ambulatory director of the state’s largest primary care practice, is a prime example.

After finishing with undergraduate and medical degrees from UofL, Ballard undertook his residency program at Dartmouth, where he specialized in preventative and family medicine. Simultaneously, he earned his master’s degree in public health in an effort to find ways to improve the health care system, especially in Kentucky.

Jonathan Ballard, M.D.
Jonathan Ballard, MD.

“Kentucky is ranked near the bottom – no matter how you look at it – in a lot of positive health outcomes in the U.S., whether it’s smoking or stroke or diabetes,” Ballard said. “The medical community in our state needs leadership and that’s what the McConnell Center helped instill in me. The lessons I learned there help me as I interact with a large group of diverse people across the state as we try and improve health of all Kentuckians.”

From May 31 through June 29, the center will host the U.S. Army’s third annual Strategic Broadening Seminar, designed to provide analytical and leadership skills to the next generation of army leaders. Programming for the 25th Anniversary returns in the fall, including the center’s signature Distinguished Speaker Series and the McConnell Scholar alumni homecoming reunion scheduled for Oct. 22.

More information about the McConnell Center is available in the video below. 

Matt Lambert
Matt has served in multiple communications and marketing roles since joining UofL in 2012 and is currently a communications specialist in charge of national media outreach for research and academics. He came to UofL following a successful tenure as the Associate Director of Public Affairs and External Relations at Loyola University New Orleans. In his 20-plus year career in communications, Matt has worked as an award-winning journalist, owned his own political consulting firm and served as a communications director in the U.S. Congress. He is not only employed by UofL, but also a recent graduate, earning his MBA from the College of Business in May 2016.