U. of Kentucky GC Committed to Fulfilling the 'Kentucky Promise'
Providing a top-notch education with affordable tuition is one of the biggest challenges facing public institutions of higher learning. For William Thro, who became general counsel of the University of Kentucky in October, the schools commitment to doing just that was the jobs primary selling point.
Nearly 150 years ago, the university made a pact with Kentucky residents to do its part to create a brighter future for the state. University president Eli Capilouto refers to that commitment as the Kentucky Promise, and he has vowed to reaffirm it in a 21st century context.
Thro backs that commitment, saying, We have an enormous responsibility to the people of the commonwealth to fulfill the promises that were made to help with economic development, and also to provide a world-class education at an affordable price to the sons and daughters of Kentucky.
Thro himself is a Kentucky son. He left home to attend college in Indiana, however, earning his bachelors degree from Hanover College in 1986, and then relocated again to get his law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1990. Thro also moved overseas briefly, taking a one-year leave of absence during law school to earn a masters degree in political science from the University of Melbourne.
Following subsequent stops in Colorado and Virginia, the well-traveled GC returned to a Kentucky that continues to struggle with massive poverty across the state. Thro says, You cannot raise tuition revenues because you want to ensure that the typical student in the state has affordable access. But managing the budgetary realities of state and federal funding shortages presents an enormous challenge for administrators. And I need to provide the legal advice for that, notes Thro.
Thro has made a career of tackling legal issues related to education. When he was hired by the Colorado attorney generals office in 1991, he was given a choice between joining its criminal appellate section or the education unit. The young lawyer hesitated to pass up an opportunity to argue regularly before the state supreme court, but opted for the education position.
He stayed in the department for six years, serving as litigation counsel for all of the states public colleges and universities and advising the Colorado Department of Education. The work was fascinating, says Thro. It exposed me to the world of higher education, allowed me to interact with deans and presidents and provosts, and gave me a feel for the actual issues that confronted higher education.
Thro spent two years in a similar position with the AGs office in Virginia and also subsequently served as that state's solicitor general. He joined the University of Kentucky from Christopher Newport University, where he was the small Virginia liberal arts schools first in-house counsel.
For his latest job, Thro replaced Barbara Jones, who retired from the University of Kentucky in June.
I wont say that when I started as an assistant attorney general I said, Oh, Im going to be working for the government for my entire life, says Thro. But I went into public service to make a difference, and I like to think that I have.