(From the printed introduction of keynote speaker
Lillian Press, a Kentucky hero and advocate / practitioner of divergent thinking, serves as a wonderful
example of how educated people today can have many different careers in one
lifetime. She has been an inspirational leader in a variety of careers
throughout her life.
Following her education at
Boston University, Lil and her husband Leonard found their way to Kentucky
where Len became the founder of Kentucky Educational Television and Lil
continued her series of careers…..........…...
(From the Daily Independent (Ashland, KY) March 16, 2010 by RONNIE ELLIS)
"Their lives strengthened Kentucky and its people. They did, when it wasn’t easy for women to take leadership roles.
All born before 1925, Dr. Grace Marilynn James, Verna Mae Slone and Lillian
Henken Press changed their state and made others’ lives better.
Portraits of all three were
unveiled by the Kentucky Commission on Women and Gov. Steve Beshear in a “Kentucky
Women Remembered” ceremony at the state Capitol rotunda Tuesday before a crowd
of more than 150. Those portraits will hang in the west wing of the Capitol.
The women were recognized
for their impact on Kentucky and the lives of its people. And at least one of
the honorees — Press who was instrumental in establishing Kentucky’s mental
health system and the Governor’s Scholars Program — intends to keep doing it………….…………
Dr.Daniel Mongiardo, Lieutenant Governor, said all three "blazed a trail
for women in Kentucky's history." (Dr.James and Ms. Slone were honored
The above excerpts cover a period from 1952 when Lillian
Press came to Kentucky and 2009 when she was honored at the ceremony Ronnie
Ellis reports above.
Lillian Henken Press was born and educated in Boston. She received a bachelor's degree magna cum laude from Boston University in 1946 and a master's degree from the then- new Boston U. College of
Communications. She and her husband, O. Leonard Press, entered graduate school
together in 1947 two weeks after their marriage and were one of the first
couples to receive graduate degrees together at Boston University.
Prior to their move to Kentucky in 1952, Lillian worked as a
newspaper reporter and as a public relations executive. Shortly after her move
to Lexington, she joined the staff of the newly-arrived WVLK .She remained
there until 1960, rising from commercials copywriter to program director
Several years after the birth of their only child, Lowell,
in 1961 "Lil" became a volunteer for the newly formed Central
Kentucky Mental Health Association, a decision that would change the direction
of her life. In 1964 Lil, at the behest of the association, directed a survey
of mental health resources and needs in nine Central Kentucky counties, as part
of a nationwide initiative by President Kennedy. The recommendations offered
and publicized in the final report of that survey were significant factors in
the later development of Kentucky's' statewide mental health system of
community mental health centers.
To implement the recommendations, Lil then organized and
developed Kentucky's first Regional Mental Health Board which in turn, under
her direction launched Kentucky's first two Comprehensive Care Centers with
help from the Kentucky Department of Mental Health, led by Commissioner Dr.
Dale Farabee, This became the prototype for a state system of community mental
health centers that Dr. Farabee spread across the Commonwealth and was
proclaimed in a news release "the best in the nation" by the National
Institute of Mental Health. (The Bluegrass Regional Mental Health-Mental
Retardation Board, now covering 17 counties, grew from that first Board).
In 1967 Lillian Press was appointed Executive Assistant to
Commissioner Farabee and served in that post until 1975.
In late 1982 when she was in Washington as Special Assistant
to Appalachian Regional Commission's Federal CoChairman Al Smith, she was recruited
by Governor John Y. Brown to organize and direct Kentucky's Governor's Scholars
Program that he was about to launch the next July. Lillian Press served as executive
director for its first 10 years.
In only its second summer, this innovative, challenging
liberal arts program for Kentucky's brightest rising high school seniors, was
heralded as an "Educational Utopia" by Fred Hechinger, education
editor of the New York Times, in a five-column article he wrote after a visit
to the Program. It became a model for other such schools, and today approximately
22,000 students have been motivated and inspired by this life-changing program,
many already serving in leadership positions in the Commonwealth.
Recognizing that it would help herself and others, Lil organized
28 other state Governor's Schools into the National Conference of Governor's Schools
(NCoGS) in 1987 and served as its chair/president until her retirement in 1992.
NCoGS has since established a Distinguished Achievement Award in her name and
that of Jim Bray, who served for 30 years as director of the nation's first Governor's
School in North Carolina.
During her retirement, Lillian Press turned her attention to
increasing the participation of citizens, particularly women, in the political
process, In late 2002 she organized The Women's Network, Advocates For
Democratic Principles with an emphasis on those Principles and a future
based on FDR's Four Freedoms. That Network now includes branches and chapters
throughout Kentucky with close to 1000 members. The Women's Network has recently
established a new Commonwealth Institute For Policy Issues and Civic Engagement
and has become a force in local and state politics.
The Women's Network has been cited by state political leaders
as the most important political development in recent history. Governor
Beshear has stated publicly that "I would not have been elected governor, nor
Jane, First Lady, were it not for The Women's Network." Lillian Press has
continued as president of The Women's Network since its inception.
She received an honorary degree from Centre College in 1992 and has been a member of the Centre College Board of Trustees for 17 years.
The late Lucille Little, a Lexington philanthropist, endowed the O. Leonard and
Lillian Press Distinguished Lecture Series at Centre College in tribute to their
service to the state.
In 2006 Lil received the Martha Layne Collins Leadership Award
from Women Leading Kentucky, and in 2008, another surprise, when The Women's
Network elected her the first recipient of the Lillian Press Distinguished
Leadership award. She also received
A Distinguished Achievement Award from the Kentucky
Department of Mental Health in the 1970s.
Other community service:
President for thee years, Kentucky Oral History Commission
Board of Trustees, St. Catharine College
Secretary, Headley-Whitney Museum Board
President, Central Kentucky Mental Health Association
Board member, Community Fund (later called United Way of the Bluegrass)
Board member, Hospice of the Bluegrass
Organizer and member,1st Bluegrass Regional
Mental Health-Mental Retardation Board
Advisory Board, Women Leading Kentucky
Advisory Board, Emerge Kentucky
Transition Team for Governor Steve Beshear