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As chair of the Eastern Kentucky University Board of Regents the past four years, Craig Turner knows firsthand that the need for private support of the institution has never been greater.

It is why he and wife Madonna, both EKU alums, are also among the University’s most generous financial supporters. The University recently announced a $1 million leadership gift commitment from the Turners for a variety of academic, athletic and facility initiatives. The bulk of the commitment will be fulfilled over the next three to five years, with the remainder a bequest through their estate.

“Madonna and I have a special place in our hearts for Eastern Kentucky University,” Mr. Turner said. “Our intent is to honor our parents, siblings and numerous family members who are also EKU alumni. We are grateful to have been EKU scholarship recipients and are pleased and proud to honor our time and experiences at EKU by giving back.”

Mr. Turner, the founder and CEO of CRM Companies, a Lexington-based commercial development company, joined his alma mater’s Board of Regents in 2006. The Fraser, Michigan, native, who came to Eastern on a basketball scholarship, headed the search committee that tapped Michael Benson in 2013 to become the University’s 13th president. Soon the institution embarked on the most ambitious campus revitalization initiative in its history, one designed to transform the living and learning experience of all its students. Many of the completed and ongoing projects are public-private partnerships requiring no tax or tuition dollars.

“Eastern Kentucky University has been blessed throughout its history with hundreds of outstanding Regents – men and women who combined a bold vision and leadership acumen to help move the University forward, even during difficult times,” EKU President Michael Benson said. “That certainly describes Craig Turner, whose foresight and tireless efforts as chair of our Board will resonate here for generations to come. Fortunately for Eastern, the story doesn’t stop even there. Craig and Madonna are also among our most generous financial supporters. The University community is most grateful for this significant gift commitment, which further testifies to the Turners’ boundless love for this institution and to their desire to see it continue to grow and prosper.” 

Mrs. Turner, a Pike County native who came to EKU on an academic scholarship, is a retired medical technologist who served as technical director of Smithkline Beecham Clinical Laboratories.

Both are active in community service. Mrs. Turner serves as chair of the Blue Grass Community Foundation, and Mr. Turner is chairman of the Lexington Center Corporation Board (Rupp Arena and the Convention Center). Both have served on various non-profit boards.

Introduced to each other during their first month at Eastern, they dated throughout college and were married in 1975, shortly after both graduated.

In recent years the Turners have established the President’s Research and Scholarship Fund, and supported the construction of a pedestrian gateway that now bears their name, as well as the EKU Campus Challenge and the men’s and women’s golf programs. Mr. Turner sponsors the EKU Intercollegiate Golf Tournament, which has become popular among college golf teams across the southeast.

Mr. Turner, a political science graduate who left behind a promising career in public service to enter the private sector, was inducted last year into the University’s Hall of Distinguished Alumni.

“We are enormously grateful to Craig and Madonna for their generosity,” said Nick Perlick, vice president for development and alumni relations at EKU. “I have had the pleasure to work closely with them for several years. I don’t think it is coincidental that in his role as board chair, Craig knows better than anyone the financial realities we face and the need for increased external support. He and Madonna then lead by example with a transformational gift such as this that sets a pace for philanthropy across our University.”

Private giving to EKU over the past three fiscal years has totaled approximately $22 million, a record three-year total for the University. Eastern finished Fiscal Year 2017 with $9.2 million in gifts and commitments, its second consecutive all-time high.

For more information about giving to EKU, visit