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Among the many faculty and staff who make up the College of Education at Eastern Kentucky University, couple Billy and Nancy Thames dedicated their lives to the teaching profession, with a combined tenure of 65 years working in the College of Education. To honor their years of service to the university, the many students they helped, and their lifelong dedication to EKU, their three children – Knox, Wil and Liz – decided to donate a permanent marker in the form of a campus bench and surprise their parents during a campus visit. 

Billy retired in 2011 after 36 years as a full-time professor and two years part time, and Nancy retired in 2012 after 20 years full-time and seven years part time.

“I am very proud of their lifelong dedication to education and service to others,” said Knox. “Their commitment to helping students as educators, such as Dad helping school systems increase their effectiveness and Mom’s work via AmeriCorps to encourage probable high school dropouts in Appalachia stay in school, has been an inspiration to myself and my siblings.”

This spirit of generosity is evident in Billy and Nancy’s children. Knox served as a diplomat with the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., focusing on human rights and religious freedom; Liz works with the elderly in Knoxville; and Wil followed in his parents’ footsteps, working at EKU in admissions for several years to recruit future students and now recruits for the University of Tennessee. 

“My parents have lived a life dedicated to helping others,” said Knox. “They committed their energies and passions in service to the university and to students of Eastern Kentucky. It was literally their life's work.”

Billy and Nancy’s commitment to teaching and helping others has made a major impact on their family, but they also made an impact on each of the students and teachers they supported. The legacy they left at EKU will always live on, but there is now a tangible marker recognizing their lifelong dedication to education. The Billy and Nancy Thames bench is located near the Combs building, where the College of Education resides on campus, and where the Thames’ spent their careers. The plaque reads, "In Celebration of Nancy and Billy Thames: 65 Years of Collective Service to EKU and the Students of Eastern Kentucky; And 50 Years of Marriage."

“Thank you, Billy and Nancy Thames, for giving so much of your time and talents to the university,” said College of Education Dean, Dr. Sherry Powers. “EKU is so thankful to have you as members of the Colonel family and to have this new bench in your honor as a permanent fixture on the Campus Beautiful.”