Asbury Dedicates Pitts Center for Public Policy – Asbury University
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Asbury Dedicates Pitts Center for Public Policy

March 28, 2018


March 28, 2018

WILMORE, Ky. — Asbury University alumnus and former U.S. Representative Joseph R. Pitts ’61 is a true testament of Asbury’s slogan: “Start Here. Impact the World.” On Wednesday, Pitts returned to the campus that served as a launching pad for his career for the dedication of The Joe Pitts Center for Public Policy.

The Pitts Center expands Asbury’s civic engagement, equipping students to lead at local and national levels and serves as a repository for his congressional papers. In commemoration of Pitts’ service in Washington, D.C., the Center is modeled as a replica of his office and features many of his memorabilia, awards, signed letters and drawings.

“The Joe Pitts Center for Public Policy brings a unique set of opportunities to campus that further equips students for civic awareness and engagement in pressing issues of the day,” said Asbury University President Sandra C. Gray. “We want to bring moral, ethical and informed minds to every part of society, in a way that seeks solutions for the betterment of all.”

Gray spoke to the entire on-campus student body at Chapel Wednesday and then to special guests at a dedication ceremony on the vision for the Pitts Center and his life of service. Following his graduation from Asbury, Pitts worked as a school teacher and in the Air Force before entering into the world of politics. Throughout his political career, he worked tirelessly to combat human trafficking and to support religious freedom around the world.

replica of Joe Pitts' office“It’s just a wonderful honor,” Pitts said. “I’m so privileged that Asbury will be the permanent repository of my papers and memorabilia. Asbury is not passive, it’s active; active in the community, in the country and around the world. And to have them keep the official papers that have the insights of historic events… they will keep that alive and use it to train the next generation of men and women in the art of statesmanship and public service. So, I’m very pleased.”

Pitts was joined by his wife Virginia Pratt ’61 Pitts, children, grandchildren, friends and former staff for the dedication and ribbon cutting ceremony. Pitts spoke fondly about his time at Asbury where he met and fell in love with his wife in the late 1950s.

“Wilmore and Asbury played a big role in our lives,” Pitts said. “Ginny and I met here. We graduated here. We fell in love here… We put down our spiritual roots here.”

Dr. Steve Clements, department chair of the Social Science and History Department at Asbury, spoke about the academic impact the Pitts Center will have, ultimately strengthening the Political Science major.

“This afternoon’s mini-conference is an excellent example of the kind of events the Center will periodically sponsor to provide opportunities for members of both the Asbury community and the larger Central Kentucky region to wrestle together over the problems and challenges of our civic order,” Clements said. “On campus, we’re planning an array of activities to augment the learning of our students interested in policy and politics.”

Pitts Center Already Making an Impact

Panel discussion on the stage in Jamison Recital HallUnique Center opening includes first in series of conferences. As part of the dedication and opening, Asbury hosted the first Pitts Center Conference, choosing the state and nationwide opioid crisis as the topic. During the event, guests heard from a variety of panelists in the medical, mission and legal fields.

The Opioid Crisis: Seeking Solutions Conference, held in the new Jameson Recital Hall, gave context to the crisis, focusing first on the history and medical facts before moving on to discuss two widely used treatments: abstinence-based treatment and methadone maintenance therapy. Proponents of both forms of treatment were present to give insight into each of the respective options.

“When the clock strikes midnight tonight, we will have lost four Kentuckians,” said Van Ingram, executive director of the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy. Ingram and the other panelists gave a number of statistics on the daily and annual deaths caused by opioid addiction.

The first panel discussion focused on policy perspectives while the second focused on the role of the faith community and treatment viewpoints.

Panelists also challenged the way that addiction is viewed by many in American society.

“Addiction is not a moral failing. It’s a disease,” said Tina Messer, specialty courts manager at the Administrative Office of the Courts. A KET documentary was shown and explained the science behind addiction.

Ingram closed out his portion of the talk with a hopeful and inspiring message for those who are worried about how the crisis is being handled in Kentucky.

“We don’t give up on people… there is hope. We just have to keep working, meet people where they are and do everything we can to help them recover,” Ingram said.

The Opioid Crisis: Seeking Solutions Conference is just the first of many Pitts Center events to come that will challenge students to engage in civil discourse and use their Asbury education to make a global impact for Christ like the many alumni before them have.

Guests can now tour the newly opened Joe Pitts Center for Public Policy at Asbury University’s Kinlaw Library.

Learn more about the Joe Pitts Center for Public Policy by visiting