Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education

Two CPE leaders receive awards for public relations

July 29, 2020

Aaron Thompson, president of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, and Sue Patrick, the Council's chief communications officer, received top honors this year from the Thoroughbred Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America.

The announcement marks the first time that both awards have recognized leaders in a single organization.

The group presented Thompson with the annual Communicator of the Year Award, which recognizes those outside the public relations profession who exemplify a passion for communications as well as exceptional contributions.

"Higher education has the power to improve the lives of Kentuckians, lift up families and provide better opportunities for generations to come. Since I have personally lived the transformative power of higher education, I have dedicated my career to communicating its value so that all Kentuckians can benefit," said Thompson.

"I am deeply honored to be recognized with this award, and I extend my sincere appreciation to the Thoroughbred Chapter and its members," he added.

Thompson earned the award in large part for his efforts to build a broad understanding that higher education is the key to personal opportunity and Kentucky's economic growth.

He kicked off a statewide listening tour last year with stops at 11 campuses and surrounding communities under the campaign theme: "Higher Education Matters." The effort helped promote state higher education priorities and gather feedback from a wide range of stakeholders, including employers, community members, college students, campus leaders, faculty, staff and high school students.

Overall, Thompson drove nearly 2,400 miles and engaged more than 3,000 people, gathering feedback on college affordability, student success and the need for high-quality programs that meet the needs of the workforce. He also participated in 21 interviews with TV, radio and print outlets during the tours.

Patrick, meanwhile, received the Lifetime Achievement Award, which honors professionals with exceptional achievements with more than 20 years in public relations and communications.

Among her many achievements at CPE, Patrick led the 2007 launch of Project Graduate, a collaboration of Kentucky's public colleges and universities that targets those who have earned significant educational credits, but no degree. More than a dozen years later, the nationally recognized program has directly led to thousands of Kentuckians earning a diploma.

Patrick also played a vital role in developing and implementing the Higher Education Matters campaign, working with Thompson, campuses and media outlets to organize appearances.

"My sincere thanks goes out to our chapter leadership," Patrick said. "I share this award with hundreds of talented colleagues and partners who contributed to the projects and supported the work along the way, and I cannot be more grateful for this career and this award."

Last Updated: 7/21/2021