The unveiling of the Walter Prater Education Center culminated the reunion at the HCTC Technical Campus on April 16, celebrating 65 years of excellence. A program highlighting the success of the programs and graduates preceded the announcement.
HCTC President Dr. Steve Greiner said Walter Prater s leadership, collaborative spirit, and standard of excellence led to this recognition. I m very honored and I thank you, Prater said, after being surprised by the naming and the presentation of a portrait which will hang in the facility.
Prater began as a teacher at the Vocational School in 1955 and took over the duties managing the campus when founding principal Devert Owens left to teach at the University of Kentucky in 1960. Prater s leadership and achievements for the next three decades are chronicled in printed program distributed at the event. During his tenure he displayed incredible vision, hard work and the ability to get things done to grow the campus and its programs, Dr. Greiner said.
Walter Prater was born and raised at Elmrock, in Knott County. He and his wife, Martha, moved to Hazard in 1955 when dad went to work as a teacher at the vocational school. He was one of 11 children to David P and Hattie Prater. His mother instilled the importance of education to all of her children and because of that, 10 of her 11 children had college degrees, which was very rare in those days. He attended the early grades in a one-room school at Elmrock before boarding at the Hindman Settlement School to finish his elementary and high school education. After three years of overseas duty in the U.S. Army Mr. Prater attended and Eastern University in 1949.
Prater has four children, Janet Smith who owns and operates Kentucky Farm Bureau Insurance, Dr. Jeff Prater who practices internal medicine in Hazard, John Prater, a geologist in Orlando, Florida and Dr. Mike Prater, a dentist in Cincinnati. Three of his four children graduated from Hazard Community College with associate degrees before furthering their education at other colleges and universities. Jeff knew he wanted to be a doctor so dad let him go on to UK. The other children report they were not sure what they wanted to do so he told them to attend HCC and then decide. With the guidance and leadership from HCC professors Janet, John, and Mike were able to decide the direction they wanted their education to go in and have become successful professionals in their fields, Dr. Greiner noted.
Prater also has four grandsons Eric is a junior at Georgia Tech majoring in Aerospace Engineering, Chase is a sophomore at Hazard Community amp; Technical College obtaining a degree in Business, Daron is a high school senior and Adam is a high school freshman.
Also, his family has started the Walter Prater Endowed Scholarship in order to serve students at the Technical Campus.
Dr. Greiner noted, This event celebrates the great educational tradition of the Hazard Vocational School and the Technical Campus of Hazard Community and Technical College and honor the faculty, staff and students who have enriched this heritage. The College launched plans to establish an alumni program which recognizes all of the campuses and traditions including the Lees College Campus in Jackson with its roots in 1883 and Hazard Community College which began in this city in 1968.
The keynote speaker for the event was Charlie Wilson, former Leslie County Judge-Executive, who worked at the school. He publicly thanked Walter Prater for the positive influence he had on his professional career, which includes serving as superintendent of three school districts in Kentucky. Wilson said the impact of the Technical Campus is felt throughout the nation because of the quality education provided to students. He named specific examples of graduates performing well in business, including cosmetology, mining, heating and air conditioning, and electricity.
Providing history at the event were Susan Johnson, Coordinator of the Cosmetology program; Jan Combs, former academic dean; and Neil Brashear, Dean Technical amp; Professional Programs. Greetings were offered by Mayor Nan Gorman and Lee Hillman, represented Judge-Executive Denny Ray Noble.
More than 100 former and present students and employees attended the event, along with other community members. Following the unveiling of the building, a reception was held.