William M. “Drew” Andrews Jr. is a geologist and section head of the Kentucky Geological Survey. He has seen his work help the state of Kentucky and advance the land grant mission of UK over the last 30+ years as a student and researcher. We recently met with Drew to learn about what brought him to UK, his career path in geology and his inspiration to give back.
Where are you from originally?
I was born in Frankfort, but I grew up in a little town called Gravel Switch down in Marian County. I went to Washington High School and grew up on a farm about an hour south of Lexington. Coming to UK was my first big city residential experience. In hindsight, I really appreciate what that means. It was a very good experience for me coming from a relatively sheltered experience on our farm to all the different cultures, experiences, opinions, and ideas that are available on a diverse campus like this. It was a wonderful experience.
When I used to tell people how to get to our farm, I would say, “Go to the edge of nowhere and turn right.” They would say, “Yeah, whatever.” But then you get out on the road between Springfield and Marian, and you would turn right on this little road that winds between two hills and you still have about ten minutes before you would get to my house. After they did it, they would understand what I meant.”
Why does UK matter to you?
UK matters to me for a lot of different reasons. When I was in high school looking at colleges, I was very fortunate to receive a scholarship offer from UK. I came to UK because of that scholarship offer. As part of being a Singletary scholar and part of the honors program, I received a fantastic education.
One of the things that drew me to UK was that I felt a personal connection to the people I met here. When I came for my scholarship interview, the first thing someone said to me was, “Hi, would you like to buy some girl scout cookies?” Because she had bought too many. And she is still on campus today and we still speak from time to time. And that was 30 years ago. That is a perfect example of how this place has been for me. It is very personal. It is important to me because it gave me the tools to have a successful career, to understand the world around me, to appreciate what is going on, and to interact and support my state.
Tell us about your time working here and giving back to the areas that you do as a faculty member.
In 1996, I got a job with the Kentucky Geological Survey. I originally started working on coal resources and resource assessment, calculating how much coal might be left in parts of eastern and mostly western Kentucky, as this related to the work I had done as an undergraduate.
My work at the Kentucky Geological Survey is important to me because it is applied geology research. It combines my appreciation for history and understanding how things happened, and my love for being outdoors.
But it is also for a purpose. It is for the state. It is for my fellow citizens here in the Commonwealth.
Knowing that I am helping people and isn't just for my own curiosity is very important to me. As I was working on the coal resource assessments, I became interested in landscapes. The employee education program allowed me to pursue a dissertation in landscape evolution. I studied how the Kentucky River Palisades came to be over the last two million years. As I finished the project, I learned about how hills slope, how rivers erode, and about soils. Then I moved to managing a new geology field mapping program. I’ve gone from managing a field mapping project to now overseeing that project plus a lot of the field mapping work we do here at Kentucky Geological Survey. I am focused on helping people apply this information to doing their jobs better. It is nice to be helping in such an obvious part of the land grant mission of the University of Kentucky. Every day we are helping Kentucky by developing new knowledge and sharing it for the greater good.
How does UK impact the state of Kentucky?
We are just a small part. We have the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment with the extension offices and research. There’s the College of Engineering and of course, UK Healthcare. You have the work going on in Fine Arts and Arts and Sciences, where students are going out and doing amazing things. They all give back through their creativity, through their knowledge and understanding, through their compassion. There are just so many things that directly and obviously apply to improving the lives of Kentuckians.
What impact do you see that you have on the students at UK?
I don’t teach. I am a researcher, so we hire students. Through the Lewis Honors College, I am able to be a part of the parent advisor council and the mentor program. I work with geology undergraduates that work in our field study, and I interact with students that are in other majors at the university. I try to help students see the possibilities that are out there by helping them understand the expectations of a professional and how to represent themselves well. It is always the easy part because a lot of the students I work with are very intelligent and very motivated. It's just helping them get some context, and then they take off. Yes, we employee students on a project and they get some work experience, but we also try to give them a broader perspective on career paths and how things work.
Why do you give back?
I’ve been able to get three degrees from UK and by other people having donated to the university, the university was able to support my attendance in each of those cases, and I’m very grateful for that.
As I was finishing my master’s degree, I was hired by UK. I’m midway through a very successful career at UK and I appreciate the university’s support of me and my department. I’m always looking for ways to help people realize how much UK does so that they understand they can give back as well.
I have three children, and my daughter is attending UK on an academic scholarship that she earned. Seeing how the university is supporting her and all of the opportunities that are available to her through the university are amazing. UK was very effective for me and I had great support when I was here, but the things that I experienced have been expanded upon and developed and formalized. They are so much stronger in terms of the extent of the support and the resources that students get here.
Anything that someone can do to help goes back to the state immeasurably whether it’s a large gift like by Mr. Lewis to fund the Lewis Honors College or a small gift through annual giving, it all contributes to a larger effort of developing students who then leave the university and give so much back to the Commonwealth and the country.
What is something that sticks out to you during your time at UK?
My favorite memories are around the relationships that I developed with other students and staff. One thing that I appreciated as a geology major is I would study rocks out at Red River Gorge. I would be able to test what I learned in class and apply it in the Gorge.
I was also interested in history, and my roommate and I became Civil War infantry reenactors. We found other individuals at UK who were also interested in Civil War history. The really cool thing about such a large community at UK is you can find so many different people with overlapping interests. We were able to form a Civil War club where we met regularly and talked about Civil War things. I’m sure it evaporated after we left but that’s okay – people’s interests come and go, but they have the opportunity to explore and try it here at UK.
Have you reenacted at Parable?
Yes, I did that for 15 years. I was writing scripts and helping staff, but when our third child was born I had to put that away as my son had a lot of medical appointments at Shriner’s. My son was born with a congenital orthopedic issue and because of the philanthropy that funnels into Shriner’s, we didn’t have to pay anything. Now he is an active, healthy, young teenager playing volleyball. While he was about to have one of his foot surgeries, we discovered he had a platelet disorder so the hematology clinic, now the DanceBlue clinic, took care of him and that’s how we discovered DanceBlue.
My daughter really embraced what DanceBlue was about and ran a lemonade stand. UK has just been a very important part of my life through my education, my career, supporting my family, and watching it support my community during the pandemic. Watching how UK has created this amazing testing and vaccination system with so many staff and volunteers is just another example of how much UK gives back.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I’ve been here under four different university presidents and places change. The changes that I’ve seen at UK in terms of the buildings, infrastructure, program offerings, student support, etc., they have all grown and improved so much even after the great experience I had. It’s building on something very strong and that’s what I appreciate about UK. It’s grown as I have, and I’ve gotten to watch UK grow at that same time. I feel like it’s gone from good to better.
Drew’s support brings UK closer to its $2.1 billion campaign total. Publicly announced in September 2018, Kentucky Can: The 21st Century Campaign improves opportunities for student success, funds innovative research, improves health care, strengthens the alumni network and supports athletic programs. More than halfway to its goal, Kentucky Can benefits from the support of faculty and staff like Drew. Make your gift to the University of Kentucky today or join us on April 21 as we celebrate One Day for UK. Clickhere to learn more about the university’s giving day.