May 13, 2022
Story by Lindsey Bogner & Brandon Steinert
Photo by Brandon Steinert
The Barton Community College Foundation honored Bill McKown as the 2022 recipient of the Distinguished Service Award (DSA) at the college’s 52nd annual commencement Friday night. Bill’s Brother, David McKown, accepted the award on his behalf.
The DSA was created in 1981 to recognize individuals that have shown genuine regard for and performed outstanding service to Barton Community College.
McKown was known for his infectious smile across the Barton County campus, taking classes, attending games, and supporting students, faculty, and staff with a kind word. A lover of the arts, McKown took numerous classes at Barton in the Fine Arts department and was awarded Best-in-Show at the Barton Student Exhibition Show for his graphic design work two years in a row.
McKown was injured in a car accident as a freshman at the University of Kansas in 1975, paralyzing him from the shoulders down and leaving him a quadriplegic for 39 years. After the accident, he dedicated himself to living a normal life. After McKown graduated from Barton, he received a bachelor’s degree from Friends University. He lived and worked in Great Bend, became a community leader, completed college, served others as a volunteer, board member, scout master, camp director, disability advocate and more. He was an active member of numerous civic and cultural organizations.
In 2013, McKown was inducted into the Great Bend High School Hall of Fame for his numerous achievements. In 2021, the Great Bend Zoo placed the Bill McKown Memorial Gazebo at the fishing pond at the zoo.
Throughout his life, McKown supported Barton as a community leader, student, and friend. Even after his passing, he continued to support the Foundation and the College with a generous planned gift, allowing for the creation of the “How to Build a Metal Horse” educational kiosk in the gallery, detailing the bronze sculpture pouring process, equipment for the Ceramics Department and chairs, drafting tables, and computers for the art department, and the “Winged Aspiration” sculpture was commissioned and erected in the circle drive of the Fine Arts Building. “Winged Aspiration” is a large casting of a wax model created by L.E. Gus Shafer, the Gallery’s namesake.
“McKown’s dedication to our Foundation, our college, and our mission is truly inspirational for all of us who follow after him,” said Lindsey Bogner, Executive Director of Institutional Advancement. “For years to come, whenever a student steps into the arts classrooms, a visitor enjoys the Shafer Art Gallery, or our eyes fall upon the Winged Aspiration statue as it reaches into the sky, we will all be heirs of his generosity and vision.”