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Two Local Business Leaders to be Added to Junior Achievement of South Central KY Business Hall of Fame



Two local business leaders were inducted into Junior Achievement’s Business Hall of Fame on Tuesday, March 23 on the CW channel, WBKO.com, and Junior Achievement and WBKO’s Facebook pages. The event was presented by BB&T (now Truist).

From the field of nominees, Connie Smith, President and Chief Executive Officer of Med Center Health and Chief Executive Officer of The Medical Center, and John Kelly, former Senior Executive at DESA International and Pan-Oston, were chosen as the 2021 honorees. Hall of Fame laureates are nominated by their peers and then selected by an independent committee.

The Junior Achievement Business Hall of Fame was designed in 1992 to recognize outstanding individuals who have made significant contributions to our community. Inductees are selected based upon their entrepreneurial spirit, business achievements and positive  economic impact upon the South Central Kentucky area.

Smith and Kelly join 32 outstanding business leaders whose leadership and community service serve as an inspiration to the students that look to Junior Achievement for guidance and support as they further their understanding of the business community. A portrait exhibit of inductees is housed at the Knicely Conference Center.

“I would like to thank Junior Achievement of South Central Kentucky and the Business Hall of Fame committee for this prestigious award,” said Smith. “We teach our youth that success and accomplishment do not happen without teamwork and the support and dedication of those around you. It is in this spirit that I humbly accept this award on behalf of the entire Med Center Health team and the 3,800 individuals who dedicate their lives to the health and well-being of others.”

Connie D. Smith, RN, MSN, FACHE, joined Med Center Health in 1981. She received both her Associate of Science degree and Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing from Western Kentucky University followed by a Master of Science degree in Nursing from the University of Louisville. Smith holds licenses as both a Registered Nurse and Nursing Home Administrator. She is a Fellow in the American College of Healthcare Executives and serves in a leadership capacity on other healthcare organizations including the Kentucky Health Collaborative Executive Committee.

Smith serves on the University of Kentucky College of Medicine-Bowling Green Campus Joint Executive Oversight Committee and is a member of the Western Kentucky University Board of Advisors. Smith previously served on the Kentucky Hospital Association’s Board of Directors, Executive Committee, Solutions Group Board and the Kentucky Institute for Patient Safety and
Quality Board. She also served as Chair of the Kentucky Hospital Association Certificate of Need Committee.

In 2013, Smith was recipient of the ATHENA award. In 2014, Smith was named to the Western Kentucky University College of Health & Human Services Inaugural Hall of Fame. In 2015, she was the top fundraiser for the Project Purple Run to Beat Pancreatic Cancer. Smith has also served on various other healthcare related groups including the National Kidney Foundation of Kentucky, the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association and the Bowling Green Road Runners Club.

Joining Smith in the 2021 Junior Achievement Business Hall of Fame is John Kelly. “I would like to thank Junior Achievement for this most prestigious award,” said Kelly. “To be selected to join the distinguished Business Hall of Fame with the previous group of award recipients is truly humbling and exciting.”

Kelly is a former senior executive at DESA International and former Chief Executive Officer of Pan-Oston. He was named South Central Kentuckian of the Year by the Community Foundation of South Central Kentucky. His family is the namesake of the Kelly Autism Program at Western Kentucky University, which provides educational and social support for individuals diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders, through individual education plan assistance, community engagement, classroom adaptations and tutoring, social and leisure activities and job coaching.

Most recently Kelly has been involved in the development of LifeWorks at Western Kentucky University, a program that helps young autistic adults 18 years and older transition into independent living and securing productive employment. Kelly has created Donor Advised Funds at the Community Foundation and been recognized by Western Kentucky University with the following awards: Honorary Doctor of Public Service, Distinguished Service medal, Summit Award and Philanthropist of the Year 2015. He continues to serve on various not-for-profit boards in the community, including the Med Center Health Foundation Board.

Over the years, Junior Achievement has honored individuals who epitomize five key standards of excellence: entrepreneurial spirit and achievement; exceptional role model for youth; economic impact on area; business leadership and commitment to the goals of Junior Achievement.

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