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First recipient of the McKay Award for Excellence for LGBT Scholars graduates

Bernard “Bernie” L. McKay (91) established the Bernard L. McKay Award for Excellence for LGBT Scholars with the Morehead State University Foundation Inc., in 2014. A year later, Kayla Bowen (19) from Hazard was selected as the scholarship’s first recipient. Now, four years later, as Bowen ventures off to start her career as a recent MSU graduate, McKay feels proud to have helped her along the way. 

"I established the scholarship as a way to 'payback' MSU for being so good to me when I was in college and for setting me on a course to help me achieve my career goals," McKay said. "I established a planned gift with the MSU Foundation, but I wanted to be part of the scholarship process, as opposed to funding a scholarship at my death. When creating the scholarship, I had no idea how much joy, gratification and personal reward I would receive in return. Helping a young LGBT student earn her college degree and get started with her professional career has forever changed me. My only regret is that I didn't establish the scholarship sooner." 

The scholarship’s namesake graduated MSU with a Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting and later graduated with a Juris Doctorate from Northern Kentucky University's Salmon P. Chase College of Law in 1994. McKay is an attorney for Frost Brown Todd Attorneys, LLC., in Cincinnati. 

As for Bowen, she took full advantage of her time at MSU as the scholarship’s first recipient. She was a member of the Campus Activities Board (CAB) and organized cultural events for the students on campus. She was the founder and president of the MSU chapter of the Secular Student Alliance (SSA) and was elected to the board of directors for the national organization that oversees 300 SSA chapters across the country. Additionally, Bowen was a volunteer at the Morehead Pride Festival.   

Bowen graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology. Her career goals are to work in the nonprofit sector potentially for an LGBTQ-related organization. She said her MSU success story wouldn’t be possible without McKay’s generous scholarship and is grateful for the financial assistance it provided her throughout her college career.  

"It means so much to me that I could have all these amazing opportunities to be an activist and a force in the MSU community. Bernie made all of that possible," Bowen said. "I am able to be a competitive candidate in my field because of the internships and volunteer positions I was able to take because of Bernie's scholarship."  

Scholarship criteria include recipients being incoming undergraduate students who self-identify as either Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgender (LGBT) and have demonstrated a commitment to equality for the LGBT community through either membership in gay-straight alliances, participating in community projects or similar actions indicating their dedication to improving equality for the LGBT community. Preference is given to LGBT students from Mason, Bracken, Robertson and Fleming counties. Secondary preference is given to LGBT students from MSU's 22-county service region. Third preference is given to LGBT students from anywhere in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.   

Recipients must maintain a minimum 3.0 cumulative GPA and overall satisfactory academic standing. The scholarship renews automatically for an additional seven semesters if the criteria are met.   

To apply for scholarships at Morehead State, visit   

For more information on this scholarship, or to establish your own, contact MSU's Office of Alumni Relations and Development at 606-783-2033, email or visit to contribute today. 

Photo: Bernard “Bernie” L. McKay (91, right) is pictured with Kayla Bowen (19, left) at MSU’s Spring 2019 Commencement Ceremony. Bowen graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and was the first recipient of the Bernard L. McKay Award for Excellence for LGBT Scholars.