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UK alum Bill Gatton, Kentucky businessman, philanthropist dies at 89

Mark Cornelison | UK Photo.
Left to right: Mike Richey, Bill Gatton and UK President Eli Capilouto at the dedication of the Gatton Student Center on Aug. 31, 2018.

A Tennessee TV station is reporting that the University of Kentucky’s biggest donor has passed away. Bill Gatton, whose name graces UK’s new student center and the Gatton School of Economics, died at the age of 89.

Gatton, a native of Muhlenberg County, enrolled at the University of Kentucky after high school, majoring in business administration, and graduated from the College of Commerce in 1954.

In 1959 he opened his first auto dealership in Owensboro. He moved to Tennessee and grew his business, the Bill Gatton Automotive Group.

In 1995, Gatton made a gift to the College of Business and Economics which was the largest gift to the University of Kentucky in its history. Later, in his honor, the Board of Trustees named the college “The Carol Martin Gatton College of Business and Economics.”

Gatton received numerous awards. He is a member of the Gatton College Alumni Hall of Fame and the University of Kentucky Hall of Distinguished Alumni.

Funeral arrangements for Bill Gatton are pending.

Bitten by the radio bug as a teenager, Alan Lytle got his start start more than 30 years ago volunteering in Clermont County, Ohio for WOBO-FM. He graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Broadcasting from the University of Cincinnati and worked at a variety of radio stations in the Cincinnati market, then made the move to Lexington in the mid-1990s.