PIKEVILLE – Looking out his window, gaze fixed on the beauty around him, the professor sketches a simple drawing of the mountains. Etched with the Latin phrase Prospiciam Ad Montes – “Look to the Mountains” – and borrowed from the wisdom of the Psalmist, the professor’s words have come to embody the promise of an education for the people of Central Appalachia.
For more than a century, the University of Pikeville has served the people of the region, and beyond, creating access and opportunity through learning. As the university begins its 126th academic year, the community is invited to the Opening Convocation Thursday, Aug. 27, at 11 a.m. in Booth Auditorium, Record Memorial Building.
The convocation address will be given by Kentucky State Representative Leslie Combs. Combs serves the 94th District of Harlan, Letcher and Pike counties and embodies the strong ethical and family values of her constituency. A model for Kentucky’s citizen-legislator, Combs has risen quickly to become a highly-respected member of the General Assembly.
In 2006, Combs was first elected to the Kentucky House of Representatives and now chairs that chamber’s budget review subcommittee on transportation, which oversees the state’s multi-billion dollar highway plan. Prior to that, the Pikeville Democrat was chair of the House tourism development and energy committee, which covers two industries critical to her home region of Eastern Kentucky.
In addition to serving on these two legislative committees, Combs is also a member of several others: appropriations and revenue, which writes the state’s two-year budget; education; state government; transportation; and veterans, military affairs and public safety. In addition, she is a member of the General Assembly’s program review and investigations committee, which takes an in-depth look at various issues affecting state government.
In other legislative duties, Combs serves on two of the National Conference of State Legislatures’ committees: budgets and revenue and natural resources and infrastructure. She has also championed greater use of Kentucky’s coal while sponsoring a constitutional amendment strengthening hunting and fishing rights. She currently is the state’s leading advocate for public-private partnerships, a growing trend nationally that makes it easier for governments to partner with businesses to carry out projects and services for the public.
Closer to home, Combs spent much of her career serving as treasurer and vice president for administrative operations at what is now the University of Pikeville and before then was chief accountant at the Kentucky Department of Agriculture. In 2012, the University of Pikeville presented Combs with an honorary alumni award in recognition of her service and dedication to the institution.
In her civic duties, she spent six years as a director on the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce and twice served as president of the Pike County Chamber of Commerce. Other organizations she has served include the Appalachian Regional Hospital Board; Kentucky State Lawyers Auxiliary; two site-based decision-making councils within the Pikeville Independent School System; the Rotary Club of Pike County; the Pike County Industrial Development Economic Authority Board; the Pike County Fair Board; the Kentucky Council on Agriculture; and the Pike County Democratic Woman’s Club.
Combs graduated with a degree in accounting from Transylvania University, one of the oldest universities in the United States, and she and her husband Donald Combs have two children: Elizabeth and Don III.