John Wagner started taking classes at the University of Kentucky’s Northern Extension Center, and had planned on transferring to the Lexington main campus. But on March 14, 1968, Kentucky Governor Louie B. Nunn signed legislation establishing the extension center as Northern Kentucky State College, a four-year institute of higher education serving the northernmost region of the bluegrass state. Instead of transferring, as planned, Wagner decided to stay to become part of something new. He graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business in 1973 as a member of NKU’s first graduating class.
Five years later, The Kroger Co. recruited him as senior personnel assistant at the General Office. Over the course of nearly forty years, John took positions with progressively greater responsibility, eventually retiring as Vice President of Labor Relations. In his role as Vice President, he was responsible for providing strategic leadership to the organization in all labor relations matters, including collective bargaining, healthcare, pensions, and career development.
Wagner never forgot his alma mater throughout his success. After graduation, he and a small group of classmates launched the first giving campaign as members of the University’s first Alumni Council. Wagner has since served on numerous boards, but his greatest satisfaction comes from serving as an Executive Mentor at the Haile/US Bank College of Business, where he also teaches a senior-level Business Strategy capstone course as a part-time professor.
When asked about the growth of the campus, Wager had this to say, “When I was a student here, there were just two buildings: Nunn Hall and Regents Hall. I came here a few years ago, and I didn’t even recognize the campus. Who would have ever thought we would have ivy growing on the walls of some of the buildings?”
Wagner’s service and dedication to NKU has earned him recognition across the University. In 2015, Wagner was awarded the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Labor Management Award from the Haile/US Bank College of Business and in 2016, he received the Distinguished Service Award for his commitment to NKU and the region.