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Making a Difference: Ted Bassett

GED prep can put students in winner’s circle

When you give someone a “leg up” in horse country, chances are you’re talking about giving a jockey a boost up onto the back of a horse.

But when you talk to former Keeneland executive Ted Bassett — a World War II Marine veteran and head of Kentucky’s state police in the tumultuous 1960s — you discover that he has a passion for helping others get a leg up on life.

His personal call to leadership, he says, was fostered early as a student at Yale.

“At Yale, you were expected to make a difference. It was a part of the culture I was raised in,” said Bassett from his offices on the grounds of Keeneland Race Course, where he was president and chairman of the board and now serves as trustee emeritus.

“They expected you to step up and participate: academically, athletically, and extracurricularly,” said the kindly, self-effacing man who nonetheless is known for his tenacious dedication to the causes that he embraces.

His military background also fuels his dedication to public service.

“The code of honor and courage and integrity is so woven through the fabric of the Marine Corps. There was an expectation that you would step up.”

That code has guided Bassett through the years to support worthwhile causes such as the YMCA, the Kentucky Blood Center, and the Heart Association — as well as the Wounded Warrior Project, which assists former soldiers transitioning back to civilian life.

And it led him to KET, where his support goes beyond a financial contribution. He aims to spread the word abut KET’s education mission: he wants every citizen who lacks a high-school diploma to know about Fast Forward, KET’s online GED test preparation tool that can help adults get back on track for college or career advancement.

Fifteen percent of Kentucky’s working-age adults do not have a high-school diploma, Bassett observes.

“Now that’s a frightening figure,” he said. “And KET has the resources to try and remediate that, to correct it.”

Bassett, who has passed his 90th birthday yet nonetheless remains active in civic affairs, points out that Kentucky’s shifting economy demands an educated workforce.

“The job market is extremely competitive, and it’s only going to get more competitive. You need to show on your résumé an ability to learn in order to enhance your skills. If we’re losing coal, losing tobacco, two of our most stable industries, where is the ability to create jobs to come from?” he asked.

“If a major corporation is looking to relocate to Kentucky, one of the things they’re looking for is the availability of a skilled workforce — one that can adapt to high technological demands of producing competitive products.”

That’s where KET can come in and help the workforce meet that challenge, he said.

“Fast Forward really addresses the problem, and there are so many positives with this tool for the person without a high-school education. You can take a two-week free trial. Getting that [GED credential] is a step up! It’s a step forward, and it builds confidence in a person,” he added.

“If a person gets their GED, statistics show that they can earn $9,000 more a year than someone who doesn’t,” Bassett said. “In addition to being a strong role model to their children to get their education, I believe that in today’s highly competitive market, it’s going to be essential.”