William Summers grew up surrounded by a sense of service. His father, William Summers IV, devoted his life to governing, serving as vice mayor of Louisville for 21 years alongside Mayor Jerry Abramson and later, Mayor Greg Fischer.
And a generation earlier, his grandfather was the first African- American Kentuckian to own a radio station, frequently broadcasting editorials and offering public commentary and information.
“Service has just been engrained in my family, from a cultural standpoint,” said Summers, a vice president at Republic Bank and a member of the Louisville Board of the Commonwealth Fund for KET.
“And being with a community bank, you have to be a part of the community,” he said. “Any community effort, any civic effort that you want to pursue, in the banking industry you have the opportunity to do that.”
And so it was natural for Summers to be drawn to KET for its ability to foster community statewide.
“One thing that KET does is it creates an atmosphere to build relationships across many boundaries,” he said. “And that’s whether it be across the rural/urban divide, across race — across all boundaries.”
How KET does that, he feels, is through its mission of serving all Kentuckians.
“KET’s mission — as far as community, education and diversity — KET does it all. That’s why it’s so aligned with my values and it’s been a good fit for me to serve on the Louisville Fund Board.”
In that capacity, Summers, like many community volunteers who help KET expand its mission, helps spread the word of the educational resources and other services that KET provides.
But it’s KET’s programming, Summers emphasizes, that is the uniting force that brings people from across the state together in a way unique to anything else in Kentucky.
“Kentucky Tonight, in my opinion, is an educational program about Kentucky, and what’s going on here in our Commonwealth. People need to know our history, need to know where we are today, and they need to know a vision for tomorrow,” he said. “And through the different guests and topics that are featured, that is what it does.”
Also important, he said, is that KET’s public affairs programming presents balanced points of view.
“Public affairs and the political coverage KET has is balanced, it’s fair. You hear both sides. Regardless of where you are, you hear pros, cons, what you disagree with, what you may agree with. It’s education, and it’s not spun in any way.
“That is important to me,” he concluded, “and I think it’s important to anyone who really wants to do what’s best.”
Summers also believes programs produced by KET such as Kentucky Life and Louisville Life have a role to play in unifying the state.
“Portraying our history, culture and heritage is just huge with KET,” he said. “It makes you appreciate the different parts and the different arts — just what Kentucky has to offer. A lot of people just stay where they are and don’t realize the different resources offered by different parts of the state.”
Making sure KET’s mission is sustained is important to Summers, he said, and for that reason he contributes as a KET Member.
“I think that if public affairs and education and your values are aligned, I think that it is your responsibility to support in the manner in which you can,” he said. “Whatever you can give it still helps make sure the mission and those values of KET continue.”