Racer Alumni Podcast

Racer Alumni Podcast: Stories from the Finest Place We Know

Racers are spirited and strong. For a century, Racer alumni all over the world have been given the opportunity to accomplish what we pursue and enjoy a lifetime of success thanks to the unique and special college experience we received at Murray State University.

Hear from administrators, faculty, staff and students about the incredible things happening on campus, learn about some of the amazing things our fellow alumni are doing personally and professionally to make an impact on the world and fondly reminisce about the memories and moments you cherish most from your time as a student.

Sponsored by the Murray State University Alumni Association and hosted by Murray State Director of Alumni Relations Carrie McGinnis and 2019 Murray State graduate Jordan Lowe, The Racer Alumni Podcast: Stories from the Finest Place We Know, will give you the chance to connect with your alma mater and others within our global alumni family. We are 80,000-strong. 

Meet your hosts

Carrie Mcginnis

Carrie McGinnis
Murray State Director of Alumni Relations

Jordan Lowe

Jordan Lowe
2019 Murray State graduate



Episode 11 — December 1, 2022

Charles Edward Hall as Santa outside of Radio City Music HallHere Comes Santa Claus...and he's a Racer — In episode 11, we talk to Murray State alum Charles Edward Hall.

Charles Edward Hall, '73, has been delighting people from all over the globe for more than three decades as Santa Claus in New York's famed Radio City Christmas Spectacular.

From the rural landscape of Kentucky's capital city to the lights of Broadway, the Frankfort native has come a long way. Hall graduated with dual degrees in theatre and speech communication from Murray State nearly 50 years ago, and in 1976, he followed his passion for the theatre to the Big Apple.

Charles Edward HallAs a young actor, his theatre career began in plays "off off" Broadway, but it wasn't long until Broadway came calling. His first major role was not that of Santa, but rather as a surprising villain: the Wicked Witch in the Broadway production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Hall began his run as Santa alongside the famed Rockettes in 1986. Thousands of magic-filled shows later, he announced earlier this year that this 36th season would be his last.

After years as a New Yorker, Hall now resides full-time in Calloway County and commutes to and from New York to work. His 2014 book, Santa Claus is for Real: A True Christmas Fable About the Magic of Believing, is now in development to become a film.

Previous Episodes

Tripp Gibson - courtesy of MLBBaseball's Biggest Stage with MLB Umpire Tripp Gibson — In episode 10, we talk to Murray State alum Tripp Gibson.

2005 Murray State alumnus Hal Harrison Gibson III, better known as Tripp, has come a long way since his days growing up and playing baseball in Graves County, Kentucky. He, his wife and their two sons now call the Pacific Northwest home. However, from the first of March through the end of October each year, his stretches there are few and far between. After serving as an umpire in the Major Leagues for nearly 10 years, this year's call of duty was extended even later into the fall when Gibson got the call this October to, for the first time, officiate the World Series.

From umping Murray State Racer baseball games while still a student himself, to working his way up through the minors, and finally launching a storied career in the MLB, Tripp talks to us about what it is like to take his turn on baseball's biggest stage. We'll learn what it takes to get there, the special skills required to make an MLB umpire one of the best, how one handles the pressure of calling balls and strikes during a World Series no-hitter and how he was able to use his national platform to direct the country's attention and resources toward Mayfield, Kentucky, after the deadly tornado destroyed his beloved hometown in December of 2021.

Donna HerndonDonna Herndon - Special “Centennial Homecoming” episode — In episode 9, a special “Centennial Homecoming” episode of the MSUAA Racer Alumni Podcast, we get a history lesson from none other than longtime former Murray State University Alumni Affairs Director Donna Herndon, class of 1964.

Donna Ruth Herndon, a Murray native, has been deeply embedded in the fabric of Murray State University her entire life. Both of her parents graduated from Murray State and her uncle, Marvin O. Wrather, an interim president of Murray State in 1968 and the man for whom historic Wrather Hall was named, was among the University's first graduating class and a founder of the Murray State University Alumni Association in 1926.

As a student, she lived in the Sigma Sigma Sigma wing of Woods Hall. She studied art under Clara M. Eagle, for who the art gallery in Doyle Fine Arts is named. And, the aforementioned are not the only people in her life whose names grace historic spaces and places on Murray State’s campus. She was a student during the presidency of Ralph Woods, who she calls a consummate educator. She personally knew Forrest Pogue and later worked alongside Harry Lee Waterfield. In this episode, she shares some sage advice she once received from Waterfield, which she still lives by today.

In her role as Alumni Director, she served under the direction of four Murray State presidents. Under her leadership from 1981-1992, the Student Ambassador Program and Tent City, longtime traditions which we still enjoy today, both got their start. She’ll share with us some of her favorite Homecoming memories, including one particular Homecoming theme that garnered lots of attention for reasons she never intended. It is a walk through nearly 80 of Murray State’s 100 years.

Racer One and Dr. Shea Porr Racer One and Madison KirbyRacer One Jockey Madison Kirby and Racer One Faculty/Staff Advisor Dr. Shea Porr — Clear the Track! With Murray State’s Centennial Homecoming just two weeks away, it is only fitting that we talk about one of the most fun, fast and fascinating traditions in all of collegiate athletics – Racer One. Joining us for Episode 8 are 2022-2023 Racer One Jockey Madison Kirby and Racer One Faculty/Staff Advisor Dr. Shea Porr. (photo courtesy of Dave Winder)

Dr. Porr is heading into her tenth year on the faculty within Murray State’s Hutson School of Agriculture. She began as Department Head for the Animal and Equine Science program in 2018, taking the “reigns” as Murray State’s Racer One Coordinator that same year.

Madison, an agriculture education major in her first season jockeying Racer One, is a junior from Fisherville, Kentucky, located near Louisville. Born to race, Madison has been riding since she was just three years old and spent much of her childhood watching her father race and train horses under the twin spires of Churchill Downs, home of the famed Kentucky Derby.(photo courtesy of Dr. David Eaton)

The current Racer One, whose given name is actually Vegas Impulse, holds a special distinction among his peers. He is the first Racer One since the inception of the tradition in 1976 who was actually born and raised on Murray State’s campus.

Learn more about the beginnings of this tradition on Murray State’s campus, how jockeys and horses are selected for this prestigious role, what type of training it takes to prepare our most recognizable mascot for his time in the spotlight and why Racer One has become as important to ag education as he is to school and community pride in this episode of the Racer Alumni Podcast.

Dr. Don TharpeDr. Don Tharpe, Chair of the Murray State Board of Regents — In Episode 7 we get the honor of chatting with the current chair of the Murray State University Board of Regents Dr. Don Tharpe, a 1974 and 1975 graduate of Murray State.

While he has inked his place in Murray State’s centennial history as the first Black chairperson to lead the Murray State Board of Regents, Dr. Tharpe talks in this episode of the Racer Alumni Podcast about his desire to further be remembered beyond that important distinction, by using his leadership position to make a memorable impact on his alma mater and a significant difference in the lives of our students. He has a well-documented passion for academic excellence and asset preservation, often calling on University leadership and his colleagues to make investments in campus improvements and deferred maintenance.

In addition to his oft-heard mantra of taking care of our stuff, Dr. Tharpe is also known to crack a joke, tell a story and otherwise provide some much-appreciated levity in the boardroom, where the matters of business at hand often feel weighty.

Dr. Bob ValentineDr. Bob Valentine, Robert Norsworthy, and the legacy Bob "Doc" McGauhey — In episode six, we welcome Murray State University Journalism and Mass Communication Professor and longtime debate coach Bob Valentine. "Dr. Vee" has been teaching at Murray State since 1974. Outside of Wilson Hall, Valentine has long been known as an emcee extraordinaire, a comedian, coveted public speaker, one half of the duo “The Communicators” alongside longtime friend and colleague Dr. Bob McGaughey, a Scottish master of ceremonies and even, on occasion, a dupe for Murray State’s founder Rainey T. Wells.

Robert NorsworthyAlso joining us is Robert Norsworthy, a native western Kentuckian, who spent more than 3 decades as one of the quintessential Mad Men of Madison Avenue. Mr. Norsworthy worked for 30+ years in advertising in New York. From “Have it Your Way” to “Plop Plop Fizz Fizz,” he was at the table when some of America’s most memorable catch phrases first came into being. Upon retirement, Norsworthy returned to Calloway County where he has been consulting in the JMC department and matching students with internships in advertising all over the world for more than 10 years.

Dr. Bob Valentine and Doc McGauhey Join us as we talk about their Murray State experience, how the local community helped to shape Murray State into an epicenter for culture and higher learning in western Kentucky more than 100 years ago, the life and legend of Bob "Doc" McGaughey and how you can help carry on Doc's legacy of journalistic integrity and good humor into Murray State's next 100 years.

Nico YantkoNew Murray State Athletic Director Nico Yantko — Former Racer Football QB Nico Yantko was introduced August 15 as the 10th director of athletics in Murray State history. A two-time alumnus, Yantko earned a bachelor's degree in integrated studies in 2009 and a master's degree in human development and leadership in 2020. He returns home to Murray State as the Racers begin their first year in the Missouri Valley Conference and join the Missouri Valley Football Conference in 2023. Yantko's career in collegiate athletics began as a graduate assistant in the MSU athletics department and later at North Carolina State, the University of Missouri and the University of Louisiana. Join us as he talks about his experience as a student-athlete at Murray State, his career leading up to this point and what it means to him to guide his alma mater into the next century as we celebrate the centennial of our founding.

W. Earl BrownHollywood actor W. Earl Brown — Alumnus W. Earl Brown stars in the new Apple TV+ limited series, Five Days at Memorial. Murray native Earl Brown, '85, has been one of Hollywood's go-to character actors for more than three decades. With well-known roles in There's Something About Mary, Being John Malkovich, Deadwood, The Master, Scream and The Mandalorian lining his resume, Earl has proven to be a genre-crossing shape-shifter in television and film. His latest project for Apple TV+, which premiers August 12, is based on tragic actual events that took place in the devastated New Orleans Memorial Hospital in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Earl talks with us about his long and steady career, seeing his Star Wars dream become a reality, his latest project and what's next.

Five Days at Memorial Official Trailer

Jabir WalkerGood call ref! — Racer Football alumnus Jabir Walker, '00, began his professional career playing arena football. Now, on any given Sunday he is the one making the calls. Jabir is at the top of the reffing game, traveling across the country officiating NFL football and NCAA basketball. In 2021, he was called up to serve as an alternate on the Super Bowl LV officiating crew, a highly-coveted opportunity among NFL referees and one reserved for only the best of the best in a given season. In episode three, Jabir talks about his experience as a Murray State student-athlete during the era of hall-of-fame coach Houston Nutt, what it takes to break into the upper echelon of officiating on the national level, how he responds to haters and the “suggestions” from passionate fans in the stands and why good sportsmanship is so important beginning with little league athletics.

jeff mclaughlin poses at stewart stadiumThe facts, fiction and foresight of Murray State's founding — Dr. Jeff McLaughlin, Murray State’s Archives/Museum Director, joins us for episode two to talk about the facts, lore and local characters who helped shape the history of Murray State. He will also talk about some of the epic shifts and challenges that Murray State and its administration weathered throughout our nation’s history, such as the Great Depression, WWII, Vietnam, Civil Rights and generations of students coming of age on our campus. Jeff is also the co-author of the University’s upcoming pictorial book, The Finest Place We Know: A Centennial History of Murray State University, 1922-2022.

Bob JacksonThe First Episode! Featuring Murray State President Dr. Bob Jackson — Join us in celebrating our Centennial throughout the remainder of 2022. The Racer Alumni Podcast launches July 1, featuring the 14th President of Murray State University and 1985 alumnus Dr. Bob Jackson. We will discuss his long history with Murray State dating back to his time as a student and the many roles he has held leading up to his presidency. We'll also chat about his experience leading the institution through a global pandemic and the University’s 100th birthday celebration, including the upcoming release of a pictorial history of Murray State, which he co-authored, The Finest Place We Know: A Centennial History of Murray State University, 1922-2022.

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The views and opinions expressed during the Racer Alumni Podcast do not necessarily reflect those of Murray State University, its administration or the faculty at large. The episodes are designed to be inspiring and entertaining.


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