Dr. Robert H. “Doc”
Feb. 18, 1943 - June 14, 2019
LOUISVILLE – There are a lot of words that can be used to describe one Dr. Bob McGaughey, longtime Murray State University professor and department chairman.
He was more than a professor and chairman. Some people say he was one of Murray State’s strongest ambassadors, no matter the cause. He had a style that was all his own, including not using his real name at times when calling former students, both to ask them to contribute to their alma mater financially, or to just to see how they were doing.
“Yes, this is Royce Williams,” he would say.
However, the thousands of former students who learned the ways of the “real world” under his tutelage remember him as a mentor, a supporter and a friend. That is why those people, as well as the many others who knew him, are probably still trying to shake the cobwebs of disbelief even today, three days after his death on Friday.
McGaughey, known to all as “Doc,” was 76. He died after a short illness at the University of Louisville Medical Center.
“They don’t make people like this every day,” said longtime Murray State professor Bob Valentine, one of McGaughey’s closest friends, who used that relationship to form a comedy team – Dr. Trey and Dr. Vee – that charmed audiences all over the country since 1978.
“You’ve got to look at all of the honors he was given. I mean, you’re talking about someone who was the Distinguished Professor, he was a recipient of the Max Carman Award (as campus Teacher of the Year in 1984), the Golden Horseshoe Award (for outstanding support and service to the university) and the Frank Stanton Fellow (1987), and that goes to the distinguished broadcast educator in the whole nation.
“The planets have moved and the fields of gravity have all shifted.”
McGaughey was born in Anniston, Alabama, but his family would eventually move to Hopkinsville. He graduated from Hopkinsville High School in 1961, then entered Murray State as a freshman that fall. He graduated from Murray State in 1965 and served in the U.S. Army in Vietnam before returning to Murray in 1969 to become the advisor for The Murray State News, as well as a professor. It started his stretch of more than 40 years – 27 on a full-time basis, with 23 of those as department chairman – as a member of the campus faculty, and being an influence in the lives of his students.
“He absolutely was a mentor,” said Tab Brockman, a Louisville native and one of McGaughey’s students in the 1980s, who went on to hold several public relations positions before leading the Murray-Calloway County Chamber of Commerce. He eventually was director of Murray-Calloway County Parks & Recreation before taking the same position in Hopkinsville, where he continues in that capacity today.
“You didn’t know that’s what he was doing, because he was supportive of his students and encouraged them. And you know what? That’s what a good mentor does. He does it without you knowing or feeling it.”
Along with learning from McGaughey, though, Brockman also had the distinction of having his teacher as a close advisor for his time with the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity on campus. McGaughey took that very seriously, and the Murray State chapter recognized McGaughey’s contributions as a Pike by naming an award in his name. It goes to a freshman annually.
“Doc was part of the ‘Fabulous Forty’ pledge class,” Brockman said of McGaughey. “He was loyal to his fraternity for sure, and that helped our relationship become closer. He was a groomsman in my wedding. He’s the godfather to both of my boys (Casey and Tyler).”
Current Murray State President Dr. Bob Jackson said he was a student at Murray State in the early 1980s when he also joined the Pikes.
“I was the recipient of the Doc McGaughey Award. That means a lot,” Jackson said. “I’m going to miss him, especially at homecoming. He was always there at that Arthur Baurenfeind College of Business (which oversees the campus’ Journalism and Mass Communication department) tent and had that blue cowboy hat. He always had that thing on.
“We’ve lost a really good one. He was a Racer legend, one of a kind. He also stayed in contact with so many of his former students, and that was truly an amazing thing with him. He even was doing that in recent days.”
Kirksey native Sandra Wilson has been a major mover and shaker since graduating from Murray State in the ‘80s, serving as public relations director at a local industrial facility for nearly 30 years before moving on to current positions as president and CEO of the Paducah Area Chamber of Commerce, as well as a Paducah City Commissioner.
However, she remembered over the weekend how McGaughey, known more for his typically relaxed demeanor, actually got tough with her.
“I was a definite slacker back then, I admit it, and one day, and I never have forgotten this, he comes up to me in class and tells me, ‘Hey Starky (her maiden name was Starks)! You know, if you would apply yourself more, you’re going to do really well,’” Wilson recalled. “I had to regroup a little bit, but he helped me so much.
“(His death) is just heartbreaking. He changed my life with the way he was as a professor. He saw things in people that they didn’t see themselves.”
Former Murray State President Dr. Tim Miller said he and McGaughey arrived on campus as freshmen at the same time in fall 1961. It was the start of a long, positive relationship.
“We had the same journey, it would seem,” said Miller, whose only deviation from that path was with Greek life. McGaughey was a Pike, while Miller joined the Sigma Chi group. “I hate to see (McGaughey’s death happen). This is leaving a void that won’t be filled, I don’t believe.
“The most important thing for any university is its students. They’re not going to remember the administrators, but they do remember their teachers, and Bob McGaughey was the epitome of that idea. I hope that our younger faculty will look at what he did and take notice of how important they are to their students.”
Along with Valentine, former longtime Murray State Dean of Admissions & Registrar Phil Bryan was the first person to learn of McGaughey’s death Friday. He began a 27-year stay at Murray State in 1974 and said McGaughey was huge in helping him become an important part of the campus community.
“He taught me that it’s hard to work with students if you don’t get to know them,” said Bryan, who also happens to be the father of one of McGaughey’s star students, current Nashville, Tennessee television personality Amy Watson, whom he described as “very upset” at the news of McGaughey’s death.
“He had a big heart and helped more students than we will ever know, with both his personality and his billfold. He also was a good friend and was a special part of our golf group. The last time we played was May 18 (at Fairfield Glade in Tennessee) and we had a great time. We ate well.
“We had no idea he had leukemia. We knew he had diabetes and had had it for quite some time, but I didn’t know about the other. Nobody did.”
Brockman said his wife, Beth, designed four golf balls for an outing Saturday in Hopkinsville with Tab and their boys. Tab said they all were inscribed with “RIP DOC” and the idea was to use them on the third hole, to signify that McGaughey was a third generation, a III, in his family.
“We couldn’t do it, though,” he said of how this was to have honored McGaughey for how he used to hunt for golf balls at numerous area courses.
Visitation will be from 4-8 p.m. Wednesday at the J.H. Churchill Funeral Home. Funeral services are pending.