Emily C. Roush
The Ashland Beacon
On Saturday, June 15 the Ashland, KY B.P.O. Elks Lodge No. 350 celebrated Steve Towler as its honoree at the 45th annual Elks Sports Day reception and banquet. The purpose of this event is to honor individuals who have excelled not just with athletics but in life and out in the community well.
“If you look at the previous honorees, this is a huge honor to be up there with them. They were great athletes, but the majority were also contributors. It’s about asking ‘what have you done with your life?’” said Steve Gilmore. Gilmore served as the featured speaker at Elks Sports Day. A previous honoree himself, he was “proud and honored” to have the opportunity present the award to his lifelong friend, Steve Towler. Gilmore was a teammate of Towler’s at Rio Grande University, and they also worked together as educators.
To be the recipient of this year’s award was exciting and meaningful for Towler. “I have been following this program for many years, and there are a lot of people who get nominated. I really feel very honored to be included. That wall over there,” he said while pointing to the photographs of honorees are displayed, “features people who were outstanding athletes but also outstanding after they were athletes.”
Basketball was the sport at which Towler excelled. As a high school student, he played for Boyd County from 1960 to 1963. He was a standout who earned a place on the all-state team and was named the Outstanding Player for the 16th region during his senior year. Towler held the Boyd County High School scoring record for 30 years after his graduation and still ranks as the third highest on the scoring list. His achievements in basketball allowed him the opportunity to play at the collegiate level for two years at the University of Tulsa and two at Rio Grande University.
After finishing college, Towler dedicated his life to education, beginning his teaching career in the late 1960s. He worked his way up the ranks as a counselor, administrator and eventually a Public School Superintendent, a position he held for 20 years. He served in this capacity in five school districts in Kentucky including Ashland Independent Schools. Towler also served as the assistant director for the Kentucky Education Development Corporation (KEDC). He earned a doctoral degree in public administration from the University of Kentucky.
Basketball stayed with Towler during his career as an educator. He coached basketball at Russell High School for two years and officiated both high school and college games for a decade. Upon finishing his career in education, Towler moved back to the Ashland area and began his tenure as the Director of the United Way of Northeast Kentucky. He most recently served a four-year term as the County Judge Executive in Boyd County.
Towler believes that his success as an athlete helped drive the path his professional life would take. “I have had quite a varied career, and I feel really blessed to have had all of these opportunities.
It all started with sports as I was able to have my college paid for because of sports.” Towler credits his mother, Opal Towler, as his motivator. She was a single mother of three who was a teacher and counselor at Boyd County for 45 years. Her support helped Towler succeed as an athlete and inspired him to pursue a life’s calling in education. As the 45th honoree of Elks Sports Day, Towler has demonstrated that drive and hard work in sports can have a lasting impact both on and off the court