Time and again in this space we’ve written that one of our chief concerns about the Ashland area is our loss of many young people to other regions of the country as they complete their education and look for a place to make their mark. Few have been as dedicated as Bill Seaton was in working to improve conditions that would enhance northeastern Kentucky’s competitiveness and give our young people ample reason for carving out their future right in their hometown.

William R. Seaton, who died Sunday at age 79, was himself an example of someone who could well have faced such a decision at some point in his younger years. Talented and well educated with a degree from Yale in his resume, he probably could have written his own ticket when it came time to launch a career. His choice was to return to his roots in northeastern Kentucky and hire on at the company then known as Ashland Oil and Refining, known today as Ashland Inc.

Bill Seaton’s roots in Ashland were deep. A few generations back, members of his own family were in the forefront among business and industry leaders who were bringing the kind of opportunities here that were causing a settlement to evolve into a growing and thriving city. He would need go no further than his own family home to learn what’s necessary for a community to be attractive and provide both challenges and rewards for those who live there.

Bill Seaton’s decision to return to his home area had personal rewards. From a position as trainee at the refining company, he soon moved up the corporate ranks, earning himself a number of positions in middle management. In 1967, he was elected vice president, overseeing the company’s treasury, credit, accounting and insurance departments. Two years later, he became company treasurer and a member of the board of directors, then vice chairman of the board and eventually chief financial officer, a position he held until his retirement.

But his role in a company that provided job opportunities to so many area residents is only part of the story. A longtime supporter of higher education and just two years away from his own retirement, he was appointed to the board of regents of Morehead State University, and was credited with bringing stability to MSU as it was undergoing serious challenges. He was named chairman of the board in 1989, serving in that position for seven years. After 14 years of service, he retired from the board in 2000. “We’re a better institution today because Bill Seaton served on our board of regents,’’ said Keith Kappes, vice president for university relations at MSU.

To paraphrase that sentiment, we’re a better community today because Bill Seaton returned to his roots, a better community because of the love he held for his home area and the passion he had for making it precisely the kind of place that can offer its young people a bright future. Bill Seaton made a mark that was more than just a testament to his own dedication. It’s a mark that will have a lasting impact on the people who live in the place he loved.

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