Alumni board member Pendley back in school at KSU, has many ties to university

Ashlie (Wilson) PendleySept. 25, 2015 – After earning a communication degree from Kennesaw State University almost two decades ago, Ashlie (Wilson) Pendley is back in school looking forward to a new career.

Pendley, in her second term on the KSU Alumni Association board of directors, first graduated in 1996 and spent many successful years in the communication industry. Now, she is back taking classes at Kennesaw State as an undergraduate student of the university’s renowned nursing program.

“I’m in the accelerated Bachelor of Science in nursing program here at Kennesaw State and I will finish Dec. 15, 2015,” Pendley said. “After that, I will have to sit for the national boards, the NCLEX, and when I become a licensed nurse, I hope to go through a new nurse graduate program with WellStar (Health System). That would be my preference just because I’ve felt this calling toward medicine, was born in Kennestone Hospital, raised in Marietta and would like to serve this community.”

Pendley is also a Marietta High School graduate who has spent her entire life in Cobb County. Her association with Kennesaw State goes back to before she was even born.

“Both of my parents (Stephen “Beau” and Janis Wilson) attended Kennesaw Junior College back in the early 1970s,” Pendley said. “Growing up, it (the school) had always had a very positive connotation to me that it wasn’t just the convenient community college.

“By the time I was coming along, our profile had risen and we had become Kennesaw State College. And then, by the time I graduated, it was Kennesaw State University. It just continues to grow and become a world-class institution, and I’m proud to be an alumna.”

Pendley also had an aunt (Elizabeth “Missy” Randall) and sister (Stephanie Wilson) who spent time on the Kennesaw State campus. Her cousin, Kell Randall, is a current KSU student.

A name that may be a little more familiar around Kennesaw State is Joe Mack Wilson, Pendley’s grandfather. That name is on buildings on both of KSU’s campuses in Kennesaw and Marietta.

“My grandfather served in the Georgia House of Representatives for 27 years and I believe in the last 12 years of that, he was the chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, which actually helps determine which money goes where in the state budget,” Pendley said. “My grandfather was always a big proponent not only of his own community, but of education as well.

“He took every opportunity he had to funnel money toward Kennesaw State University and to Southern Polytechnic State University.  He did a lot to promote the profiles of both of those institutions to the point that the Board of Regents supported and the local universities wanted to honor his commitment and drive by naming buildings in his honor, which happened posthumously.”

The Joe Mack Wilson Student Center, at what was then the Southern College of Technology, was opened and named in the fall of 1993. The Joe Mack Wilson Building in Kennesaw opened in 1989 and was dedicated in 1993. Both celebrations came after Wilson’s death on May 17, 1993, when he was in office as the mayor of Marietta, a position he had held since 1990. 

Coming out of Marietta High, Pendley envisioned a career in law and politics. However, she ended up in the field of communication.

“The overall idea was that – with the HOPE Scholarship, which was instituted in 1993 and I was in the first graduating class to benefit from that tremendous resource – I would come to Kennesaw State, not incur any debt and then go on to law school,” Pendley said. “But while I was here, I actually took this pesky little communications elective and I fell in love with it. I thought that communications and telling people stories, being able to educate, inform and entertain would just be a tremendous career.”

After graduating from KSU, Pendley worked for 15 years in broadcast television with Georgia Public Broadcasting. She left GPB in January 2013 to pursue her degree in nursing.

“I rose from production assistant to executive producer, and I loved all of the projects I worked on there, but probably one of my favorite was our coverage of the legislature,” Pendley said about her experience at GPB. “The ‘Lawmakers’ program, which I worked on for 15 seasons, covers the Georgia General Assembly and it was not only a tremendous amount of fun, but something that appealed to me personally because I’ve always been interested in politics.

“It (working for GPB) also gave me the opportunity to develop my management skills because we had a whole staff of interns. It was a wonderful learning experience.”

So, what prompted Pendley’s return to Kennesaw State and career change into nursing?

“There came a time (at GPB) when I had been promoted up the ranks to a management position where it was all budgets and personnel, and it stopped being about telling the story and the creativity associated with that,” Pendley said. “I’ve always felt this drive to serve my community and at first I thought my role would be to help educate people by producing public broadcasting, but it came to a point where I felt like I wasn’t really fulfilling my own personal mission and wasn’t getting to make a difference in people’s lives.

“I just felt this calling toward medicine and helping improve people’s health. I, myself, was morbidly obese from the time that I graduated from high school until I was 33, when I decided to have bariatric surgery. Through that transformation, I lost more than 170 pounds and it was life changing in so many ways. Being around all those doctors and nurses during that entire process just gave me a new passion.”

For many years, Pendley has been involved with several organizations in the area, including the KSU Alumni Association board, which she joined in 2011.

“I had served for a few years on the Kennesaw State University communication department’s external advisory committee, which I believe is now called the National Advisory Board, and one of my colleagues on that board was Amanda Seals, who is now in government relations for the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia,” Pendley said. “She recommended me for the alumni board, I was elected and have tremendously enjoyed the experience. There are some great people who serve on the alumni board and it’s been a pleasure to get to know them and work with them.”

Besides her involvement with Kennesaw State’s alumni board, Pendley was a member of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for almost 15 years, serving as president of the Southeast Chapter from 2011-13. She was on the board of the Tommy Nobis Foundation for more than two years and currently is the legislative director for the KSU Student Nurses Association.

Pendley, honored with a Distinguished Alumni Award in 2008, is a proud ambassador of Kennesaw State to the local community.