Jim Ramsey’s legacy at UofL will dwarf the distractions

The Thinker is more alone today than ever on his perch in front of Grawemeyer Hall.

Jim Ramsey earned and deserved a farewell tour over the next academic year as President at the University of Louisville. But after six hours of negotiations on Wednesday, his offer to resign was accepted, effective immediately.

Jim Ramsey at last board meeting.
Jim Ramsey enters his final UofL board meeting.

The Jim Ramsey era, from 2002 to 2016, will be remembered as a time of unprecedented growth for the University. Great strides in all areas of endeavor, including academic, athletic, student enrollment, graduation rates, and physical facilities.

Under his guidance, the school experienced a metamorphosis of mammoth proportions, transforming from a small sleepy aging commuter school to a dynamic campus attracting thousands of campus residents. This was accompanied by beautification efforts that left no area untouched, ranging from the restoration of The Thinker to the addition of striking new entrances on all sides of the campus.

Jim Ramsey may have done his job too well to suit some people, some of them threatened by UofL’s incredible advancements. Among them Steve Beshear, the former Governor, who ignored laws concerning university boards, placing donors on the board who had questionable loyalties to UofL.

Among the board members were some developers who resented the competition from the University, which was expanding in South Louisville, on the downtown medical campus and on the Shelby Campus in the East End. This along with plans for a major research park in an area adjoining the Speed School and Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.

Born and raised in Louisville, Ramsey was a leader with inexhaustible energy, dedicated to the University, totally driven in desire to take UofL to plateaus that would have been unimaginable 20 years ago. The legacy will continue to grow and flourish long after the President cleans out his desk on Thursday.

Coincidental to all the progress at UofL in recent years came some troubling issues that were neither his fault or remotely under his control. Trusted individuals helping themselves to federal grant monies, blackening the eye of the University, time and time again it seemed, tainting the administration.

A local newspaper fixated on the negative. Old money people wanting to exert their influence on a growing university. Developers resenting the University’s growth. Gubernatorial appointments clearly designed to create division on the board. The controversy continued to grow, eventually overshadowing all the good that had been accomplished.

Governor Matt Bevin forced to dismiss an entire Board of Trustees. Attorney General Andy Beshear filing a lawsuit to declare the appointments illegal and, in the process, leading to a circus atmosphere, creating uncertainty. The new board concluding that Jim Ramsey was becoming a magnet for controversy and that a new beginning was best for the University.

Jim Ramsey should have been riding on the shoulders of appreciative UofL alumni and supporters as he departed the campus on Wednesday. He leaves behind a legacy of accomplishments and respect that will be difficult to match. He also leaves a strong foundation that will make it possible for his successor to envision achieving the goal of becoming one of the nation’s premier metropolitan research universities.

Jim Ramsey was well on his way to making that happen.

 

 

UofL Trustees to decide on Jim Ramsey transition

Update: The board meeting was rescheduled for Wednesday at 3:30 p.m.

The University of Louisville Board of Trustees has called another special meeting for Tuesday at 9:30 a.m., this one specifically to consider Jim Ramsey’s future role at the University.

UofL agendaRamsey, who became UofL President in 2001, offered to resign earlier this month while indicating that he would be willing to serve through the 2016-17 academic year.

The first item on the agenda is “consideration of President’s resignation,” followed immediately by a “discussion of Next Steps, including transition planning and search process for the next President.”

Seems apparent that the Board will accept Ramsey’s resignation. The issue to be resolved is whether he will be allowed to serve as UofL President during a transition period. The discussion may also include his role as President of the UofL Foundation.

Supporters of Ramsey would rightfully believe his accomplishments over the past 15 years at UofL have earned him the courtesy of a transition period. Advocates of an immediate dismissal would argue that an earlier departure would help remove some of the controversy that has dogged the University for several months.

Bridgeman: No discussions with Ramsey about his future at UofL

The nightmare continues for University of Louisville supporters, with little promise of the drama going away anytime soon.

The newly-appointed UofL Board of Trustees named by Gov. Matt Bevin last month is getting off to a slow start, taking its time to review the proposed budget and the future of President Jim Ramsey.

Junior Bridgeman in no hurry.
Junior Bridgeman in no hurry.

About halfway through a presentation on a $1.3 billion proposal Thursday, Chairman Junior Bridgeman surprisingly stated the the board would not be approving the budget. He indicated that a committee composed of board members would “dive deeper” into the budget before arriving at any conclusions.

Bridgeman also indicated that the Board of Trustees has not had any discussions with Ramsey about his future, though he had offered to resign during the previous meeting. “That’s a major issue, but we have other issues to discuss as well,” he said. “We hope to resolve the matter at our next board meeting.”

Jim Ramsey in no hurry either. (Photo by Cindy Rice Shelton)
Jim Ramsey in no hurry either. (Photo by Cindy Rice Shelton)

The chairman would not disclose how he was leaning, saying it was the board that would make the final decision on Jim Ramsey’s future at UofL.

As for the budget issue, it was unclear whether Bridgeman made the budget decision based on the presentation or whether he was reacting to complaints from a student and her mother who interrupted the meeting several times, protesting a proposed 5% increase in tuition.

Bridgeman was noncommittal after the meeting, indicating that he thought that dialogue with students was healthy. “That’s what a university is about,” he said. “It’s about open discussion, open thinking, the exchange of ideas, debating different ideas. If you’re not happy with something that going on, it provides a forum to address that.”

The chairman was being too kind, ignoring the disruptive nature of the feedback. The criticism appeared premature, the students calling the Bevin appointments illegal while assuming the board had already decided to approve the budget.

He promised students, however, that they would be invited to make comments during the committee meeting on the budget.

UofL supporters can only hope that the current board is allowed to continue to do its work. If a Franklin Court judge issues an injunction, the old members will be back, ensuring continuing chaos well into the future.

Farewell event set for UofL’s Crawford Gym

For years, Crawford Gym was the site of intense practices and pick-up games featuring Louisville’s best college and professional basketball players. The historic structure, built in 1963,will be coming down in mid-August to make way for a new academic building.

The facility also housed the Cardinal swim teams and served thousands of students who took classes and competed in intramural sports ranging from racquetball to volleyball.

UofL will pay tribute to Crawford Gym with an open house for former players and fans from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 4. Activities will include an 11 a.m. event in which Hall of Fame Coach Denny Crum and several former players will share memories of their days in Crawford. The open house is free and open to the public.

Fans can also share their memories of Crawford Gym in the comments section at uofl.me/crawfordgym. The university will collect the memories through Aug. 7, at which time the comments will be delivered to the University Archives.

Fans can own a piece of Crawford Gym in one of two ways. The university will sell a limited number of 8 x 10-inch pieces of the Crawford Gym floor for $50 apiece. Go to uoflalumni.org/crawfordgym for more details. Scoreboards, bleachers, goals and other items will be part of an online auction July 26-Aug. 5. The auction site is http://mcginnisauctions.hibid.com/auctions/current.

All proceeds will benefit the Denny Crum Scholarship Fund, which provides scholarships for 100 Louisville-area students annually.

Shoni Schimmel not much of a factor for New York Liberty

Shoni Schimmel’s career in the Women’s National Association may be coming to an end … and it won’t be a happy ending for all the people who looked up to her.

Shoni Schimmel.
Shoni Schimmel.

Considered a role model when she played for the University of Louisville women’s basketball team, Shoni and her sister Jude attracted hundreds of Native Americans at home and road games. They celebrated when Shoni was picked by the Atlanta Dream in the WNBA draft in 2014.

Shoni would get off to a good start in the WNBA, averaging 8.3 points and more than 21 minutes of playing time per game. She was voted to the NBA All-Star team in her first season, going on to earn Most Valuable Player honors while leading the East to a 125-124 overtime win over the West.

Instead of going overseas to play basketball, Shoni elected to go home to the reservation after the season. She returned the next season to Atlanta needing to play herself into shape, starting slowly but finishing the season averaging 7.6 points per game.

Atlanta wasn’t happy with Shoni’s lack of commitment during the off-season, trading her this year to the New York Liberty. Schimmel again was out of shape, needing to recover from her time off on the reservation.

New York Liberty is 17-7 and leading the WNBA’s Eastern Conference. Shoni has not been a factor, however, averaging less than five minutes of playing time in 16 of the team’s 24 games.

Schimmel scored six points on a couple of 3-pointers in an 88-70 loss to the Minnesota Lynx six games ago but has not scored since. She was scoreless in three games and didn’t see the floor in the two other games.

Disappointing that Shoni loses her motivation between seasons, failing to stay in shape. That’s unfortunate for her — and all the young Native American girls who looked up to her.