No way is UofL’s Bendapudi your typical liberal university president

New University of Louisville President Neeli Bendapudi was flanked by Board Chairman David Grissom (left) and former Interim President Greg Postel (right) during her inauguration..
An estimated 2,500 people were on hand for the inauguration of the university’s 18th President.

The University of Louisville appears to have made an exceptional hire in securing Neeli Bendapudi as the 18th President of the school. She doesn’t seem to be the typical liberal educator, having the ability to communicate well with all segments of the university and the community 

While Bendapudi talks a great deal about inclusion and diversity, it is obvious that her goals for UofL go far beyond issues in which the school has already received national recognition. It is becoming obvious that she doesn’t fit the liberal stereotype so dominant in the leadership of American universities.

For example, during her inauguration ceremony Thursday, one of the people she wanted to speak was General Robert Brown, commander of the U.S. Army Pacific, who had worked with her in developing educational programs for veterans and active military at the University of Kansas.

Brown described her involvement as phenomenal, going far beyond the promises of previous administrators. “She was invested in making the program life-changing for the participants,” he said. “It is a model program for military and educational cooperation.

“She’s the right leader at the right time for this institution, if I can be so bold to say that. But it’s so obvious,” Brown said.

Bendapudi, who formerly served Provost and Dean of the Kansas School of Business, also has considerable experience in and appreciation for the business community. She has served as a consultant to dozens of the world’s largest companies, including Procter & Gamble, Deloitte & Touche and Cessna. 

That was one of the areas the former marketing professor touched on in her inaugural address, noting that UofL is an economic engine for the city of Louisville Metro, and that Louisville Metro is the economic engine for the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

Bendapudi has said she wants to work closely with all areas of the community, including local businesses, as part of UofL’s efforts to become a premier metropolitan research university. She wants businesses to be able to rely on the university for human resources and technological solutions.

During the ceremony, she announced a major gift from the Trager Family and Republic Bank for the creation of a Family Institute for Optimal Aging. The gift, presumably in the millions, is to support research and innovation to improve the lives of people as they age. 

Bendapudi said she already met with Marty Pollio, JCPS Superintendent on ways to expand programs that would assure more students have access to college course credits in high school. She would like every high school student in Louisville to see a clear path to success, and for community college students to see U of L as an option after they graduate.

Not your typical inaugural address filled platitudes and promises, Bendapudi listed a wide range of her aspirations for the students and the university, each seemingly more ambitious and more comprehensive than the last. One gets the impression that Bendapudi has the energy and enthusiasm to accomplish her goals, all while adding new and more challenging objectives to a growing list.

“There’s no question in my mind that at the University of Louisville, our greatest days are ahead of us. Thank you for the opportunity of a lifetime,” she said.

Author: Charlie Springer

Charlie Springer is a former Louisville editor and sportswriter, as well as a public affairs consultant, a UofL grad and longtime fan.