Contrary to a Courier-Journal report, Jim Ramsey was not going to be cut loose from the University of Louisville Foundation at a specially-called meeting of the group’s Executive Committee on Monday. Nor was his assistant Kathleen Smith going to be fired.
The meeting, which was canceled, had been scheduled quickly over the weekend following a missive from the J. Graham Brown Foundation on Friday demanding an audit and warning that it could withhold donations from the ULF without more transparency.
“Actually the main purpose of the meeting was to issue a Request for Proposal for a full audit as soon as possible and get the process started,” said Hughes. “We have the utmost respect for the Brown Foundation and what it has done for UofL.”
Ramsey’s future was to be discussed, based on preliminary discussions between Bob Hughes, ULF Chairman; Larry Benz, Chairman of the “old” UofL board, and Craig Greenberg, another UofL board member. “We were going to debate accepting Jim Ramsey’s resignation but to be available as a resource until June 30 of next year,” said Hughes. “They indicated they were in agreement and thanked me for taking the initiative.”
Submitting his resignation as President of the University of Louisville had to be the hardest thing Jim Ramsey has ever done, considering the phenomenal growth that occurred at UofL during his 14 years at the helm.
The Louisville native told this observer that he wants to continue to work with individuals and community organizations which share his aspirations for the University, wanting very much to see UofL’s trajectory continue spiraling upwards.
He’s confident UofL is in good hands with Neville Pinto filling the vacuum as Acting President. “Dr. Pinto is a strong, proven academic leader, and did an exceptional job as the Dean of Speed School and as the Acting Provost,” he said.
Ramsey said he will miss the day-to-day interaction with UofL students, staff and faculty, but wants to continue supporting the University in meaningful ways. He hopes that by continuing as President of the University of Louisville Foundation, he can contribute to UofL achieving its mission as a premier metropolitan research university.
Jim Ramsey is going over some notes with his administrative assistant in the University of Louisville Foundation offices Friday morning when they are interrupted by the messenger.
“Have you heard the news yet?”
“I haven’t heard anything,” says Ramsey. “You mean about the court?”
“The judge has issued the injunction …”
A smile crosses Ramsey’s face, followed by spontaneous laughter. “So this board is prohibited from doing anything?”
That’s exactly what it means, the decision by Franklin Circuit Court Judge Phillip Shepherd granting an injunction to Attorney General Andrew Beshear. The decision places Gov. Matt Bevin’s order restructuring the UofL Board of Trustees in legal limbo.
“Are you kidding me?” says Ramsey. “I know the judge and I am not surprised. This board was in a hurry to meet before the judge acted.”
Whether Ramsey’s resignation as President to the new board is final is anyone’s guess. The only thing certain is that there will be further judicial proceedings before anything is settled.
And, believe it or not, Ramsey actually had seven days from the day he signed the agreement to change his mind and rescind the agreement if he so chose.
If the courts declared Bevin’s order null and void, he could face the possibility of going back to work for the old board. Not likely that he would want to resign twice, or give some of the original trustees the satisfaction of seeing that happen.
Since his “resignation” on Wednesday, Ramsey has turned his full attention to the University of Louisville Foundation. He intends to retain his position as ULF President, continuing to raise funds in support of the University.
For the time being, however, he intends to get some rest and relaxation. He and Jane Ramsey are heading out this weekend with the family for seven days at a resort in North Carolina.
“It will be good to get away for a few days,” he says in the understatement of the week.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.