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.
Neeli Bendapudi was scheduled to throw out the first pitch at the University of Louisville – Indiana University baseball game on Tuesday. A few days earlier, however, she had suffered a torn rotator cuff while unpacking at her new UofL home.
Meagan Hensley, a UofL softball pitcher, would happily throw the ball for Bendapudi at her first athletic event as the new University of Louisville President. She was accompanied by her husband Venkat, a senior lecturer in the School of Business at Kansas University.
Bendapudi departed Jim Patterson Stadium shortly after the game started, presumably for other UofL business, only to return during the seventh inning. She was seen walking the steps in different areas of stadium, introducing herself to many of the 2,257 fans in attendance.
People were eager to get to know her, letting her know how excited they were to have her in Louisville. Many of them wanting to have their pictures taken with her. Neeli, in return, happily posing with them, frequently throwing up the L sign, laughing, smiling, loving every minute of the interaction with the fans.
This observer actually had a couple of minutes before the game to chat with her, finding her to be engaging, warm and enthusiastic. She makes a great first impression with everyone she meets, exuding a sincere and determined desire to do great things at UofL.
She’s clearly excited to be in Louisville and was busy cementing friendships for the University at her first UofL baseball game. Watch for her soon at a Louisville sporting event near you.
One of the faces I look forward to seeing is that of Bill Stone at announcements of major advancements at the University of Louisville. Always seems to be there, as he was when UofL announced the hiring of Howard Schnellenberger in 1985, for the groundbreaking of Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium in 1994, for the Tom Jurich intro in 1997, for the Big East announcement in 2005, the Charlie Strong hiring in 2009, the ACC in 2014 and many 0ther milestones along the way.
Stone always with a quiet smile at those events knowing how far the UofL has come over several decades. Proud of the school, aware of how far the institution still has to go, but having played a significant role in many of the milestones, savoring and relishing each of them.
I first became aware of Stone’s affection for UofL in the early Seventies through his Louisville Plate Glass newsletter. I was editor of the Jefferson Reporter, a weekly newspaper at the time. I looked forward to his latest epistles with those insightful comments on UofL sports. A busy executive who followed the Cardinals closely. One who tailgated frequently with the late Owsley B. Frazier at home football games, sometimes taking him to road games.
I met Bill personally a few years later as a member of the UofL Associates, a booster group, admiring his advocacy for the program. He was just as forceful as a member of the Board of Directors of the Louisville Area Chamber of Commerce. He has served on the UofL Board of Trustees and the UofL Board of Overseers, and he is currently a director of the UofL Athletic Association and the UofL Cardiovascular Institute — as well as involved in a wide range of other community leadership roles.
No one in the community cares more deeply for UofL or has been more active in promoting the University than Bill Stone. He’s the one I go to for insights on UofL issues because of his dedication and aspirations for the school.
Some recent speculation, largely on sports radio talk shows and fan message boards, has raised questions about the relationship between the current leadership of the Trustees and the Athletic Department. Some suggesting there is a rift between the two segments, that the current Board of Trustees under Chairman David Grissom may be displeased with UofL athletics for some reason.
“I can’t speak for the board but I know that there is great appreciation for what the Athletic Department has accomplished under Tom Jurich,” said Stone. “Some tension between the two groups is not necessarily a negative thing, occurring naturally within any organization. I believe Interim President Greg Postel is supportive of the Athletic Department and I would be disappointed otherwise.”
Stone said he was seated at the same table with Postel at the 50-Yard Line Dinner when the Adidas deal was unveiled. “He stood and applauded when Tom Jurich was announced, just like everybody else,” he said. “He was genuinely excited about the deal.”
As for his thoughts on whether Postel would be a serious candidate for the position of University President, Stone said the University “could do a lot worse. He’s a fine person, a quick learner who brings dignity and credibility to his job. He’s a very good man.”
He also believes J. David Grissom was an excellent choice to chair the Board of Trustees. “David is a person of great integrity, outstanding ability and he has been highly successful in everything he undertakes,” said Stone. “I have no doubt that he seeks excellence for UofL.
“David is never going to be seen at UofL game wearing all red, screaming, yelling, jumping up and down, shouting at a referee over a bad call. That’s just not who he is. He is a first-class, world-class executive, and we are fortunate to have someone like him on our team.”
Stone added that Grissom admires success, and was extremely pleased with the $160 million deal Jurich negotiated with Adidas. “Extremely pleased,” he added for emphasis. “He respects success and Tom is very successful. Anyone who thinks Grissom has ulterior motives or other than the best for UofL is way off base. Just plain wrong.”
Stone would not speculate on why Papa John’s executive John Schnatter had made some critical comments about the Athletic Department. “The bottom line is he has done a lot of good things for UofL athletics,” he said. “His name is on the stadium for good reason.”
As for UofL supporters worried about a possible UK tilt on the board, Stone wanted to alleviate that concern. “Many of the issues we are dealing with now are self-inflicted,” he said. “We’re talking about successful business people and educators. They didn’t get to where they are by being petty. I don’t think UK enters into their thinking at all.”
Stone says his only criticism of the current board is that there are few members who are emotionally involved with and passionate about the University. “That may come with time. They have the power, the resources and abilities to make some incredible things happen.”
For all the issues hanging over the campus, Stone remains confident that things are again headed in the right direction. He’s been through a lot for the University over the years, seen more than his share of ups and downs, and is emotionally invested.
“Despite all the problems, UofL remains the most attractive school in the commonwealth right now, with improving SAT scores and higher grade point averages. So much going for UofL, we can relax on building facilities for a while and focus on academics and research. I feel good about the future.”
Some of the individuals intent on writing off Jim Ramsey’s future as President of the University of Louisville are going to have to revise their scripts, possibly rearrange their agendas, go back to the drawing board.
Ramsey says he’s planning on honoring his contract through the year 2020.
Ramsey, seen above at the UofL-Virginia women’s basketball game Thursday night, told reporters earlier in the day, “I’ve got a contract until 2020. And right now, while I’ve been thinking about retirement, I’m 67, I’m planning on staying at this time to finish my contract.”
As for a possibility of him rescinding the self-imposed ban on post-season basketball, there is absolutely no way that’s going to happen.
No one ever accused Ramsey of running away from a fight.
Before any more time passes, congratulations are in order for the University of Louisville’s James Ramsey, recently named Man of the Year by the Louisville Advertising Club.
Don’t ever believe that projects like the expansion of Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium football or the new KFC Yum! Center basketball arena ever get done without truckloads of heavy lifting by the university president. Or multi million dollar campus beautification projects. Or acquiring acres and acres of nearby industrial properties for future growth of the campus.
The man also has canvassed the commonwealth, getting personally involved in recruiting some of the state’s brightest young minds. They recently include a Rhodes Scholar and 12 Fullbright Scholars. U of L will move up in future rankings of the nation’s colleges and universities. Count on it.
Visionary, results-oriented. Jim Ramsey. Getting it done.