Some generous givers, a few not so much, on UofL Board of Trustees

Anyone who thought the drama was over with the University of Louisville board of trustees got a rude awakening from Governor Matt Bevin the other day. He is more adamant than ever that current board will be replaced.

“They will be gone soon enough,” the Governor told Terry Meiners on WHAS Radio. “The governance of that university deserves people that are focused on the university and not their own agendas.”

Voters handed full control of both houses of the Kentucky General Assembly to the Republican Party. He says he wants people “who aren’t doing this (serving on the UofL board) for anything other than the right reasons.”

One way of assessing the level of trustee commitment to the University is by examining their financial support. Because the motives of some members has been questioned, UofLCardGame submitted an open records request to the University for the lifetime contributions. 

While some might argue that making public the private donations of individuals to educational institutions should be out of bounds, we believe it is important to follow the money in this case.

There is a wide variance in trustee giving from top to bottom. Some members giving more to athletics than academics, and vice versa. Some giving millions of dollars, and a few notable members nowhere close to being overly generous, given their financial resources. 

Bruce Henderson captures top donor honors for the current UofL Board of Trustees.
Bruce Henderson captures top donor honors for the current UofL Board of Trustees.

Bruce Henderson, owner of Henderson Electric, is the leading contributor, having donated in excess of $1.4 million to UofL, the bulk of it, $1.3 million, for academics and another $126,550 for athletics.

Jonathan Blue, chairman of Blue Equity, comes in second, with total contributions of $1.398 million.  His contributions are weighted in favor of athletics, more than $1.36 million for sports, and $29.4 thousand for academics.

Bob Hughes, immediate past Chairman of the Board of Trustees and a Murray physician, is the third leading contributor, having given $1.37 million to academics, most of it derived from the contribution of his 7,700-square-foot house in Murray to UofL.

Current Trustee Chairman Larry Benz, who is chief executive of Confluent Health, has contributed $787 thousand to athletics and $26.6 thousand to academics, adding up to a grand total of $813,683 in lifetime gifts.

Brucie Moore, a board member who also chairs the UofL Foundation, has contributed $231,669, with most of it, $154.1 thousand, going to academics and $77,500 to athletics.

Near the bottom of the list of UofL contributors are some frequent critics of former UofL President Jim Ramsey who have also argued that the UofL Foundation should be placed under the auspices of the Board of Trustees.

Craig Greenberg near the bottom when it comes to financial gifts to UofL.
Craig Greenberg near the bottom when it comes to financial gifts to UofL.

Craig Greenberg, an attorney and chief executive of 21C hotels, had donated only $4,363 to the University through Oct. 4 of this year. Campbell, an advisor at Lazard Freres & Co., had given $2,760. Both contributed only to UofL academic programs.

“Their contributions to the school don’t match the noise they’ve made over the past couple of years,” said one board member.

Emily Bingham, who has sided with Greenberg and Campbell on numerous issues, has donated more than $79 thousand to UofL, all of it for academic purposes. 

Interestingly, Larry Hayes, former chairman of the Louisville Arena Authority and administrator under former Louisville Metro Mayor Jerry Abramson, has donated a total of $197,360, including almost $180,000 for athletics.

Note: Numbers are current as of Oct. 4, 2016.

UofL Trustees loom as distraction as Game Day comes to town

Great news that ESPN has selected the University of Louisville vs. Florida State football game on Saturday as the location for the enormously popular Game Day show. A milestone with significant recognition for the UofL football program.

UofL supporters, however, should hope that the current Board of Trustees doesn’t do anything to further exacerbate the friction that exists between different University factions. The potential for that to happen is very real.

Larry Benz, chairman of the Board of Trustees, and board member Craig Greenberg.
Larry Benz, chairman of the Board of Trustees, and board member Craig Greenberg.

The day before the game, the Board of Trustees is scheduled to meet with its counterpart from the UofL Foundation. The University board wants to conduct a forensic audit on the Foundation’s books and to fire Jim Ramsey from his Foundation post.

UofL Chairman Larry Benz last week described the Foundation, the University’s largest donor, as an “eyesore to the community,” citing a “culture of secrecy and lack of transparency” at the Foundation.

Benz also reflects the view of some Louisville real estate developers who have expressed competitive concerns about the Foundation’s  development efforts, intended to offset the State cuts  to the University’s budget.

“The Foundation at some point forgot its mission and instead got caught up in the allure of real estate to the detriment of the endowment and the university,” Benz said.

Not a coincidence that local developer and trustee Craig Greenberg, who has been a vocal critic of former President Jim Ramsey, was standing directly in back of Benz at the press briefing. Greenberg is a business partner to Steve Wilson, a developer and former trustee, who has also been critical, suggesting that the Foundation be folded into the University.

Exactly what Benz wants to accomplish at the Friday meeting is uncertain. What is obvious, however, is that emotions are running high on both sides, the University board and the Foundation.

“Our foundation has multiple subsidiaries, holding companies and single-purpose entities that make absolutely no sense,” Benz said. “So, forensic accounting expertise is needed to navigate this complex weave that the foundation has created over the last several years.”

Bob Hughes, who chairs the Foundation and is a University board member, hopes a lawsuit can be avoided. “I think reasonable people sitting around a table can come up with reasonable answers without the benefit of a lawsuit,” he said.

That appears to be a long shot, with some members of the University board apparently focused on just sending Ramsey packing, without any additional recognition, financial or otherwise, for his tenure at the University of Louisville.

Update: The scheduled meeting between the UofL and ULF boards has been cancelled.

 

One step forward for UofL Trustees, another step back

Acting President Neville Pinto is flanked by board members Doug Hall and Larry Benz.
Acting President Neville Pinto is flanked by board members Doug Hall and Larry Benz.

Some good things occurred at the specially-called meeting of the “old” Board of Trustees of the University of Louisville on Thursday. The gut feeling from this observer, however, was that more than a little ill will was simmering beneath the surface.

The board approved a $548.3 million budget, which included a 5% tuition increase while allowing student who complete 30 hours of credit to receive a 5% credit to be applied to the following year’s tuition.  As a concession to some board members, however, the budget included a freeze on tuition for the 2017-18 budget.  A finance subcommittee had earlier rejected the proposed tuition increase in the current budget.

Acting President Neville Pinto reported that student enrollment at UofL will be approximately 21,500 for the fall semester. The figure includes 2,900 incoming freshmen with an ACT test score average of 25.5 and a cumulative high school grade point average of 3.6, with 465 of them qualifying for the honors program.

The meeting ended on a down note when Chairman Larry Benz reported that he has yet to obtain information about a $38 million loan from the University to the UofL Foundation without board approvals.

Jason Tomlinson, chief financial officer for the Foundation, has described the loan as a “receivable agreement,” benefitting both the University and the Foundation. Specifically, the loan was made to the UofL Real Estate Foundation, an arm of the Foundation.

“It was all done to benefit the university,” he told WDRB TV.

Benz, the on-again, off-again Chairman, wants to see the records himself, not trusting the previous administration, continuing to add to the friction between the various factions.

Here’s a video of the board meeting, excluding the closed sessions for litigation and personnel issues

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A recent Courier-Journal story reporting that new offices were being created for former President Jim Ramsey and Chief of Staff Kathleen Smith at the UofL Foundation was in error.

That’s according to Ms. Smith, who reported that the offices were for current Foundation staffers David James, Jake Robertson and David Adams.

The CJ story also suggested that board approval was required for office preparations. That would be a first for most organizations and businesses.

*   *   *

Andrew Wolfson, who covers the University of Louisville for the CJ, has a son who attends UofL.

Adversity takes back seat to Jurich at University of Louisville

When he’s announcing a contract extension for one of his coaches, Tom Jurich often says he likes to judge people on how they handle adversity. The University of Louisville athletic director has been quite adept at negotiating through tough times himself lately.

At the Bobby Petrino press conference,  Jurich said he was most impressed with how Petrino handled himself when his team was 0-3 at the beginning of the 2015 season.

Tom Jurich and Matt Thornton at ribbon cutting for the Thornton's Academic Center for Excellence.
Tom Jurich and Matt Thornton at ribbon cutting for the Thornton’s Academic Center for Excellence.

“We were winless and the ship could have gone in a much different direction,” said Jurich. “Bobby kept everybody together, kept the kids’ heads raised up high, with great attitudes, and we finished very strong, beating Texas A&M in that bowl game. I really look to evaluate people when the chips are down.”

Like when there seems to be a dark cloud hovering over Belknap Campus for a while now. A time that creates uncertainty on many fronts, that would not surprisingly pose a severe test of loyalty from an individual as highly respected as Tom Jurich nationally.

The local newspaper, knowing UofL is popular with its readers, has become predictable lately, posting any and all bad news about UofL on the front page.  Issues like a dysfunctional board of trustees. the dumping of one board for another, employee thefts and lawsuits, the NCAA investigation of the basketball program, the state audit of the UofL Foundation, a President who defied the media and was forced to resign, and, most recently, the announcement of IRS investigations.

Continue reading “Adversity takes back seat to Jurich at University of Louisville”

Louisville’s academic center for athletes raises the bar

Marvin Mitchell visited numerous academic centers across the nation in recent years, anticipating the day when the new Thornton’s Center for Academic Excellence would open at the University of Louisville.

Marvin Mitchell gives Center an A-plus.
Marvin Mitchell gives Center an A-plus.

Mitchell, senior associate athletic director for student services and diversity, was strongly encouraged by his boss Tom Jurich to return with the best ideas, add them to his own and incorporate them into the plan.

The culmination of his efforts arrived Wednesday and Mitchell is confident that he will be overseeing the best-equipped athletic academic center in the country. “This is a huge deal, for these kids to have this kind of space, you have no idea,” he said. “We have worked hard to make this one of the premier programs in the country for academic success.”

In addition to enhancing academics, Mitchell believes the new center will be a valuable recruiting tool. “We want parents who accompany recruits on their visits and after talking with our academic staff to say ‘we’re coming’ before they see the football facility or the basketball court. We want to seal the deal with academics.”

AC - AuditoriumNow in his 15th year at UofL, Mitchell has oversight of academic services, student services, continuing eligibility and student-athlete programming. Academic success for student-athletes has flourished, with the cumulative average of Louisville athletes exceeding 3.0 for 10 straight semesters.

The brightly-lit 43,000-square-foot facility contains numerous variations and combination of study and leisure space, including private study space and larger space for groups.

A massive artistic video wall greets visitors upon entry in the Republic Bank Atrium.  A 204-seat auditorium is equipped with a high definition 18.5 feet by 10.5 feet screen. A cafeteria will make it easy for the athletes to adhere to training table requirements. An Adidas lounge is provided for breaks between tutoring and studies.AC - Cafeteria 2

“It may be the finest facility that we’ve built and certainly one of the most important projects we’ve taken on during my time at Louisville,” said Jurich.

Here’s a video tour hosted by Kyle Bolin: