Mary Nixon knows her way around numerous boardrooms in the community. (Charlie Springer background photo).

Trustee Mary Nixon needs to end silence at University of Louisville

Memo To:   Mary R. Nixon, Chairman, UofL Board of Trustees
From:           University of Louisville Supporters

What a week for the University of Louisville. Waking up one morning to the news that the school was losing both its President and Athletic Director. Neeli Bendapudi off to Penn State University and Vince Tyra reportedly headed for Florida State (at the time).  The folks brought in to rebuild the university a few short years ago, forcing the institution to find new leaders to reshape the future.

A sad part was the apparent conflicts between the two individuals. Their philosophical and business styles taking them in different directions. They had apparently quit communicating with each other, their individual futures becoming their primary focus. Each trying to outmaneuver the other.

Equally unfortunate was the lack of transparency. Not talking with anyone outside of their spheres of influence.  Lots of drama occurring behind closed board meetings. No updates or clues to the general public. Surprisingly, no leaks or trusted source revelations to the omnipresent media, blogs or message boards. Everyone in the dark. The university was the loser again.

However, what has been the most shocking part is the aftermath of the departures — the prolonged silence following these events.

No one communicating what happens next at UofL, no one stepping forward to assure the community that UofL’s future is secure. No one — at least not yet — taking responsibility to communicate with UofL alumni, staff, faculty, students, providers, supporters and fans. Total silence.

This is where you come in, Mary R. Nixon, as Chairman of the UofL Board of Trustees. The responsibility falls to you to communicate the vision of the university’s appointed leaders of where the school goes from here. You have the responsibility of reassuring all of UofL’s different constituencies that the school will not only grow, but thrive under new leadership, continuing its quest to become a premier research university.

It’s too soon to thrust Lori Stewart Gonzalez, Executive Vice President and Provost, into a spokesperson position. She may be quite capable but only a select few outside the school knows much about her other than she earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Kentucky. That won’t go over well in this environment.

Don’t expect individuals from the Office of Communications & Marketing to outline the future. It’s not their job to comfort supporters in times of crisis. They can provide guidance and write some great speeches. But you have to be the voice of the university.

Your only effort to communicate thus far has been with Courier-Journal columnist Tim Sullivan, turning down his request for open meetings. Quick work shutting him down.

Public speaking obviously not a strong point for someone who was responsible for crunching numbers at Yum! Brands during your active career. Restoring confidence in the University of Louisville’s future is quite different from financials, auditing and corporate taxes.

But you have risen to the top, doing what it takes to succeed in the corporate community. Time for you to break the silence, speak up for the University of Louisville. We need to know what’s coming next. Like it or not, that’s your responsibility. Time for you to deliver.

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Charlie Springer

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

3 thoughts on “Trustee Mary Nixon needs to end silence at University of Louisville

  • December 10, 2021 at 3:00 pm

    Unsettling times indeed for Cards fans — again. Calls to mind those days when speculation was WILD when Pitino was about to break the news that he had actually been extorted. Rumors, imagined scenarios, outrageous speculation filled the message boards and airwaves. Seemed like forever before anyone actually “explained.” Shock and awe followed. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire, you say? Just don’t look to message boards commenters to have any real info. Here we go again.

  • December 11, 2021 at 11:44 am

    Thanks for so accurately expressing the frustrations and concerns of the Louisville Cardinal fans. Yes, we deserve and expect more from our leaders at the University of Louisville.

    • December 11, 2021 at 1:26 pm

      My understanding is that Mary Nixon finally sent something out yesterday, but primarily to campus personnel including students. But if you didn’t have a UofL mail, you would have missed it.

      Here’s the message:

      Many of us were surprised by the announcement that Dr. Bendapudi would be leaving the University of Louisville to take the presidency of Penn State University. Neeli has done a great job leading this university out of a difficult past and into a much brighter future. Her impact has been significant, and her successes are well documented. I want to thank her for her many contributions and wish her well in her new role.
      The University of Louisville, though, is much bigger than any one person. This institution relies on the contributions of so many to achieve its potential. We are lucky to have a strong, diverse, experienced leadership team, led by Provost Lori Gonzalez, that will continue to drive us toward excellence.
      UofL is in a much better position than in years past. Our finances are stable, enrollment is on the upswing, we are drawing record research funding, and our strategic plan maps out a course for even greater success in the future.
      I want to assure the campus community that the university will not skip a beat as we transition from Neeli’s leadership to a new reality. The Board of Trustees will meet early next week to appoint an interim president, who will work closely with the board, the deans, the vice presidents and other campus leaders to ensure continued smooth operations and progress toward our strategic plan goals.
      At that time, the board also will discuss a plan to recruit a new, strong, visionary leader to serve as our next permanent president. We will update the campus community as we develop the plans and timeline for that search.
      I also know there is some concern about our athletic program. I’m confident in the future of Cardinal Athletics. The interim athletic director position is expected to be filled at the board meeting, and that person will have our full support. In addition to our governance role, the board members are fans, and we want the Cardinals to be successful on and off the field.
      UofL has a long and proud history, and we have never been more important to our city, the commonwealth and our nation. You have my word that, with your continued support and hard work, the Board of Trustees and the leadership team will continue to advance this wonderful institution and the important, life-changing work we do now and in the future.
      I hope each of you has a nice, restful holiday season with family and friends.
      Mary R. Nixon
      Chair, UofL Board of Trustees

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