Neeli Bendapudi, the provost at the University of Kansas, will be the 18th and first female president of the University of Louisville.
UofL’s board of trustees unanimously approved Bendapudi in a special meeting Tuesday afternoon. She will make $650,000 a year for five years, board chair J. David Grissom said, with $125,000 in guaranteed annual bonuses for at least the first two years. She begins May 15.
Described as an energetic, proven community builder by board of trustees chair David Grissom, Bendapudi has been the provost and executive vice chancellor at Kansas since 2016, and a professor of marketing and dean at the KU School of Business since 2011. She also received her doctorate in marketing at Kansas.
“My name is Neeli Bendapudi, and I promise you it will roll off your tongue,” she said to a crowded room of reporters and UofL community members.
Tuesday is the 220th anniversary of UofL’s founding — a coincidence not lost on Grissom nor Bendapudi. “I don’t know how you planned it, but I like founder’s day for this event,” Bendapudi said, getting laughs.
Making UofL a great place to learn, work and invest will be Bendapudi’s three focus areas as president, she said. First and foremost is making the school a great place to learn, she said, and second is that the best and brightest want to work here.
“How do we work together – that is the most important thing,” Bendapudi said, adding that one university means one team. “Together we will win with integrity.”
The last few years have been scandal-ridden for UofL, but Bendapudi said she did her homework during the search process and seems unfazed. Bendapudi said she plans on setting a tone and culture of openness, along with being accessible, to help prevent further scandals.
“I thought I was looking at a diamond with some mud smeared on it,” Bendapudi said of UofL, later describing UofL to reporters as “a house with good bones.”
Grissom said the decision came down between Bendapudi and another candidate, and the latter removed his name from consideration. Still, Bendapudi was the favorite for the job.
Bendapudi is the first permanent president at UofL since James Ramsey was forced to resign in July 2016. Former interim president Neville Pinto held the role next before leaving for the permanent position at the University of Cincinnati.
Now-former interim president Greg Postel had held the role since February 2017, and was one of six finalists for the permanent position. Grissom said Postel will most likely return to a role on the Health Sciences Campus, most likely in his previous capacity as Interim Executive Vice President for Health Affairs.
Bendapudi won’t get any other special perks or compensation from the UofL Foundation—two things former president Ramsey was criticized for. She plans on living in Amelia Place, UofL’s presidential mansion.
Bendapudi’s hiring concludes a months-long nationwide search, which initially drew criticism for being closed everyone except the board. While the bulk of the process was a closed search, eight campus representatives joined the board of trustees for the final round of interviews. Those representatives were present at Tuesday’s meeting before the board moved into executive session to discuss personnel matters, later opening the meeting to announce the vote.
A news release from UofL announcing her hiring also touted her “significant business experience,” including serving as executive vice president and chief customer officer for Huntington National Bank in Columbus, Ohio, as well as consulting for “many national and international companies, including Cardinal Health, Cessna, Cintas, Nationwide Insurance, Procter & Gamble and Wendy’s, among others.”
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer tweeted his congratulations to Bendapudi.
Louisville is thrilled to welcome @KUProvostNeeli as the University of Louisville’s new president. Happy she is also first woman to hold the top @UofL job??Congratulations, we’re glad you’re joining our community!
— Mayor Greg Fischer (@louisvillemayor) April 3, 2018
Kent Oyler, the president and CEO of Greater Louisville Inc., released a statement saying that the local chamber of commerce “welcomes Dr. Neeli Bendapudi and looks forward to working with her to grow our partnership, improve our workforce and international reputation like never before. We are particularly excited that she has extensive business experience and look forward to introducing her into our regional business community.”
This story has been updated.