The University of Louisville’s Grawemeyer Hall

The University of Louisville’s momentum in raising money from grants continues in 2019 with Thursday’s announcement of a $2 million pledge from the Gheens Foundation.

Over the last 50 years, Gheens has donated $12 million to UofL, including $2.5 million in 2013 for medical research, according to the announcement. The latest grant of unrestricted funds is the foundation’s second-largest gift, UofL said.

Neeli Bendapudi. | Courtesy of UofL

UofL President Neeli Bendapudi said $500,000 would be directed toward enhancing safety and security staffing and technology on the Belknap and Health Sciences Center campuses. The remaining $1.5 million will fund strategic initiatives identified through the university’s strategic planning process, which is underway.

As Insider reported in January, Bendapudi and multiple committees and work groups will develop the plan, ultimately aiming to implement it in August.

In a statement, Bendapudi said: “This is a perfect time to look at where and how we should invest these funds. The only thing we know for sure is that this gift will be used to ensure that UofL is a great place to learn, to work and in which to invest.”

University officials stated that the Gheens administrators said the donation showed their confidence in the university’s direction and leadership.

The foundation was established in 1957 by C. Edwin and Mary Jo Gheens “to continue their lifelong interests in education, religious programs and human services,” according to its website.

In an interview, Gheens President Barry Allen said the $2 million gift “recognizes the vital importance of the university’s mission.”

In addition, he said, it is an affirmation of Bendapudi’s leadership at UofL, as she and the university can decide how best to use the donation. In a nudge to other donors, Allen added that the Gheens Foundation was offering its own Good Housekeeping-like seal of approval with its grant.

After a tumultuous few years, the university named Bendapudi president last April. Since then, she has been reaching out to the community to encourage major donors to return. Her efforts have paid off. Big gifts include $5 million from the Owsley Brown II Family Foundation, $2.5 million from retired Churchill Downs Inc. Chairman Carl F. Pollard and a substantial gift from Republic Bank Foundation and the Trager Family Foundation in support of optimal aging research.

Insider Louisville received a grant from the Gheens Foundation.

This post has been updated with comments from Gheens President Barry Allen.

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