Photo by Joe Sonka
Photo by Joe Sonka

The University of Louisville Foundation will have a new leader this week, as the executive committee of its board on Tuesday approved the hiring of Thorntons Inc. executive Keith M. Sherman to serve as interim executive director and chief operating officer.

Sherman, who is 52 years old and lives in Prospect, has served as the vice president of human resources for Thorntons over the last two years and was previously an HR executive at the American Red Cross and Kindred Healthcare. His 12-month term at the foundation will begin Dec. 1, with a salary of $242,000 per annum.

Sherman’s interim position was newly created following the forced resignation of former UofL president Dr. James Ramsey, who for 14 years led both the university and its nonprofit foundation that manages the school’s $655 million endowment. Whereas Ramsey received roughly $2 million annually in recent years due to large deferred compensation packages from the foundation, board chairwoman Brucie Moore said after Tuesday’s meeting that Sherman will not receive such extra benefits.

“We’re excited to have Keith join us,” said Moore. “He has extensive executive experience. There’s a lot of work to be done here at the foundation, and he’s ready to go.”

The foundation has been rocked with criticisms and investigations over the past two years related to its finances and transparency, with Moore implementing new measures since taking over in September to restore the trust of university stakeholders and the community. State Auditor Mike Harmon’s examination of the foundation’s governor is set to be released in December, and Moore says their new joint audit committee soon will select an accounting firm to conduct a forensic audit of the foundation’s finances.

Moore said the top priorities of Sherman — who is guaranteed at least six months in his interim roles — will be to guide the foundation through the process of these audits and the reforms that may stem from them, in addition to the regular operating functions of the nonprofit.

In a foundation press release after his hiring was announced, Sherman stated he is “honored to take on this leadership role with the University of Louisville Foundation. I strongly support the direction set by Chairwoman Moore and this Board of Directors to restore confidence in the Foundation among key stakeholders. We have many challenges to overcome and a long road ahead of us, but this work is critical to the future success of the University, the City of Louisville, and the Commonwealth of Kentucky.”

Moore said the foundation will continue its search for a permanent leader, adding there is a “high likelihood” that their selection will be a person other than the president of the university. While leading the foundation on an interim basis, Sherman will report to both Moore and acting UofL President Neville Pinto. Moore said Sherman’s salary was determined after Pinto conducted an investigation of other salaries, and she is happy they were able to find someone with his executive experience for a role that may only last for a short period.

In the press release, Pinto noted the importance of the upcoming audits, saying that “hiring Keith Sherman shows the donor community and everyone affiliated with the University of Louisville that we are serious when it comes to improving the operations of this organization to meet the high standards expected by our stakeholders. We are looking forward to Keith’s leadership and his proven ability to implement the vision set forth by the Board as it makes decisions about the Foundation’s governance.”

Moore also said Tuesday that Kathleen Smith — Ramsey’s longtime former aide at the university and foundation — remains on paid administrative leave from her role at the foundation.

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Joe Sonka is a staff writer at Insider Louisville focusing on government, politics, education and public safety. He is a former news editor and staff writer at LEO Weekly and has also freelanced for The Nation and ThinkProgress. He has won first place awards from the Louisville Metro chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists in the categories of Health Reporting, Enterprise Reporting, Government/Politics, Minority/Women’s Affairs Reporting, Continuing Coverage and Best Blog. Email him at [email protected]


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