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University of Louisville vows smooth leadership transition

December 10, 2021 GMT
Neeli Bendapudi speaks during a meeting of the Penn State Board of Trustees, Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021, in State College, Pa. The Penn State Board of Trustees voted Thursday to hire Bendapudi as president. She's first woman and first person of color to serve in that role for Penn State. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Neeli Bendapudi speaks during a meeting of the Penn State Board of Trustees, Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021, in State College, Pa. The Penn State Board of Trustees voted Thursday to hire Bendapudi as president. She's first woman and first person of color to serve in that role for Penn State. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Neeli Bendapudi speaks during a meeting of the Penn State Board of Trustees, Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021, in State College, Pa. The Penn State Board of Trustees voted Thursday to hire Bendapudi as president. She's first woman and first person of color to serve in that role for Penn State. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
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Neeli Bendapudi speaks during a meeting of the Penn State Board of Trustees, Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021, in State College, Pa. The Penn State Board of Trustees voted Thursday to hire Bendapudi as president. She's first woman and first person of color to serve in that role for Penn State. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
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Neeli Bendapudi speaks during a meeting of the Penn State Board of Trustees, Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021, in State College, Pa. The Penn State Board of Trustees voted Thursday to hire Bendapudi as president. She's first woman and first person of color to serve in that role for Penn State. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — As political and campus leaders expressed sadness over the University of Louisville president’s pending departure for Pennsylvania, attention pivoted Friday to the upcoming search for her successor.

School leaders promised a smooth transition after Neeli Bendapudi was hired to become Penn State’s next president.

UofL trustees will meet Monday to discuss appointing an interim president, the school said.

“We will miss her greatly and together, we will ensure a successful and seamless transition, for us and for her,” Board of Trustees Chairperson Mary Nixon said in a statement.

Bendapudi, 58, promised to do her part, saying she will work with UofL trustees to “ensure a smooth transition” as she predicted that the school is on a course to “rise to greater heights.”

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University spokesman John Karman said Bendapudi would remain at UofL through the end of the month, the Courier Journal reported.

Bendapudi was hired as UofL’s president in 2018, taking over as the school was still trying to move beyond a scandal-plagued period during the tenure of its former campus president, James Ramsey. Bendapudi arrived on the Louisville campus with a reputation as a rising star in academic circles.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, a UofL graduate, summed up the reaction to Bendapudi’s pending departure, saying he was “excited for her but saddened to hear the news.”

The latest shakeup at the top of the school’s leadership comes as public universities prepare for the 2022 legislative session, when lawmakers will craft the next state budget. Political leaders said she leaves with a strong legacy, while turning attention toward the search for the next campus president.

Kentucky House Speaker David Osborne said that “while I hate to see her leave our state, I appreciate the good she has done during her time here.”

He added that “we ultimately owe it to the university’s student body and the people of Kentucky to continue our commitment to ensuring the university remains focused on its mission to educate the next generation of Kentucky’s leaders in medicine, business, education, engineering and technology.”

State Senate President Robert Stivers said she “truly elevated UofL in both reputation and name.” A nationwide search is needed, he said, to “find the very best possible candidate to lead the university.”

The school, however, wasn’t able to rid itself of athletic scandals during Bendapudi’s tenure.

Men’s basketball coach Chris Mack and the Cardinals have run afoul of NCAA guidelines following an extortion attempt by former assistant Dino Gaudio, whom Mack fired last spring.

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The school determined Mack was the “victim” of Gaudio’s attempt to extort 17 months’ worth of salary to keep quiet about impermissible benefits but said Mack didn’t follow university guidelines in handling the matter. Mack was suspended for this season’s first six games.

Highlights from Bendapudi’s tenure include the university’s 2019 decision to purchase financially ailing Jewish Hospital and several other health care facilities from KentuckyOne Health. It turned into a transformative transaction for UofL’s clinical operations and the region.

A $35 million partially forgivable loan from the state provided a vital cash infusion for University of Louisville Health following the acquisition. On Thursday, UofL Health officials announced that the loan will be paid back on an accelerated schedule.

“In just two year’s time, with the help of this loan, UofL Health has turned around the once-struggling facilities and we’re now in a position to pay off the loan 15 years early,” said UofL Health CEO Tom Miller.

Expressing his appreciation, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said: “Not every day that someone pays off their loan 15 years early.”

In separate comments regarding Bendapudi’s pending departure, the governor said she had displayed “leadership by example.”

“From the successful hospital acquisition, to helping navigate the university and community through COVID-19, even supporting the state through testing and vaccinations, her efforts have been extraordinary,” Beshear said.