State of the University - September 16, 2015

State of the University Events

SOTU Photos on Flickr

Monday, Sept. 14

New Faculty Reception
4:30-5:30 p.m., Second Floor Lobby, Abell Administration Center
Reception for all faculty members hired since October 1

Tuesday, Sept. 15

Celebration of Faculty Excellence
6 p.m., Brown and Williamson Club, Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium
Ceremony to honor winners of:

  • President’s Distinguished Faculty Awards (Outstanding Scholarship, Research and Creative Activity; Service; and Teaching)
  • President’s Exemplary Multicultural Teaching Award
  • New endowed chairs/professors
  • Weber Awards
  • New University Scholars and Distinguished University Scholars
  • Faculty whose creative work has resulted in new patents and licenses

Wednesday, Sept. 16

Dedication of Charles H. Parrish, Jr. Freedom Park
10 a.m., Freedom Park
Free, public event to formally dedicate Charles H. Parrish, Jr. Freedom Park in recognition of UofL’s first African-American faculty member.

Annual State of the University Address
2:30 p.m., Comstock Concert Hall, School of Music
Open to the university community
1:45 p.m. -- Robing and line-up (University Club)
2:15 p.m. – Cardinal Marching Band drum line leads processional through campus
2:30 p.m. -- State of the University Address
3:30 p.m. -- Post-event reception

Thursday, Sept. 17

Grawemeyer Awards 30th Anniversary Event
11 a.m., Louisville Palace (SOLD OUT)
Ticketed event to honor Muhammad Ali with the inaugural Grawemeyer Spirit Award for his humanitarian efforts. One of a series of events to recognize the 30th anniversary of the Grawemeyer Awards program.

State of the University Address


Comstock Hall
September 16, 2015

Thank you, Victoria.    

As noted, Victoria Allen is the president of our Student Government Association.  Victoria is from Grayson County, Kentucky; she now lives in Auburn, Kentucky – yes, that’s right, Auburn, Kentucky.  She is a graduate of Bowling Green High School, a McConnell Scholar and a Chi Omega.  She is a very special person.  

Victoria embodies what we stand for at the University of Louisville, and the students that we recruit to the University of Louisville.  

Would you join me in thanking Victoria, not only for her leadership, but for choosing to attend the University of Louisville?  

Today, we again gather as a campus community.  First, we gather to celebrate our achievements of the past year.  Second, we gather to reflect on our continued journey to achieve our statutory mandate of being a “premier nationally recognized metropolitan research university.”  And finally, we gather to reaffirm, and recommit to, the achievement of this mandate.

This is our twelfth such gathering.  As we often say – where we lead, others follow –convocations such as this have now become commonplace for colleges and universities across Kentucky.  

Now let’s stop and think, for just a second, about what we just said.  That is, where UofL leads, others follow.  

Our actions at UofL reflect a deep commitment to our core values.  For example, thirteen years ago, thirteen years ago, we became aware of a street on our campus called Confederate Place.  We immediately took campus suggestions for a name change and in short order the road’s name was renamed to Unity Place.  

Kathleen Smith obtained a $1.6 million grant to create Freedom Park on the very land upon which a Confederate Monument has been located for over 110 years.  Freedom Park is now a bastion of vignettes of the civil rights history of this city and state and memorials to great civil rights leaders in this community and beyond, including:

Anne M. Braden
Dr. Charles Henry Parrish, Jr.
Dr. Rufus E. Clement
Dr. Eleanor Young Love
Dr. Joseph H McMillan, Sr.
Dr. Lucy Freibert
Wilson W. Wyatt, Sr.
Woodford R Porter, Sr.
Lyman Tefft Johnson

We later added a tribute at Freedom Park to recognize the longstanding leadership and work of our former Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Blaine Hudson.  

And earlier today we took another step to reiterate our commitment to equality/social justice and opportunity for all people by renaming Freedom Park for         Dr. Charles Parrish, Jr. – the first African-American on our faculty at the University of Louisville and the first African-American to chair a department at a predominantly white institution in the south. Dr. Parrish’s daughter is in fact, with us. …

Yes, diversity, social justice, respect for all individuals are core values at the University of Louisville – a theme of our 2020 Plan – something we are committed to daily and not just when it is politically correct.

The University of Louisville has been the leader in Kentucky and the South on LGBT issues by being the first public institution to offer health insurance for domestic partners and the first public university to create an LGBT center on our campus.  And just this past month we were selected to the Campus Pride’s Top 25 LGBT-friendly list of colleges and universities – that’s the top 25 in the country!


We began paying a living wage to our employees long before actions by the city or state.  

Our sustainability initiatives continue to be nationally recognized.  Few, if any, have done more than the University of Louisville, to not only reduce our carbon footprint, but to convert brownfield sites into beautiful, valuable campus facilities.  We have again this year been recognized as a Sierra Club’s “Cool School” – the only school in Kentucky to make the list!

And UofL has been recently chosen one of the Top 25 Healthiest Colleges in the United States!


We are expected to lead, and we have done so.  And we will continue to do so.


In fact, for the past twelve years, as we gathered on this day we have talked about our statutory mandate; again, in part because we, the University of Louisville, were the leaders in the fight for the passage of the “Postsecondary Education Reform Act of 1997.”  

This legislation, passed 18 years ago, was about the role higher education must play to improve economic opportunity and the quality of life for the people of the Commonwealth of Kentucky by the year 2020.

That mandate given to us by the people of Kentucky was for us to literally transform ourselves.  It was a mandate to change!

For you see, in 1995 a respected journalist, Ben Hershberg, wrote a series of stories about the University of Louisville – calling us a mediocre institution and quoting our own faculty as saying that top students’ best chance for a good education was to look elsewhere.  

Shortly thereafter Governor Patton and state policy makers knew that a great university in the state’s only major metropolitan area was the key to a better community, a better region and a growing Kentucky.  

And so, for each of the previous years this convocation has been held, we have been able to say that we have been true to the “Postsecondary Education Reform Act of 1997.”  And we can say this again this year.

By whatever measure, quantitative or qualitative, used, it’s been another heck of a year for the University of Louisville – a helluva year – for the University of Louisville.  

Last year:
a.    We, again, saw a record number of students receive baccalaureate degrees from UofL;
b.    We led the state in the number of prestigious Fulbright scholars – and don’t believe that billboard on the interstate, it’s not 9 it’s 10 -- and our Amanda Allen was the only Truman Scholar from Kentucky;
c.     Last year we exceeded our goal for Ph.D.s awarded;
d.     Last year NSF research expenditures were over $179 million, again exceeding our goal;
e.   Last year we received numerous recognitions and citations, including:
-    The Health Enhancement Research Organization’s Executive Health Champion Award in recognition of our Get Healthy Now program;
-    We received the Gold Neighbor Award from the U.S. Army at Ft. Knox, reinforcing our commitment to both active military personnel and veterans;
-    We received the Down Syndrome of Louisville Humanitarian Award in recognition of the work you-our faculty, our staff and our students- do every day in our community;
-    And we will soon receive the 2015 Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award; the only national award that recognizes colleges that demonstrate an outstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion.

f.     Last year we were reaffirmed as a Carnegie Community Engagement university.  We hold both this designation as well as that of a Carnegie Research University with very high research activity;

g.    Last year, we celebrated the achievement of being one of only 52 public universities in the nation to have been successful with a $1 billion capital campaign;

h.    And last year you, our faculty, in the most difficult and trying of times, again went well beyond the expected – receiving recognitions/awards far too numerous to list such as Guggenheims and entry in to national academies.

Our list of accomplishments goes on.


Yes, another special year; another year of building on the great history and tradition that is the University of Louisville.


Again, this progress happened because of you – our students, our faculty, and our staff.  

And we recognize that this amazing trajectory that we’re on has not been easy.  

A friend of mine, a respected scholar, has written about what he’s identified as the “period of privilege” for the academy, and then the more recent times which he refers to as the period of “non-privilege.”

The “period of privilege” began after World War II with the enactment of the GI Bill.  In the 1950s, the space program brought attention to the importance of scientific research.  The late 1950s and 1960s saw the creation of the Perkins Loan Program and Pell Grants to expand higher education opportunities.  In the 1970s, there was the “war on cancer.”  In the 1980s the Bayh-Dole Act.  In the late 1990s, the NIH “doubling” of funds for medical research and the federal government’s commitment to the human genome project.  

Not only were federal funds and policies focused on expanding the role of higher education, but there were also many state programs that supported higher education.  For example, the creation of the Hope scholarship program in Georgia helped lead to the earmarking of lottery payments in Kentucky to fund not only merit scholarships (our KEES program) but also increased funding for need-based scholarships and financial aid programs, such as the CAP grant program and the Kentucky Tuition Assistance Grant Program.

Governor Paul Patton and Kentucky were recognized as national leaders for the passage of the Postsecondary Education Reform Act of 1997.  Governor Patton’s tenure was a golden era for higher education with “Bucks for Brains,” “jump start funds” for research, and funding for “new economy” initiatives.

But it all changed.  For higher education has faced financial challenges beginning with the national recession of 2001.  A minor recession at the federal level but a recession with significant and profound impacts in Kentucky, as we began to lose many of our best paying jobs – our manufacturing jobs.  

The University of Louisville incurred five budget cuts as a result of the recession of    2001-02.  

And then, of course, the “great recession” – the largest economic downturn in our country’s history since the Great Depression – more budget cuts continuing through this past year.  

A period of “non-privilege.”  

We in higher education have seen, in addition to financial challenges, a changing marketplace for both the supply and demand of higher education.  Our consumer profile has changed dramatically with returning veterans; with workers displaced due to rapid technological change; and with the emergence of a Knowledge-Based New Economy where human capital and brain power are the most important inputs into the production processes.  Policy makers also, rightfully, expect transfer students to move seamlessly from community colleges to our four-year campuses, and we are expected to serve the “unders” – the under-prepared, the under-represented and low income.  

In addition, the supply of higher education has changed with the fastest growing sector of higher education in recent years being the “for profit”/ proprietary institutions that provide education to anybody, at any place, and at any time.  

The regulatory environment facing higher education has changed dramatically over the last 15 years – the period of non-privilege.  

Public policy makers have sought to “rank” higher education institutions.  Now, an economist would argue that more information improves consumer decision-making.  But rating over 5,000 different colleges with varied missions, diverse constituencies, and markedly different financial positions is not, as described by one Obama official, like “rating a blender.”  

In addition, today we are not only to be teachers and researchers, but we are expected to be economic developers.  That means direct job creation – with a focus on specific job skills; not the creation of human capital as Nobel Laureate Gary Becker has shown occurs with the investment in higher education.    

We are to be engaged in our communities through our teaching, our research and our outreach; improving healthcare, improving social services, improving economic opportunities.  

Yes, the expectations of the academy have increased, despite funding cuts.  

But you know what?  That’s okay – for at UofL we embrace these expectations and these challenges provide us opportunities.  


And of course we, the academy, have often been our own worst enemy.  The integrity of the academy has been rightfully criticized with high profile events on other campuses that run counter to the very values the Academy holds dear.  

So, while higher education, during the “period of privilege” was viewed as the solution to the issues facing our community, region and nation, today higher education is often described as a “problem” to be fixed.  


On the financial front, let us note today, that the 2016 legislative session of the Kentucky General Assembly is a biennial budget session and represents our best opportunity for an increase in state funding in a decade.  The University community/all of higher education must work to communicate to legislative and executive leaders that higher education is indeed the solution to Kentucky’s economic, health, and social challenges.  For we are an investment in the future of Kentucky – an investment with a great rate of return.

And there are reasons for optimism as we face the 2016 legislative session :

a.    Our State economy is improving; we are adding jobs; and
b.    State revenue is growing.  For the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2015, the state had a revenue surplus of $165 million!  A revenue surplus of over $200 million is estimated for the current year.

But we also know that our state continues to face a structurally imbalanced budget with recurring expenditures outpacing recurring revenues, and that as always, the demand for state funds will exceed those funds available.  

So it is for us to aggressively work with our friends and constituents to convince policy makers in Kentucky to follow the post-recession lead of 41 other states that are now reinvesting in higher education.  

Unfortunately, a recent report put Kentucky and West Virginia last among all states in the investment in higher education for 2014-15.

New state funding must be a university priority – a priority of faculty/staff/students/trustees/ alumni/and all other friends of the university.


And then let’s be brutally honest, remembering the words of Pogo – we, at the University of Louisville have, perhaps, at times been our own worst enemy – for we can be an institution divided.  

A number of years ago one of our mantras was, “We are One University” – not undergraduate or graduate, not Belknap or Health Sciences, not academic or athletics, not teaching or research, but One University.  

Over time Faculty Senate leadership, and some in our athletics program, asked why I no longer talked about One University.  

My failure to do so was a mistake!  

We must overcome the divides that distract us from our work – we must maintain a singular focus on our students and our community. United we will succeed.

So today I ask the Board of Trustees; the University of Louisville Foundation; the University of Louisville Athletic Association; the University of Louisville Overseers; and the UofL Alumni Association, each with different duties and responsibilities, to never forget we exist to serve our students and our community – and this must be our singular, undivided focus.  

For example, only by coming together as one, can we proceed with plans for our next capital campaign of $1.5 billion.  And let us not forget that private support for our programs at the University of Louisville this year is $154 million, while our state support is $139 million.

Clearly, no institution values honest, open dialogue, discussion and alternative views more than we.  We cherish different ideas and debate.  Today, and always, a core value at the University of Louisville is shared governance.  

But while we value debate and the exchange of ideas, in some cases, we have let our divisions and disagreements be based not on facts, realities and meaningful dialogues, but on perception, emotions, and personalities.  It is time for us to overcome these divides!


While it has been another remarkable year in the life of the University of Louisville with so much to be proud of, so much to build upon; some on campus have said that they do not feel the exuberance and joy that should accompany our successes.  Some have said they do not feel the energy and enthusiasm that comes with major achievements and accomplishments.  In fact, some have said that often they feel “beaten down.”

This is understandable.

Budget cuts are hard.

Change is stressful.  

Uncertainty creates anxiety.  

Divides and divisions sap our time and energy.

Last year at this time we said that “to continue to move forward we had to continue to change; we said at this very gathering that we could not continue to do what we have done in the past, to do more in the future.”

We knew then that we had to “climb higher in the tree” and – it would be difficult.  

During the last year:

a.     We have made changes in our organizational structure;

b.     We have made changes in key personnel, including the elimination of two vice president positions;

c.     We have made changes in processes and ways of doing things at the university;

d.    We have moved forward with a first-class/outstanding private practice plan for our physicians – a big, big change from the past; and

e.    We have had hard discussions about our future through our “University of the 21st Century” initiative.


Second, it could be that we feel discouraged because there is a small but vocal minority in our community that do not feel the sense of achievement and accomplishment that defines the University of Louisville.  

In fact, we were told by one individual that a few outspoken critics of ours believe the University of Louisville has gotten “too big for its britches” – whatever that means!  

So we must do more to educate our many constituents on what it is that we do every day.    

In the words of my friend Michael Crow – it does not matter how much we communicate.  It is not enough.  A priority for the year ahead is to better educate the public of the true work of the university.  And equally important, we must continue to better improve our own internal communications.


In 2006, at the conclusion of our annual Board of Trustees retreat, our Board applauded the University for our successes, not only over the prior year, but from the beginning of the “Postsecondary Education Improvement Act.”  At that meeting, our Board gave us three clear charges going forward.  

1.    First, since we had been successful moving forward with the Challenge for Excellence, it was time to begin a campus discussion around a new plan – the product of which, of course, became the 2020 Plan;  

2.    A second charge from our Board was that it was time to rebrand the university.  “Dare to be Great” was stale, it was old, for we were being great; and  

3.    Third, we were asked to begin a capital campaign.  

But interestingly, the Board also made a fourth request of the university at that time.  The Board implored us to do more to celebrate our successes.

Great things were happening at the university – they still are – but we haven’t and often don’t take the time to recognize and celebrate the contributions/work/achievements of you, our faculty, students and staff.  

The University of Louisville has much to be proud of and the campus must not be afraid to celebrate our successes, and we must do a better job of recognizing and thanking our faculty, our staff, and our students for what you do on a day-to-day basis.


A couple of years ago our youngest daughter, Jacque, met a remarkable young man named Drew Hilliard; she brought Drew into our lives.  Drew graduated in 2001 from Manual High School.  I was not yet in this position; if I had been, I would have tried to recruit Drew to come to the University of Louisville.  

But I would not have been successful, for Drew was committed to service to God and country – he attended the U.S. Naval Academy.

After his graduation, while on active duty, Drew was diagnosed with a deadly cancer that he fought gallantly for a number of years.  With the recurrence of the cancer a little over a year ago Drew received treatment from several different world-class medical centers around the country, yet on two occasions he was referred back to the University of Louisville’s James Graham Brown Cancer Center.

In the end Drew, at age 32, lost his fight.  In communicating Drew’s passing to one of our oncologists who helped treat Drew, our faculty member responded with sadness and remorse, but also saying, “Drew’s tenacity and courage will have a lasting and meaningful impact on me and my group.  We need to move our ideas, our research, into the clinic, now!”  Now!  


And so it is.  We have more to do, and we must have a greater sense of urgency.  

It is time to implement the plans developed as part of the “University of the 21st Century.”  NOW!  

With the potential for $60 million in private support, it is time to move forward with our collaborative multi-disciplinary health initiatives, where we have the opportunity to be world class!  

While the economy of Kentucky has improved, we still have 80,000 fewer manufacturing jobs today than over a decade ago.  We as consumers will always want to consume – products will be made – so it is for us to ensure that products are built here in Kentucky using additive manufacturing technologies, which we at the University of Louisville are the best at anywhere!

So it is time for the UofL Foundation to start the construction of a world-class home for our Institute for Product Realization on the Belknap Engineering & Applied Sciences Park.  We must move forward.  NOW!

And while a few programs of excellence have already been identified in our “University of the 21st Century,” it is time to pick up the pace, especially with the process for identifying other areas of collaboration which are important to our community/state and we have the ability to be world class.  The time is NOW!

Provost Neville Pinto has presented a road map for moving forward with the “University of the 21st Century” to the Board of Trustees.  It is time to move from plan to implementation!  NOW!  Neville and I will be soon holding campus forums to discuss next steps.

We must have a greater sense of urgency in ensuring that our partnership with KentuckyOne is fully performing, including the very difficult challenge of physician alignment of our two organizations.  The time is NOW!

And after years of tuition increases, and after years and years of state budget cuts, it is time to ensure that our university remains affordable to all students.  The time is NOW!

And we must address the market inequities which you, our faculty and staff, face as a result of years of budget cuts.  The time is NOW!


Last year, our theme at this time was that we have come too far as an institution; too many people in our community were counting on us as an institution, for us, as an institution, to slow down or quit.  

We said we could not, in the words of the Navy Seals, “ring the bell.” We could NOT be discouraged by our challenges or obstacles.

What was true then is even more true now.   We, as an institution, cannot “ring the bell.”

So let’s be clear:
1.    We must aggressively fight for financial support in the upcoming legislative session;
2.    We must come together as one-one institution with an unrelenting passion for our students and the continued betterment of our community;
3.    We must better communicate the mission/work/success of the university while unapologetically celebrating our successes;
4.    We must take the work of the “University of the 21st Century” discussions and as we like to say “make it happen”; and finally,
5.    We must have a greater sense of urgency to ensure our promise of the future and the achievement of our statutory mandate!

The time is NOW!


For you see, we are here today and we are again reminded that there are more Drew Hilliards waiting for us to find better treatments for cancer.  

We are again reminded that Principal Stephanie Nutter has another class of young children from single parent families and low income families starting their education at J.B. Atkinson at 2811 Duncan Street in West Louisville, sitting there on the gym floor and being asked what year will you go to college.  

We are again reminded that Beth Fuller, who received her National Certification as a result of our work, has another class of excited fourth graders at Carter Elementary School at 3600 Bohne Avenue in the West End.

We are again reminded of MG Peggy Combs and our partners at Ft. Knox, and other active duty military personnel and veterans alike who are counting on us.  

We are again reminded of Dr. Kevin Cosby and our friends at Simmons College of Kentucky, where Dr. Charles Parrish started his renowned academic career, and we know they are our partner in ensuring that higher education is available to all, to all.  Daily as I enter the Oval to our campus, I read, and then I reread, the banner of the words of former UofL trustee chair, Woodford Porter, “Education is the great equalizer.”   Indeed it is!

We are reminded of the patients who come daily to Park Duvalle Community Health Center to see Dr. O, who is with us today; or come to the Portland Community Center to see Dr. Bill Wagner, and we know of the roles we play with these valued partners.  


And then, and then,  most importantly, most importantly, we are reminded daily that there are more Victoria Allens from Auburn, Kentucky.  And if the Victoria Allens of our state, those students who want a world class education, feel that they must leave Kentucky to get that education – we know they probably will never come back home to help our state grow and prosper.  

And that cannot happen!    


In 1997 I left my family and job at another school – at considerable costs to my family – to join Governor Patton, at his request, to work on the “Postsecondary Education Reform Act of 1997” – I did so because I believed in a better Kentucky.  

Later, I had the opportunity to work for a higher education “superstar” at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill – Dr. Michael Hooker.  Michael, who himself lost his fight with cancer at age 53, reminded me daily that there is only one reason for public universities to exist – and that is to serve the public, to serve the people of our state.

Let us never forget why we as an institution exist.


The Apostle Paul wrote to his mentee, Timothy, that, “We have each been given a race to run.”  

And so for whatever my remaining time at the University of Louisville may be, my singular focus will continue to be on our students and our community.  


Thank you for all you do.  Have a great semester.   

Office of the President

Grawemeyer Hall

University of Louisville

Louisville, Kentucky 40292


tel (502) 852-5417

fax (502) 852-7226