Although President Neeli Bendapudi has been on the job for several months, her inauguration Thursday as UofL’s 18th president was a not-to-be missed opportunity for many people.
“I love Dr. Bendapudi. I’m excited for this day and I’ve been waiting for it,” said Kelly Carrico, a staff member in the Office of Finance and Administration. “It’s a big day for UofL —a fresh start.”
A crowd of more than 2,500 attended the celebration, held on The Oval in front of Grawemeyer Hall.
Provost Beth Boehm told attendees that the inauguration recognizes “ancient and enduring” academic traditions. She also had high praise for Bendapudi: “She is a breath of fresh air,” said Boehm. “She has restored the university’s optimism.”
Several dignitaries took part in the celebration. The dais party included Gov. Matt Bevin, Rep. John Yarmuth, Mayor Greg Fischer and Robert Brooks Brown, a U. S. Army four-star general who previously worked with Bendapudi to create military education programs.
Fischer said he is impressed with Bendapudi and that they share many of the same values and ideals.
“We’ve made a pact to build the best town and gown in the country,” he said.
Western Kentucky University President Timothy Caboni was one of many education officials who traveled to Louisville for the inauguration. Caboni, who worked with Bendapudi when they were both at the University of Kansas, said he wanted to show his support “as a sister institution” president.
“We’re really pleased to be here to celebrate a new president as well as our good colleague,” he said
In her inauguration speech, Bendapudi talked about the importance of leadership, ownership and the courage to tackle big ideas.
“We Are UofL cannot just be a hashtag or a slogan. It is our declaration of leadership and ownership,” she said. “We will all behave as owners of the university, because we are.
“Now, in the shadow of The Thinker, I want you to think with me big, bold thoughts, daring to imagine what would happen if we succeed, which we must and which we will.”
Several times during her address, Bendapudi expressed gratitude for the work of faculty and staff.
“Our faculty are inspiring. Not only are they committed researchers, they go the extra mile and invest time to build meaningful, deep, transformative relationships with our students,” she said. “Our staff work tirelessly to make this place run. They are the glue that holds this university together.”
She also told students, “you truly are the reason we exist and I have to tell you, you are among the best I have ever seen. I love you. I do. It’s not in the script but I cannot resist.”