The University of Louisville's new president vowed Tuesday to promote a culture of openness after trustees selected her to lead the school beyond a series of scandals in recent years. Neeli Bendapudi, provost and executive vice chancellor at the University of Kansas, was introduced as U of L's 18th president. She fills the job held at different times by two interim leaders since James Ramsey was forced to resign as school president in 2016 after he came under attack for his lucrative compensation and other scandals at the university.
Bendapudi said she views U of L as "a diamond with some mud smeared on it." She said the school has a bright future and that she looks forward to meeting with students, faculty and staff.
"I give you my word that every single day, every single moment, I will do my best to make the University of Louisville ... rise to even greater heights," she said.
She also addressed the school's recent problems, which included mismanagement and excessive spending by U of L's investment arm.
Asked at a news conference how the university can avoid future scandals, she spoke of her role in being accessible to the campus and promoting a culture of openness and trust.
"The leader cannot be everywhere, but the leader can absolutely set the tone for who we are, what we will be and what we will not tolerate," she said.
J. David Grissom, chairman of U of L's board of trustees, said the search firm that assisted trustees identified Bendapudi as "a rising star." He cited her skills as an administrator and fund-raiser, and said "she simply blew us away" when meeting with trustees.
Grissom also praised her abilities as a "community builder," and said trustees will look to her to "help create, restore and strengthen" relationships on campus and in the community.
"We need someone who will inspire our alumni, our donors and our fans," he said.
Bendapudi is expected to start at U of L on May 15.
She has held her current position at KU since May 2016 and previously served as that school's business school dean. Prior to her tenure at KU, she taught at Ohio State University.
One of her jobs will be to mend U of L's relationship with its shaken donor base following problems at the school's foundation, the school's investment arm. A scathing audit exposed problems that included excessive compensation of administrators and flawed investments.
Bendapudi said she sees any downturn in donations as a "temporary lull," adding: "It's hard for people to give when they don't know who the leader is and what their vision is."
Meanwhile, an accrediting agency late last year lifted U of L's yearlong probationary status after the school resolved issues related to its governance, administration and finances.
The scandals also reached into the school's men's basketball program, including Louisville's acknowledged involvement in a federal corruption investigation of college basketball. Also, an escort scandal resulted in NCAA sanctions culminating in the forfeiture of their 2013 national championship and 2012 Final Four banners.
Bendapudi's hiring — culminating a months-long search that drew more than 50 candidates from across the nation — was the third high-profile hiring in recent weeks at U of L. Vince Tyra was recently named permanent athletic director, and Chris Mack was hired as Louisville's new men's basketball coach.
Greg Postel has been serving as U of L's interim president since early 2017. Grissom praised him Tuesday for guiding the school through such "difficult times," and said Postel will remain at U of L, resuming his role as a health sciences administrator.