Community Education

Neeli Bendapudi has done what no University of Louisville President has before: Earned a welcome reception by the Louisville Urban League.

Urban League CEO Sadiqa Reynolds and U of L Pan-African Studies Chair Ricky Jones organized this week’s reception, applauding Bendapudi for her actions and urging the community to support her.

As around 50 community members ate, drank and talked at the reception, Jones told them how a call from Bendapudi convinced him she was an ideal choice for president. He said Bendapudi called to check on him after he appeared on Fox News with host Tucker Carlson. Carlson called Jones a racist because of a Courier Journal editorial Jones wrote.

“That’s leadership. When a leader just calls you up to let you know that she cares,” Jones said. “What the University of Louisville really needs is more truth, transparency and trust. Because you can’t have the last without the first two. And she’s been committed to that.”

Bendapudi was elected U of L’s first woman president in April. Before she arrived, the university was steeped in controversy due to overspending by its former president, a scandal involving the men’s basketball team, an FBI investigation of the men’s basketball team and more. Those controversies seemed to hurt the university’s wallet, as the school’s nonprofit foundation reported sharp decreases in donor funding between 2016 and 2017.

Since, Bendapudi’s administration has filed a lawsuit against the school’s former president, settled a lawsuit with its former athletic director, and removed John Schnatter’s name from its football stadium and business school. That was days after Forbes reported Schnatter used the N-word in a conference call, which Schnatter confirmed.

Mayor Greg Fischer, who attended the Urban League reception, said he’s excited to welcome Bendapudi and expects U of L will be critical to furthering Louisville’s development.

Bendapudi thanked visitors for attending the reception and said the university would be committed to diversity and improvement.

“I guarantee you every single day that we will try to make sure that what we’re doing, to the best of our ability, is the right thing to do for the community,” Bendapudi said.

Urban League CEO Sadiqa Reynolds said this was the first event of its kind held for a U of L president.

Kyeland Jackson is an Associate Producer for WFPL News.