Leadership is a word with many meanings. In Louisville, with established institutions like the church, education and the arts, there are many places where we look for wisdom and guidance. A constant source of leadership in this community has been the generous foundations that provide important financial boosts to notable projects that otherwise might not make it on their own.
At this moment in Louisville’s history, two of the most important philanthropies are the J. Graham Brown Foundation and the C.E. & S. Foundation, created by David Jones Sr. and his family. Both have stepped forward in recent days to publicly demand that the University of Louisville Foundation clean up its act or risk losing important philanthropic support.
Until now, very little has appeared to shake the foolish isolation of the U of L Foundation. Since the passage of the Open Meetings and Open Records Act 40 years ago, news organizations have repeatedly employed the laws for access to records, permission to attend meetings and so forth.
As a reporter and later editor at The Courier-Journal, my name appeared on several suits; WFPL’s Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting has aggressively used the law as well. The U of L Foundation has consistently resisted or delayed responding, attempting to behave like a private organization, not the public one the courts say that it is.
This is a stormy time in U of L’s history. Since 2009, when misbehavior in the School of Education caused the dean to be forced out and sent to prison, the administration of James Ramsey has been under a cloud. A number of signature Louisville institutions — including the medical school, the law school and the Foundation itself — have been sources of scandal and embarrassment.
These have been attended by prison terms and hush money payoffs to silence retirees. The NCAA has been investigating the basketball program and allegations of sexual misconduct. Even Gov. Matt Bevin jumped in, albeit clumsily, in an effort to bring a new day to the institution. If anything, his incompetent and perhaps illegal meddling could jeopardize U of L’s accreditation.
It is refreshing and vitally important for our businesses and foundations to point the spotlight on the cancer that is eating away at the University of Louisville. Their futures are entwined with the fate of U of L and our city at large. The old saying that “money talks” could not be demonstrated in a more responsible way than it is right now.
During his 43 years at The Courier-Journal, Keith Runyon reported and wrote editorials about the University of Louisville. He holds degrees from U of L’s College of Arts and Sciences and the law school. He was named the Alumnus of the Year by A&S in 1990, and a Distinguished Alumnus by the law school in 1994. In 2012, he received the Society of Professional Journalists’ national award in editorial writing for his commentary on the proposed merger of the University of Louisville Hospital and Catholic Health Initiatives.