University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto received a pay raise and a $150,000 performance bonus Friday, but he quickly eclipsed that news by announcing that he and his wife, Mary Lynne, were giving $250,000 to establish a multi-disciplinary health research center at UK.
"I think it is time to make death a beggar in Kentucky," he said. "But we cannot do it without talent and infrastructure."
His announcement came at the end of a long speech about his recent trip to the Normandy beaches, where he saw the grave of Howard Henry of Harlan, a Kentucky soldier who was killed before achieving his dream of becoming an engineer. Capilouto went on to compare the war dead with the thousands of Kentuckians who die from preventable diseases.
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"Every three years — less than that, really — we fill a cemetery the size of the one I witnessed in Normandy," he said. "Every three years, we create a Normandy of death and loss — dreams denied, lives cut short, potential lost for our state."
Capilouto said he would begin a campaign to raise the money needed for the center from private donations and the state legislature.
"Such a facility — dedicated with fervor and focus on the seemingly intractable scourges confronting Kentucky — can change our state for the next 100 years," he said. "The fact is that discovery and healing today take place not just in one discipline but at their intersection across and among disciplines, where talent meets, creates and discovers."
A new research building has been on UK's wish list for several years, but it has never received funding. Capilouto said it would cost more than $100 million and would be on South Limestone near the pharmacy building and other research centers. Capilouto's gift could kick off fundraising that would make the project more attractive to state lawmakers, who would have to approve bonding.
Capilouto emphasized that the building will not just be laboratories but space that can attract people from many fields who can put their minds to solving Kentucky's health woes.
Capilouto's action no doubt further burnished his reputation among the people who hired him, the UK Board of Trustees.
The board voted Friday to give him a 2 percent salary increase and a $150,000 performance bonus.
"I think it's great. He's leading by example," said trustee Keith Gannon, who was elected board chairman Friday.
The salary increase of about $10,000 brings Capilouto's total salary to $535,500. One bonus was for 10 percent of his salary. The board decided to award an additional $100,000 for outstanding service over the past two years.
That word — outstanding — was the one used most often in his evaluation, board chairman Britt Brockman said.
Board members and 28 others from constituent groups routinely rated Capilouto as doing a great job with new building programs and a new dining contract. His handling of a proposed Rupp Arena renovation also was praised. Lexington's mayor scuttled the $351 million plan after UK said it was interested only in a scaled-back project.
"It's unbelievable what this university has accomplished," Brockman said. "You can feel a palpable energy on this campus."
Capilouto embarked on an ambitious $1 billion construction program across campus. He privatized dining services and started a partnership with a private developer to build new residence halls.
Also underway are an expansion of the Gatton College of Business and Economics, a new $100 million science building and a revamped student center.
The evaluations called for improvements in Capilouto's communications and more emphasis on graduate education and shared governance.
The evaluations also said that there's a perception that all decisions are made by a small leadership circle. The president was urged to include more trustees in policy decisions and promote more women and blacks.
Still, trustees clearly support the man they hired three years ago. Trustee Jim Stuckert said he thought Capilouto was underpaid compared to other presidents.
"He can not only lay out a vision; he can execute that vision," Stuckert said. "This gentleman has the unique skills to possess fabulous vision for the University of Kentucky. ... I look forward to the next three years to continued outpouring of fabulous visions. ... I know they'll be executed."
Andrew Hippisley, chairman of the University Senate Council, said faculty opinions of Capilouto's leadership had improved on questions that were asked previously. Hippisley said Capilouto's focus on undergraduate education had clearly paid off.
"That's seen as overwhelmingly positive," he said. "Graduate education and research were much less fantastic and haven't moved much."
Faculty trustee Robert Grossman has been asking the administration about new research space. He said Friday that he was surprised by Capilouto's gift announcement.
"The faculty will be very pleased to see how he and Mary Lynne are making a personal commitment to make it happen," Grossman said.
In other business, the board of trustees voted to elect new officers. Gannon became chairman and Barbara Young the vice chairwoman. Sheila Brothers will remain as secretary.
The board also voted to issue $370 million in bonds. Of that, $150 million will further outfit space at UK Hospital, $160 million will finance the student center expansion, and $60 million will go for interest, insurance and issuance costs.