Terry Mobley, a University of Kentucky basketball player under Coach Adolph Rupp who went on to build the university’s fledgling fundraising efforts into a multimillion-dollar philanthropy system, died early Monday morning. He was 74.
Mobley found early fame as a 6’3” basketball player from Harrodsburg, who signed with Rupp in 1961. He was best known for a thrilling, 15-foot basket in the last four seconds of the 1963 Sugar Bowl Classic in New Orleans, propelling UK to a 81-79 over its nemesis Duke University. Herald-Leader columnist Mark Story declared it one of the 25 greatest clutch shots in UK history.
But he also became one of UK’s administrative mainstays and a member of the Board of Trustees, who oversaw its first $1 billion capital campaign and even served as interim athletics director after a series of scandals.
After he graduated from UK in 1965, Mobley worked for IBM in Lexington. After several years, he returned to the school to work in UK’s fledgling fundraising apparatus, which took in about $3 million annually. He was named UK’s chief development officer in 1977. With his athletic connections and easy-going personality, Mobley grew the department in less than 20 years to almost $61 million a year.
In 2002, he became interim athletics director after then-director Larry Ivy resigned amidst a scathing athletics review commissioned by new UK President Lee Todd that found a culture that used tickets and booster groups as a patronage system under Ivy’s control. Earlier, the NCAA had put the UK football team on probation for recruiting violations and a lack of institutional control. Mobley oversaw numerous changes to the department, including tighter controls from the Board of Trustees, but did not apply for the permanent job, which went to current director Mitch Barnhart.
“As a still new president, Terry stepped in to serve as my interim AD during some very trying days,” former UK President Lee Todd said in a statement. “His high moral character, steady hand and always strong leadership solidified the department.”
Todd said the first $1 billion capital campaign overseen by Mobley “changed the culture of the University. It made us believe not only in our mission to be one of America’s leading universities, but in our role as a leader for the Commonwealth in addressing its most compelling challenges. Terry was through and through UK and will be sorely missed.”
Mobley also served on the board of the Business Partnership Foundation, Gluck Equine Research Foundation, Center on Aging Foundation, Mining Engineering Foundation, and the UK Development Council. In 2005, the Terry B. Mobley Philanthropy Awards were established. The annual awards are designed to recognize staff who have demonstrated outstanding performance and professional achievement in the philanthropy profession at UK.
Mobley was still on the Board of Trustees when President Eli Capilouto was hired in 2011.
“His focus was on service to the university, to his community, to his faith and to his family,” Capilouto said. “His wise, quiet and private counsel was a source of great comfort and help to me in my first years at UK. He always put the institution and its needs first, and I knew that when he spoke publicly, which was rare, that it was coming from a place of considerable reflection, thought and years of knowledge about the university and the Commonwealth.”
Mobley is survived by his wife, Becky; a son, Steve, and daughter, Mary Beth. He was preceded in death by his son, Christopher. Funeral arrangements are still pending at Milward Funeral Directors on Broadway.