Bevin appoints new 10-person board at University of Louisville

Gov. Matt Bevin
Gov. Matt Bevin

Calling it the start of “a new day” for the University of Louisville, Gov. Matt Bevin appointed 10 new school trustees on Wednesday to replace the previous board he disbanded amid turmoil over the school president’s status.

The appointments, which include the founder of the Papa John’s pizza chain and a former basketball standout on campus, are aimed at ending what Bevin had called the dysfunction plaguing the school’s previous board of trustees.

“Today marks the dawning of a new day for the University of Louisville,” said Bevin, who removed the former trustees on June 17 in what he called an effort to put the school’s “house in order.”

Bevin said the new members embody the experience, values and leadership needed to more effectively manage the nearly 20,000-student university.

The Republican governor’s decision to fire the previous board has drawn a court challenge from the state’s Democratic attorney general, Andy Beshear.

Beshear said Wednesday that he is not challenging the board’s new membership; his aim, he said, is to block Bevin from wielding “absolute authority” over the school by dissolving the board anytime he disagrees with its actions.

“Such power would threaten the independence and possibly the accreditation of the university,” Beshear said.

Bevin also is being challenged for abolishing and reorganizing the Kentucky Retirement Systems board of trustees. Former board chairman Thomas Elliott, who was removed by Bevin, filed a lawsuit against the governor.

The UofL board turmoil comes as a July 1 deadline approaches for budget and tuition decisions.

A committee of the school’s former board of trustees killed a 5 percent tuition increase earlier this month. But university President James Ramsey has said that, until the school gets a new board, he would go forward with the increase. He added, however, that students can get that money back if they complete 30 hours of course work in one year.

When Bevin disbanded the previous board, Ramsey, who has led the university for 14 years, submitted a letter saying he would offer his resignation to the newly appointed board.

“I look forward to working with this new board as we move the university forward,” he said Wednesday.

During his tenure, Ramsey was credited with leading successful fundraising drives and helping boost the university’s academic standards for incoming freshmen and its graduation rate.

But in the past two years, he came under increasing attack for embezzlement scandals and other embarrassments, including an FBI investigation of a top health care executive. The school also was criticized for offering buyouts to top officials.

The school’s new board appointments include John Schnatter, the founder, chairman and CEO of Louisville-based Papa John’s International Inc. Another appointee is Ulysses “Junior” Bridgeman, a prominent Louisville businessman and former UofL basketball standout who played in the NBA.

Bridgeman is one of three black trustees, Bevin’s office said. Last year, then-Attorney General Jack Conway’s office issued an opinion that said then-Gov. Steve Beshear’s administration had violated state law with appointments that left racial minorities underrepresented on the UofL board.

Steve Beshear is Andy’s Beshear’s father. Conway lost to Bevin in last year’s gubernatorial election.

In reshaping the university’s board, Bevin asked a postsecondary education nominating committee to submit the names of 30 potential appointees.

Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers said the new appointees possess the ability “to take the university to a new and higher level.”

In addition to the governor’s 10 appointees, the school’s new board will include three members representing faculty, staff and students.

Herald-Leader Reporter Linda Blackford and Associated Press Writer Dylan Lovan contributed to this report.

U of L board members

▪ J. David Grissom, of Louisville, for a term expiring June 29, 2022. Grissom is a graduate of the U of L Law School, a lawyer and chairman of Mayfair Capital, a private investment firm.

▪ John H. Schnatter, of Louisville, for a term expiring June 29, 2021. Schnatter is the founder of Papa John’s Pizza and has given millions for conservative business centers at U of L and the University of Kentucky.

▪ Sandra Frazier, of Louisville, for a term expiring June 29, 2020. Frazier is the founder of Tandem Public Relations.

▪ Nitin Sahney, of Prospect, for a term expiring June 29, 2020. Sahney is the former president and CEO of Omnicare Inc., a large health services company.

▪ Bonita K. Black, of Crestwood, for a term expiring June 29, 2019. Black is an attorney who also served on Bevin’s transition team.

▪ Douglas Cobb, of Prospect, for a term expiring June 29, 2019. Cobb is the entrepreneur in residence at Chrysalis Ventures, a Louisville investment fund.

▪ Ulysses Lee Bridgeman Jr., of Louisville, for a term expiring June 29, 2018. Bridgeman is a former professional basketball player who owns a large restaurant company.

▪ Ronald L. Wright, of Prospect, for a term expiring June 29, 2018. Wright is a gynecologist.

▪ Dale J. Boden, of Louisville, for a term expiring June 29, 2017. Boden is the president of BF Capital, a Louisville based investment firm.

▪ Diane B. Medley, of Ekron, for a term expiring June 29, 2017. Medley is a co-founder of the accounting firm Mountjoy, Chilton and Medley.