Britt Brockman

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UK selects Eli Capilouto as next president; time for reflection and focus on the future

I hope you had the opportunity to hear or read about our unanimous decision this week to name Eli Capilouto as the 12th president of the University of Kentucky.


It was a proud and historic day for our institution. A moment like this provided us the opportunity to reflect on the last 10 years and the remarkable legacy of leadership of President Lee T. Todd Jr. Policy-makers gave birth in 1997 to the idea of UK becoming a Top 20 research institution, but President Todd made people think the vision could be a reality.


With his bold Top 20 Business Plan, President Todd laid out in painstaking detail what resources would be required to make the journey to Top 20 and, as importantly, what we would do in return for those resources … educating more of Kentucky's children, researching the diseases and seemingly intractable problems that hold us back and expanding the scope and reach of the service we provide throughout the Commonwealth.


We have not completed the journey during President Todd's tenure, but we have taken significant steps. And we have shown people that the only way to accomplish big things is to have big dreams.


Dr. Eli Capilouto believes in big dreams.


On Tuesday, he told board members -- and throughout the week he reminded students, faculty and staff -- that we do ourselves and our communities a disservice when "we dream too little dreams."


Dr. Capilouto and his wife, Dr. Mary Lynne Capilouto, were attracted to UK because there is no shortage here of big dreams. We seek Top 20 because of what it will mean for our state and our people. Eli and Mary Lynne want to part of that. They want to help lead that effort.


And, in their short time here, they felt a deep connection to this place that so many of us know to be special. (For more about the Capilouto family, you can read this release and welcome video from them at


We are so excited that they see that in us and that they want to be part of our family. I hope you will welcome them warmly as they begin to transition from Birmingham to their new home in Kentucky.


The weeks, months and years ahead will be filled with tough challenges, challenges to those big dreams we share. But I'm confident that with the kind of leadership provided by Eli and Mary Lynne Capilouto, and the support and tireless work of people on campus and throughout the state, we will continue to dream big dreams.


And we will begin to make them a reality.

Last and most important phase of presidential search begins

We have now entered the last -- and most important -- phase of our search for UK's 12th President.


On Monday, the Presidential Search Committee completed its work, recommending a small number of finalists for the presidency to the full Board of Trustees.


The 13-member search committee -- composed of faculty and staff leaders, students, alums and board members -- has done a superb job as they have worked tirelessly to find the best candidates to lead our university at a critical moment in its history.


As I told the faculty senate Monday afternoon, any one of these candidates would be a tremendous president. But the responsiblity now of our board is to pick the absolute best person to lead the institution.


Over the next few weeks, I'm sure board members will be reviewing the resumes and backgrounds of the finalists. We will meet the last weekend in April in Northern Kentucky to interview those finalists and select a preferred candidate. If all goes as planned, that candidate will spend a day on campus meeting with faculty, students and staff on May 2.


We are creating an on-line survey so that those who listen to and interact with the candidate can provide instant feedback to the board, which we will use in further evaluating this critical selection. Our hope -- and, indeed, our expectation -- is that we will be in a position to extend a formal offer to UK's 12th president on May 3rd during our regularly scheduled board meeting.


The new president and spouse would be in a position then to begin the busy work of transition before formally starting July 1.


It has been a whirlwind several months since we embarked on this process last fall. We created an ambitious timeline, but because of the diligent and focused work of our search committee -- and many others -- we are on the verge of moving forward in selecting UK's next president, someone we will depend upon to build on the strong foundation that President Lee T. Todd Jr. has created the last 10 years.


As I told the faculty leadership Monday, Dr. Todd's vision -- and their intellectual drive and achievement -- have resulted in consequential and significant accomplishments over the last decade, even as we have been confronted with a challenging and often stagnant economy. By every measure of progress -- research, student achievement, faculty quality and service to our Commonwealth -- this university, the University of Kentucky, is on the right track. We are stronger, more vibrant and more nationallly recognized for our academic achievement than at virtually any time in our nearly 150-year history.


Now, with our next leader, we must position ourselves and this institution to chart a bold course forward. We will continue toward our goal of Top 20, not for the sake of reaching some numerical goal, but because Kentucky needs us to reach higher, to dream bigger and to accomplish more.


The last several months, and the last week in particular as we have moved toward a decisive phase in this process, have affirmed for me that we are on the right path.


Timeline for UK presidential search unveiled

We've reached another important milestone in our process to name the University of Kentucky's 12th president.
Today, we released a tentative schedule that outlines our course over the next few weeks in terms of selecting and interviewing finalists and then, ultimately, making sure the campus community has the appropriate opportunity to provide needed input before our new president is selected.
The attached link -- -- outines the schedule in detail. In short, though, our search committee -- which has done an outstanding job and worked so well together -- hopes to select a handful of finalists on April 11.
The full Board of Trustees will then review those finalists and their resumes on April 30 and conduct interviews on May 1. A preferred candidate will be selected and announced by the board the evening of May 1. On May 2, a series of forums for faculty, students and staff will be held on the UK campus so that this critically important community will have the opportunity to meet the person we hope will be our next president.
We are in the process of creating an on-line assessment tool so that those attending the forums can provide immediate feedback about our preferred candidate. That feedback will be reviewed by board members before their meeting the next day, May 3, at which time we hope to formally announce UK's 12th president.
It's important to note that we have asked the members of the search committee who are not on the Board of Trustees to attend the upcoming board meetings and provide us with their feedback and thoughts. We are doing that because of how much we respect what they have brought to the table in helping lead this process. I knew, going into this search, that we had some incredible faculty, students and staff.
Interacting with some of them during the search as part of the committee has reinforced and strengthened that feeling of respect for the work they do and the quality they exemplify for this instituiton.
I also continue to be excited about the quality of the candidates we have interviewed. I am confident that, at the end of this process, we will have a new president poised to build on the undeniably strong foundation of progress built by President Todd and so many others at UK.
We live in challenging times. But those challenges also mean opportunities for us as we work, together, to lead Kentucky to a brighter, more prosperous and educated future.

High quality means selecting finalists will be challenging

The Presidential Search Committee this week completed more than 30 hours of interviews – over a little more than three days – with the candidates for UK President.


As exhausting as the last few days have been, in an important sense, the search is about to get even more challenging.


That’s because the quality of the field of candidates is so high and impressive, I think our most difficult task in the weeks ahead will be cutting a list of several potential presidents down to three-to-five finalists. For more about the interview process, read


That’s a good challenge to have, though, and I’m confident – given our process thus far and the impressiveness of those in the pool – that we have a field of finalists eminently qualified to be UK’s 12th President.


I’m also confident we will select finalists when the search committee meets again April 11. But, more importantly, my hope – and my expectation -- is that over the last 48 hours or so, we’ve interviewed the University of Kentucky’s 12th president. That’s how impressed I was with the depth and breadth of experience and the exciting ideas and sense of innovation that many candidates brought to the table the last few days as we interviewed preferred nominees in Northern Kentucky.


Once we decide on finalists, the full board will then interview the candidates and make a decision about a preferred candidate or candidates to present to the campus before a final vote and execution of a contract.


We remain on track to complete this process by early May. It’s important that we keep moving forward quickly. But the more important thing is to do it right.

Several of our candidates, I believe, are vying for other top-level university posts. So, we need to move expeditiously with our process.


To that end, we have narrowed the pool – slightly – of candidates about whom we want more information. We will now do what our consultants call a 360-degree vetting. We will check their resumes, talk to their references and review in more detail what they told us during the interviews.


What did  we learn about our candidates the past few days?


Our candidate pool is diverse in terms of gender, race, ethnicity and background.  Most are from universities, but we also have talked with candidates from the private and governmental sectors. 


I think the best of those we interviewed are emboldened by the Top 20 mandate. And we made clear that we are not backing off the mandate. It’s not simply a state requirement. We  told candidates it’s the right thing for UK. It’s the right challenge for Kentucky.


With that, we also discussed the financial challenges confronting UK and the state, which while significant are not as severe as those confronted by many states.

Yet, many of them discussed ideas about how to  generate additional resources, while also continuing to emphasize support from the state and a continued and increased emphasis on fund-raising.


Some talked about international programs and students; some discussed innovations in on-line learning and instruction, an initiative we’ve started in earnest in the last couple of years under Dr. Todd’s leadership and plan to expand going forward.


We also discussed in great detail the need to deepen connections with  those we serve out in the state. We want to continue to improve relations with Lexington as the city’s largest employer and its economic engine, something Mayor Gray and I have discussed at length.


At the same time, we are not the University of Lexington. We are the University of Kentucky. And that was a point stressed to us  by people across the state during our recent 16-city tour and forums. We don’t have the community colleges any more, but we could and should increase services and connections with them. And we want more of their students graduating from UK. We also have the extension service, which operates in all 120 counties and engenders great support from across the state. We can utilize that service even more in solidifying and deepening connections.


We have been building those connections under Dr. Todd through research focused directly on Kentucky’s health, education and economic development challenges. It will up to us, and our next president, to strengthen and expand those connections and that level of service throughout the Commonwealth.


President Todd – along with our faculty, staff and students – has built a strong foundation with his Top 20 Business Plan. Now, we are looking to someone to build on that foundation.


I think we have that person in our pool.  Now, we face the challenge of narrowing down our pool of candidates and recruiting that one person to lead this institution over the next several years.


Tour of state provides perspective on passion people feel for UK

Last week, members of the UK Board of Trustees and our presidential search committee completed a 16-city blitz across the Commonwealth.


We asked one question: tell us what you want to see in the university’s next president?


What we learned – from Pikeville to Paducah and more than a dozen cities in between – was the passion that people from all walks of life have for their flagship institution.


They want to see us more engaged with their communities. They want to ensure that their best and brightest enroll in – and succeed at – UK. And they want a president who understands that every community in the state is important and part of the fabric that we call the Commonwealth of Kentucky.


To be sure, people have different views about some of the qualities and characteristics that they believe UK’s 12th president should possess. Some feel that an academic background and a lifetime in the academy is critically important. Others believe that a business or political background is necessary to run a $2.5 billion enterprise that is complex and has many moving parts, from a diverse academic core to a growing and robust medical center. And, of course, we’re also an institution with a large and successful athletics program.


No matter the perspective, though, it was clear that people care deeply about UK. They understand its importance to Kentucky. They understand its importance to their hometowns.


The feedback we received will be important as we begin this week with the next phase of the search. Starting tomorrow, we’ll be interviewing a number of prospective candidates in Northern Kentucky. We haven’t eliminated anyone from our pool at this juncture. These candidates were people who piqued our interest initially and we asked for more information about them from our search consultants.


Over the next three days, we’ll interview these candidates to assess whether their backgrounds and qualifications make them the right fit at this time for UK.


And I’ll take a lot of the information I’ve gleaned from going around the state, talking with so many of you, about what you see as needs for our flagship institution.


I do know one thing for sure. We’ll be looking for someone who shares a passion for UK, the kind of passion I saw in abundance last week across Kentucky.


A look at the incredible progress of the Todd years

Often, we call tell a lot about our future progress by taking note of what already has been accomplished.


Our public relations and marketing team recently sat down with President Lee T. Todd Jr. for an extended discussion about both the progress and challenges of the past 10 years. The story and video interview are here:


It’s the first story in an occasional series of articles that will run over the next few months about the major accomplishments and events during the Todd years.


And, without question, our progress has been remarkable considering the funding and economic challenges our university has confronted over the past decades:


Record enrollments and student quality … record amounts of research … and a renewed commitment to serving our state.


It’s exciting progress even in the midst of often daunting challenges and obstacles.


If our past is, indeed, a prologue for the future, then we have much to look forward to as we continue the process of selecting our 12th president.


Looking back at what our institution has done in recent years makes me even more excited about what the future holds for UK and our Commonwealth … if we will be committed to education.





Search Committee begins statewide tour

As part of our effort to ensure that everyone possible has a voice as we search for UK’s 12th president, a couple of our board members have initiated a statewide tour to gather input.


Jo Hern Curris and Pam May are organizing a tour across the state. Held largely in the offices of our extension service, they will be traveling from Eastern Kentucky to Western Kentucky – and several communities in between – to hear from you about the characteristics you think are important in our next president.


I want to thank them for their efforts to reach out across the Commonwealth. After all, we are Kentucky’s University. Our campus is the Commonwealth.


Attached are releases about the first two tour stops – Harlan and Hardin counties. We will pass along additional tour stops as they are scheduled.


Presidential search process ramps up pace

The work of our search for UK’s 12th President is beginning to ramp up.


This week, the search committee met for more than three hours to review nominations and applications for the presidency. Everyone is impressed by the depth and quality of the pool of candidates. Our consultants, Greenwood/Asher, have made contacts with nearly 460 people, including presidents of large and regional universities, provosts, deans and governmental and corporate leaders. Some 110 people have been formally nominated.


They tell us that the progress this institution has made under President Todd’s leadership during the last 10 years makes UK an attractive place to lead. Our ambitious goal to become a Top 20 research institution – and the state mandate behind it – also is an attractive lure for many candidates.


We asked the consultants to go back and gather information on a number of candidates that we are interested in taking a deeper look at over the next few weeks. Our plan, in keeping with our timeline, is to begin conducting interviews with candidates in the next several weeks, with the goal of extending an offer to our next president by May 1.


To that end, I also was very pleased with the process our Board of Trustees has agreed to in ensuring that we protect the privacy of these candidates for as long as possible, while committing to a campus visit with a finalist or finalists prior to a final decision. Such a process, I believe, will help maintain a strong pool of candidates and will give our campus the appropriate assurance that a prospective president will visit students, faculty and staff before taking the helm.

Lexington Forum shows community's interest in UK presidential search

I recently spoke at a breakfast meeting of The Lexington Forum.


It was one of the best attended events they’ve had recently, a reflection of the intense interest there is in the community about the presidential search underway at UK. I tried to communicate that even during a period of significant challenge, we continue to make real progress toward our goals. In fact, as a result of that progress under President Todd, I told the Forum that it’s clear we’re attracting a deep and large pool of interested candidates for the position of UK’s 12th President.


From the confidentiality of the search to our continued quest for Top 20 public research university status, I was asked several questions that, to me, indicated the deep support for this university among people in this community.


For those interested, here’s what I told The Forum about UK and the search:


Presidential Search Committee ramps up the pace

The search for UK’s 12th president is now starting to ramp up. On Friday, the search committee approved a tentative timeline for moving forward. The committee will begin to review the applications of candidates in February, followed by what we hope will be interviews in March and April. That would keep us on our  timeline for extending an offer to our next president in May.


Read about the latest in search committee news. 

As importantly, the search committee had an important – and very productive – conversation about how the process will unfold in terms balancing the candidates’ privacy with the university’s desire to interact in an open fashion with a potential president.


After much discussion, the committee is recommending to the full Board of Trustees that the candidates’ names will remain confidential until we reach the stage of having finalists. At that point, we’ll ask the candidates if they are willing to disclose their names. If not, we will insist on introducing our preferred candidate to the entire campus community prior to making a hiring decision or executing a final contract.


I think this recommendation represents an appropriate and delicate balance between the desire for  transparency and openness and the need to protect the privacy of candidates, who we are asking to consider leaving safe and highly desirable positions at other institutions.


No process is perfect. But our goal – our overarching and most important goal – is to find the best person at this critical time to lead UK. We’ve made so much progress under President Todd’s leadership. It’s critical that we pick the right person to assume that mantle of leadership to help continue moving us forward toward our mandated goal of becoming a Top 20 public research process.


This balanced, common-sense approach affords us the best opportunity to do just that and I appreciate all the viewpoints of committee members as they wrestled with a tough policy decision.


That meeting came at the end of a long – but very informative – day in which search committee members heard from faculty, students and staff in forums about the presidential process. The feedback and input we received was informed and helpful. It underscored the vibrancy of our campus and the passion people have for UK. It also was encouraging to see the number of people who followed the forums via a live stream at and through Facebook and Twitter.


There are any number of ways – and across any number of platforms – that people interact and communicate in a 21st century world. I’m excited that UK is fully engaged in all those avenues for communication, particularly as we undertake such an important process for our institution’s future.

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