Bendapudi leaving UofL to become president at Penn State

Dr. Neeli Bendapudi (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Dr. Neeli Bendapudi (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Published: Dec. 9, 2021 at 8:51 AM EST|Updated: Dec. 9, 2021 at 4:50 PM EST
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - The president of the University of Louisville is headed for Happy Valley.

Dr. Neeli Bendapudi will be the next president of Pennsylvania State University, announced by the Penn State Board of Trustees in a meeting on Thursday morning. She will be the university’s 19th president and will take over on July 1, 2022 following the retirement of current president Eric Barron.

Bendapudi sent a letter to UofL revealing her acceptance of the position shortly before the Penn State Board of Trustees voted unanimously to give her the head job. It reads:

“Cardinal Family,

I write with mixed emotions to share with you that I have accepted the position of President of Penn State University.

The decision to embark on a new chapter in my professional journey was not an easy one. I will miss our students, our faculty, our staff, our retirees, our alumni and our supporters, and I will miss my senior leadership team. All of you are among the best in the nation and are the heart and soul of our institution.

Michael Wade Smith, vice president for university relations and chief of staff, will join my team at Penn State.

Leaders of great institutions are simply temporary stewards called to take great care of the mission and the people and to leave them better than they found them. Together, we have accomplished much, advancing the University of Louisville on several fronts. The academic profile of our incoming students has never been stronger; our research funding never higher; our Foundation never more stable; our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion never more robust; our facility transformations never more noticeable; our new brand and online presence never more impactful; our U of L Health system never better staffed, funded and appreciated; our work to improve our community, the Commonwealth and the world never more evident. And we have done it all during an unprecedented worldwide pandemic and through the painful tragedies of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd.

I have complete confidence this important work will continue and that the University of Louisville will rise to greater heights.

This is not goodbye. Over the next days and weeks, I will work closely with the Board of Trustees to ensure a smooth transition. I will always carry Louisville and the Cardinals in my heart.

Go Cards!


Neeli Bendapudi”

Speaking to Penn State Trustees, Bendapudi exhibited the same charm that made her popular at UofL.

“I tend to go by Neeli,” she said, “which, actually, you can Google it, means blue. So as you can see, it seems I was maybe born to wear and cheer on the blue and white.”

Bendapudi was hired as UofL’s 18th president on April 3, 2018 to replace Dr. James Ramsey.

Her major challenges included restoring confidence among donors after a scathing audit of the University Foundation, among students after a period of academic probation, and among fans weary of an athletic department that had created more drama off the court than on.

Before arriving in Louisville, Bendapudi had been provost and executive vice chancellor at the University of Kansas.

UofL was the first University where she served as President.

Penn State Trustees praised her work at UofL and said her success and leadership abilities made her the best choice for the job.

“Her ability to collaborate, to problem solve, to innovate and to lead are very well documented,” Penn State Trustee William Oldsey said.

Sen. Mitch McConnell expressed his own mixed emotions on Bendapudi’s departure, praising her enthusiasm and vision.

“When she arrived, the university faced struggles in both its academic and athletic departments,” McConnell said. “She made it her top priority to turn these struggling programs around and make the school competitive once again. I was greatly impressed by the energy, enthusiasm, and strong vision she had for UofL and enjoyed watching her become an expert in raising the ‘L.’”

Bendapudi’s departure from UofL comes seemingly in conjunction with the resignation of former Athletic Director Vince Tyra, whose Dec. 8 resignation became public on Thursday.

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