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University of Louisville appoints new interim president, athletic director

Lori Stewart Gonzalez speaks to reporters after being appointed interim U of L president.
Lori Stewart Gonzalez speaks to reporters after being appointed interim U of L president.

The University of Louisville has new leadership following the departures of University President Neeli Bendapudi and athletic director Vince Tyra. On Monday, the U of L Board of Trustees named Executive Vice President and University Provost Lori Stewart Gonzalez to serve as interim president of the university. In her first act as interim president, Gonzales tapped Deputy Athletic Director Josh Heird as interim athletic director.

Board of trustees chair Mary Nixon praised Gonzalez’s “deep, broad experience” in leadership at several universities, including U of L. 

“She has proven already in the short time that she's been here to be a courageous, principled leader. She's developed deep relationships everywhere she's been,” Nixon said.

Gonzalez came on as executive vice president and provost last April. She’s also served in leadership positions at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, the University of North Carolina, Appalachian State University and the University of Kentucky.

A native of Mount Vernon, Kentucky, she has degrees in audiology and communications disorders from UK, Eastern Kentucky University and the University of Florida.

“While this is a period of change and transition, I can speak with absolute confidence that our work will continue and that the spirit of the U of L community will continue to shine as it has throughout centuries,” Gonzalez told reporters during a press conference.

The interim president said her main priorities will be to continue to address funding challenges and problems posed by the coronavirus, as well as promote the university’s anti-racist agenda.

“We want to make sure that it’s an equitable campus, where no matter where you start or where you come from, you will thrive on this campus,” she said.

Gonzalez will receive an $800,000 annual salary with the possibility of a $100,000 annual performance bonus.

She said her appointment of Heird to lead the athletics program had the full support of the board, and called Heird an “integral part” of the university’s athletic success. 

Heird said his goal now is to make sure everyone in the U of L community is “proud to put that bird head on their chest.”

“As these conversations transpired, I haven't had an ounce of anxiety, because this athletic department is in unbelievable shape,” Heird said. 

Heird came on as deputy athletic director in 2019, after years in the athletics department at U of L, and a brief stint at Villanova University.

The board of trustees did not offer a timeline for when the university will begin the search for a new permanent president or athletic director.

This story has been updated. Roberto Roldan contributed to this story.

Jess Clark is LPMs Education and Learning Reporter. Email Jess at jclark@lpm.org.

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