Donors, friends of U of L defend Ramsey

Grace Schneider
Louisville Courier Journal

As word circulated that Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin had engineered University of Louisville President James Ramsey's possible departure, Ramsey's friends, past board members  and influential U of L donors joined a chorus to praise him for the job he's done.

Hank "Henry" Conn, who with his wife, Rebecca has given $20 million to create a renewable energy research center at the Speed School of Engineering, said he was deeply saddened to learn that Ramsey may be stepping down because the university president has been an exceptional leader, one who could cut through the bureaucracy and focus on what's important.

He didn't often call Ramsey for a favor, but when he did, the university president was reliable and responsive, Conn said. "He was always the go-to guy."

The Rev. Kevin Cosby, president of Simmons College, which awarded Ramsey an honorary doctorate this spring at the school's graduation, predicted Ramsey's tenure will shine above others. With Ramsey's help, Simmons created a program that allows students to transfer to the university to complete degrees. The partnership between the schools has been described as crucial to reviving the historically black college that for decades was pivotal in creating a black middle class.

History will recall Ramsey as a "phenomenal, visionary leader," despite the fact that his contemporaries have undervalued his role, Cosby said, noting that Harry Truman and Abraham Lincoln also were seen as great leaders, but only "in retrospect."

J.D. Nichols, a developer and businessman who last year had pledged to use part of a $10 million gift to the school to pay off bonuses to Ramsey and other administrators, passed a statement through an assistant to say that he's fond of Ramsey and felt he did "a wonderful job."

Bill Samuels, a former board member and the chairman emeritus of Maker's Mark, said he hopes the community can heal from a divisive, painful episode. While he's an admirer of Ramsey, Samuels said, it was time to move on.

Samuels recalled serving on the search committee that led to Ramsey's hiring. The effort to "lasso" Ramsey as president was a master stroke that built on momentum that began 25 years ago at U of. L. "There's been an awful lot of good work, (and) there's been a few hiccups," he said.

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READ MORE | Campus reaction to Ramsey offer to resign

Reporter Grace Schneider can be reached at 502-582-4082 or

Dr. Kevin W. Cosby, President of Simmons College of Kentucky gets a pat on the shoulder from UofL President James Ramsey during the Simmons College graduation ceremonies.  The school was lauding Ramsey with an honorary Doctor of Humanities degree.
15 May, 2016