December 9, 2021
It was announced today that Neeli Bendapudi, PhD, who is the current president of the University of Louisville, has been selected as Penn State University’s next president.
She will be replacing Dr Eric Barron, who has been in the position since 2014. Dr Bendapudi has served as Louisville’s president since 2018 - which was her first stint as a university president. Penn State signed Bendapudi to a five year contract that will pay her a total of at least $1.59 Million per year, and will also include perks such as personal use of private jets, and a tenured appointment to the faculty of the Smeal College of Business. The package will make Dr Bendapudi one of the most highly-compensated public university presidents in the nation.
Three years ago, when Bendapudi was hired as the president at Louisville, her contract called for a $650,000 annual salary, with an annual bonus of $125,000 guaranteed for the first two years.
Dr Bendapudi completed a bachelors degree in Marketing and an MBA at Andhra University in her native India. From there she went on to earn her PhD in Marketing from the University of Kansas. Her professional career began as an assistant professor at Texas A&M for two years, and fifteen years on the faculty at Ohio State, the final three years as a professor. Upon leaving Ohio State, Bendapudi moved on to the University of Kansas, where she was a member of the faculty for six years and appointed Provost in 2016. Bendapudi then accepted the position of president at the University of Louisville in 2018, which she said was "the honor of a lifetime" and that she planned to stay there forever.
Under Bendapudi, the University of Louisville was ranked 187th in the nation among national universities. That ranking was the lowest among all fourteen Atlantic Coast Conference schools, and 108 spots below the next lowest ranked university, North Carolina State, which came in at 79th. Among the 65 large and mostly public universities that make up the “Power Five” conferences, Louisville ranks ahead of only Mississippi State, Texas Tech, and West Virginia.
As a comparison, Penn State was ranked 37th when Eric Barron took office, and is currently ranked at 67th in the nation.
In research, Louisville ranks 135th in the nation, down from 125th when Bendapudi took over. Among the Power Five conference universities, Louisville ranks ahead of only the University of Mississippi, Syracuse University, and the University of Oregon. The research budget at Louisville is approximately 1/5th the size of Penn State’s. Penn State ranked 21st in the nation when Eric Barron took office, and currently is ranked 23rd.
At the press conference announcing her appointment this afternoon, Trustee Bill Oldsey, who was on the search committee, lavished praise on Penn State’s new hire while giving no details or examples of her accomplishments that led the committee to believe she was the best candidate to lead the university.
In her remarks at the press conference, Dr Bendapudi said the appointment was “the honor of a lifetime” and "I have every intention for being here for the long term — that's my sincere opinion. This is where we want to be." And then led the assembly in a “We Are… Penn State” cheer.
This was eerily reminiscent of when Dr Bendapudi was introduced, in 2018, as the new President at Louisville, and stated that Louisville would be the “Last Stop” of her career, and then she thanked the Louisville Board for "The opportunity of a lifetime", and concluded by leading the assembly in a "Go Cards" cheer.