After being hired as the president of the University of Kentucky in 2011, Dr. Eli Capilouto said his first objective was just to listen.
“I¿listened for 90 days. ... I feel like I¿uncovered the soul of Kentucky,” Capilouto said at Thursday’s dinner for the Clark County chapter of the University of Kentucky Alumni Association.
Capilouto was the keynote speaker for the evening, which also served as a fundraiser for the club’s scholarship fund. He thanked the club for supporting the university and local students. According to Capilouto, this year’s freshman class is the largest in university history, with 71 National Merit Finalists.
“Your support is vital,” Capilouto said.
The university is also undertaking some major improvement projects, Capilouto said, including the renovation of student housing, where only 600 out of 6,000 beds are considered modern. Thanks to a $500 million investment from a publicly-traded company based in Memphis, Tenn., university officials hope to be able to upgrade all campus housing facilities.
The construction projects also will benefit all of central Kentucky, not just the university, because they will create thousands of jobs, Capilouto said.
Despite $20 million in state funding cuts this year, Capilouto said the university will continue to recruit the most talented researchers and educators, and invest in the university’s medical center.
“We’re going to be that shining beacon of light that guides this nation forward,” Capilouto said.
The University of Kentucky is one of seven universities in the country with a contiguous campus housing all the major disciplines, Capilouto said.
“The questions we have today are at the intersection of the disciplines. The University of Kentucky can be the answer to those questions,” Capilouto said.
He also spoke about a research trip to China with faculty researchers invited to work on clean energy projects. Research and development are central to the mission of the university, according to Capilouto.
“Our university is doing well,” Capilouto said.
Guests also had an opportunity to hear from a recent Alumni Association scholarship recipient. Melissa
Williams Costner is a 2009 graduate with a B.A. in anthropology. The Association’s goal, according to board member Andrea Mattingly Williams, is to give about $12,000 annually. All money is managed locally, and Association members meet with candidates personally to determine how to best distribute funds.
“Having (the scholarship) saved my family from a lot of stress,” Costner said.
Similarly, Williams, a graduate of the University of Kentucky law school, spoke about her own experience as a student.
“As a board member, I’m returning the favor of those of you who made it possible for me to go to college,” Williams said.
The 2012-2013 scholarship winners are Ethan Varner, Luke Long and Sarah Grashel.
Mike Rowady was recognized for his 51 years of Association membership.
The Clark County chapter has been awarding scholarships to local high school seniors since 1991, Williams said.
“We value education. We think the students here in Clark County should have the same opportunities we received at the University of Kentucky,” Williams said.
According to the Association’s website, there are 1,600 UK¿alumni living in Clark County. The Association is open to anyone who attended the University of Kentucky.
For more information, visit www.ukalumni.net/clark.
Contact Rachel Gilliam at email@example.com.