Saturday, June 30, 2001

UK president ready to work

By Steve Bailey
The Associated Press

        LEXINGTON — Lee Todd has never enjoyed waiting.

        In the five months since he was picked to be the University of Kentucky's 11th president, Mr. Todd has journeyed across the state and beyond to begin building relationships with federal and state legislators, business leaders and alumni.

Lee Todd
Lee Todd
        “I used to have a sign at my old job that said, 'When in doubt, work,' ” Mr. Todd said Friday. “You have to start somewhere, hit the ground running and get people excited about what you're doing — make them feel like they are a part of something big.”

        “There hasn't been a lot of time to rest during this transition period. I think I'm going to put a sign up above my bed that says, 'Just Sleep Faster.' ”

        Mr. Todd, 55, will replace Charles T. Wethington, who is retiring but will remain with the university in a fund-raising position. Mr. Todd said he has spoken with Mr. Wethington numerous times during the past two months to ease the transition.

        “I'm very fortunate that I was able to leave my old job early and that President Wethington was willing to let me have an office on campus,” Mr. Todd said. “I've had the chance to talk to every dean, a lot of staff and faculty members and more than 3,000 students and give them a sense of where I'm coming from and what I have planned.”

        On Sunday, Mr. Todd and his family will move into Maxwell Place, the president's traditional campus home. The following day, he will get down to business in his new office in the Gillis Building next door to the fire-gutted administration building.

        He has inherited a $1.29 billion budget and a mandate from the Legislature to make UK a Top 20 public institution by 2020.

        “The expectations are massive to be sure, but pressure to me is running a small business and wondering month to month whether or not you're going to be able to meet payroll,” he said. “A lot of people want to know just what it means for UK to be a Top 20 institution and how that can help improve their way of life, and we're going to show them.”

        Mr. Todd said he will be looking for ways to help the state through agricultural extension and economic development.

        And Mr. Todd said he will begin announcing members of his cabinet next week as well as detailing several new administrative changes and initiatives.

        He plans to find money to pay for a full-time employee or consultant in Washington, D.C. He also said he would push for renovations in the residence halls and gathering areas to let students “know how important they are to the university.”

        First on the agenda, however, is to strengthen the university's image, both on campus and around the state.

        “We've done away with the "America's Next Great University' slogan because it really downplays what a great institution we have now,” Mr. Todd said. “I want our students, faculty and staff as well as the people of Kentucky to be able to visualize the success we've already had.

        “People can go down to Rupp Arena, look up in the rafters and see the success we've had on the basketball court. But people also need to know we have the No. 3 pharmacy school in the nation. People need to know that we've had two Nobel Prize winners and four Pulitzer Prize winners.”

        Born in Earlington, a Hopkins County coal-mining town of fewer than 2,000, Mr. Todd graduated from UK in 1968 with a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering and received his master's and doctorate in the same discipline from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

        After securing several research patents at MIT, Mr. Todd returned to UK in 1974 to teach electrical engineering and stayed for nine years.

        In 1981, he founded Projectron Inc. to manufacture projection cathode ray tubes for the flight simulator industry. He sold that company to Hughes Aircraft Co. in 1990, persuading Hughes to move some of its operation to Kentucky.

        In 1983, Mr. Todd founded DataBeam, a software development company that was bought by IBM's Lotus division in 1998. He stayed on to run the company and was promoted to senior vice president, a position he had until he was named UK president in January.


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- UK president ready to work
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