Wednesday, August 15, 2001

UK president leads 1st meeting


New university head getting favorable reviews from most

By Steve Bailey
The Associated Press

        LEXINGTON — Classes haven't started yet, but University of Kentucky Student Government Association President Tim Robinson can sense a buzz around campus.

        The excitement, he says, can be attributed to one man: President Lee Todd.

Lee Todd
Lee Todd
        “It really feels like a new era has dawned here,” said Mr. Robinson, who also serves as the student representative to the university's board of trustees. “There's a new commitment to students that has everybody I've talked to feeling like it's going to be a great year.”

        Mr. Todd began his duties as president on July 1, taking over from Charles T. Wethington, who retired. On Tuesday, he had his first official press conference to announce student recruitment initiatives and presided over his first board of trustees meeting.

        “It's been a busy 42 days, that's for sure,” Mr. Todd said.

        It doesn't take long for those who meet Mr. Todd to realize his passion for both the state and its flagship university.

        Born in Earlington, a Hopkins County coal-mining town of less than 2,000, Mr. Todd graduated from Kentucky with a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering in 1968. He 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 his alma mater in 1974 to teach electrical engineering for nine years. He would have remained longer, but the school was reluctant to let him pursue opportunities in private business while he was teaching.

        In 1981, Mr. Todd 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.

        At one point during Tuesday's news conference, Mr. Todd said he was “announcing a new product,” bringing a hearty burst of laughter from those in attendance. Despite the gaffe, Mr. Todd said the transition from businessman to university administrator has been an easy one.

        “That's the first time anything like that has happened since I took the job back in January,” he said. “But really, things couldn't have gone any better.

        “When I was running my company, I was traveling around doing so much speaking that I felt like I had two jobs. Now, everything is all under one umbrella.”

        It was business as usual at Mr. Todd's first trustees meeting as president.

        He briefed board members on recent projects and developments.

        And he listened intently as the board voted to accept gifts and pledges totaling more than $1.69 million, including a $50,000 pledge from well-known actress and UK alumna Ashley Judd to create and endow a fund to provide dissertation research grants to doctoral students in anthropology.

        After the meeting, many trustees couldn't hide their enthusiasm for Mr. Todd and the work he has done over the last month.

        “He is the right person at the right time for this university,” said trustee JoEtta Wickliffe, who served as chairwoman of the search committee that recommended Mr. Todd for the job. “Seeing the excitement among the university community, the citizens of the Commonwealth and even those outside the Commonwealth has been one of the most heartwarming experiences I've ever had.”

        Mr. Robinson said some have started calling Mr. Todd the “students' president.”

        “It didn't take me long to realize that the students of this university not only have a new First Family but two real friends,” he said of Mr. Todd and his wife. “For President Todd to come out in the first official press conference of his administration and address student issues shows just how much he cares about the students here and the ones who will be coming to this campus in the future.”

       



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