The 58-year-old product of Andhra University will be the first woman and first person of color to serve in the role.
Neeli Bendapudi has been named 19th president of Penn State University. She will be the first woman and first person of color to serve in that position. She succeeds Eric Barron, who earlier this year announced his plans to retire at the end of his current contract in June 2022 following eight years as the university’s top administrator.
Bendapudi, 58, served as president of the University of Louisville. She replaced the embattled James Ramsey, who resigned in 2016 after pressure from the university, the Louisville Courier-Journal reported. According to her Louisville biography, Bendapudi specializes in studying consumer behavior and services.
“Being president of this institution is a sacred trust and the honor of a lifetime,” Bendapudi said in a statement. “I’m truly in awe of Penn State’s ‘We Are’ spirit and of the transformative power of the Penn State community, which is like no other, anywhere. I couldn’t be prouder or more excited to join this vibrant community of outstanding students, faculty, staff and alumni throughout the commonwealth and beyond.”
During her tenure at Louisville, she prioritized inclusivity, openness and transparency, as noted in her four-year strategic plan, Penn State noted in a press release. Her first year at the helm of the University of Louisville was so successful in the eyes of the board of trustees that they granted her a pay raise, the Courier-Journal reported. At least one board trustee rated her first-year performance “A ++.”
She notably took swift action to remove the name of Papa John’s from the Louisville football stadium and erased its founder’s name from the school of business after pizza mogul and former Louisville trustee John Schnatter was heard using the N-word on a Papa John’s conference call. Courier-Journal reported.
Earlier this year, Louisville’s Board of Trustees raved about Bendapudi’s performance as they awarded her a new contract and raise. During her tenure, the university stabilized its budget and improved its credit rating, according to the Penn State press release.
However, a few days before she announced her departure from the University of Louisville, she faced some controversy. It was reported that Bendapudi’s office was heavily involved in a controversial decision to suspend men’s basketball coach Chris Mack, who had secretly taped an assistant who’d targeted him for an extortion scheme.
Before being named Louisville’s president in April 2018, Bendapudi was the provost and executive vice chancellor at the University of Kansas, where she previously earned a Ph.D. in marketing in 1994. She was a professor of marketing for two years at Texas A&M and 15 years at Ohio State before returning to Kansas in 2011 to become the School of Business dean and a professor of business.
Born in India, she earned a bachelor’s degree and MBA from Andhra University before moving to the United States to pursue her doctorate. Her research has previously appeared in academic journals and mainstream news outlets. Additionally, she sits on the Board of Directors for the Lancaster Colony Corporation. She’s a former Leadership Foundation Fellow of the International Women’s Forum. Bendapudi and her husband, Venkat, have one daughter.
(Top photo, courtesy Michelle Bixby, psu.edu)