UK, Louisville Partner for Progress in 'Kentucky Can'


By Jay Blanton

The state’s largest city has large aspirations for the future: at least 40,000 more residents with bachelor’s degrees in Louisville to fuel sustainable, long-term economic growth.

Such goals, says University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto, will require strong partnerships; the kind of partnerships that are being fostered now and that can be strengthened in the future as part of UK’s $2.1 billion comprehensive fundraising campaign.

Citing Louisville’s importance as an economic engine for the state, the University of Kentucky kicked off Kentucky Can: The 21st Century Campaign in front of more than 250 people in Louisville Tuesday night.

“Through our education, research, service, and clinical care, we are building a brighter future for everyone we serve. … We are doing more, being more for Kentucky. We are the University for Kentucky,” said UK President Eli Capilouto. “Louisville is central to our effort and to the state’s future. In so many ways, its success and our success are inextricably linked.”

Capilouto said the goals of the fundraising campaign align completely with many of the city of Louisville’s aspirations for the future.

For example, more than 7,000 students graduated from UK last year, he said. Kentucky Can is asking the question of what the state’s economy could look like if that number jumped to more than 10,000 annually?

UK also has ambitious plans to nearly double the number of engineering students, while also continuing to increase its research and health care efforts around reducing cancer rates in the state and eliminating the epidemic of opioid and substance abuse disorders, among other challenges.

In Louisville, specifically, UK already is engaged in a number of collaborations including a design studio focused on the historic Portland neighborhood, clinical partnerships in health care and nursing, agriculture extension programs and continuing to strengthen the city’s nationally recognized presence in the bourbon industry.

Underscoring these efforts, the Kentucky Can campaign is focused on:

  • Raising more than $300 million for scholarships, including more than 2,100 UK LEADS (Leveraging Economic Affordability for Developing Success) grants. In Louisville, alone, there is more than $7.5 million in unmet financial need among UK students. There is nearly $60 million statewide. UK LEADS grants have helped fuel record gains in the university’s retention and graduation rates.
  • Increasing graduation rates to be among the highest at public research institutions in the country.
  • Raising nearly $100 million to complete a new research facility — The Healthy Kentucky Research Building — that is devoted to health disparities that plague the Commonwealth.
  • Eliminating the shortage of physicians — specifically primary care doctors — that impacts large parts of the state.
  • Increasing the university’s endowment from $1.5 to $2.1 billion to help fund innovative programs and outstanding faculty, while continuing the building transformation of the last eight years on the campus.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer launched the regional kickoff, welcoming the crowd at the city’s new Omni Hotel downtown. He was joined by UK and city leaders including University of Kentucky Board Chairman Britt Brockman; Louisville businessman and former trustee, Jim Stuckert; a number of business and civic leaders; and current and former UK trustees.  

“This campaign will build bridges for students to receive an affordable education; for faculty to teach and conduct research that inspires, heals, creates and impacts the quality of life for all Kentuckians,” said Mike Richey, UK’s vice president for philanthropy and alumni engagement. “This is our time to determine the future we want and to create it. This is our time to ask ourselves — what is the legacy we want to leave. Together, we must. Together, Kentucky can.”

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