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Dr. Neeli Bendapudi named next Penn State president

Neeli Bendapudi
Michelle Bixby
Penn State
Dr. Neeli Bendapudi was named Penn State's 19th president by the Board of Trustees on Dec. 9, 2021.

Penn State’s Board of Trustees has approved the hiring of the university’s 19th president Thursday. University of Louisville President Dr. Neeli Bendapudi, 58, will serve after current president Eric Barron retires by June 2022.

Bendapudi will become the first woman and the first person of color to serve as Penn State’s president.

“It goes without saying that this is a historic moment for Penn State. In addition to her stellar credentials, Dr. Bendapudi is Penn State’s most diverse president in our long history,” Vice Chairman of Penn State’s Board of Trustees David Kleppinger said during a special meeting Thursday to vote on the appointment.

Bendapudi became the 18th President of the University of Louisville in 2018, where she led the university to “celebrate diversity, foster equity and strive for inclusion,” according to her biography.

“I do recognize the appointment's symbolic value. But to me, what I truly hope it does is that it inspires others to pursue the highest office in their chosen field, no matter who they are,” Bendapudi said.

Previously, Bendapudi was the Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor at the University of Kansas, where she earned her PhD in marketing.

Her nearly three-decade career in academia includes experience teaching at Texas A&M University and Ohio State. Bendapudi also worked in the banking industry.

The Penn State board of trustees appointed Bendapudi by a unanimous voice vote.

Bendapudi called the position a “sacred trust” and “the honor of a lifetime.”

“It’s a day for tremendous joy for me, but it’s also one for realism,” she said. “I recognize that I – that we have a lot of work to do as the higher education landscape continues to shift.”

In her speech accepting the nomination, Bendapudi vowed to invest in student success, assist faculty in creating more interdisciplinary research and gain investments from the commonwealth and donors.

Bendapudi also spoke about the special role she sees Penn State’s 24 commonwealth campuses play.

Nicholas Rowland, a professor at Penn State Altoona, who served on the recruitment committee, said he thought highly of her academic and research background.

“I, myself, am confident that her experience with a multi-campus system at the University of Kansas and her long tenure as a faculty member at The Ohio State University have prepared her to effectively leverage our commonwealth campuses to further Penn State's land grant mission,” Rowland said.

Under a five-year contract, Bendapudi will receive a base salary of $950,000, annual supplemental compensation contributions of $350,000 into a deferred compensation plan, and a completion payment of $1,250,000 at the end of the contract term. She will receive two transition payments of $100,000 each in 2022 and 2023. She will also be tenured in the Smeal College of Business.

Min Xian reported at WPSU from 2016-2022.
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