U of L Foundation Gets ‘Negative’ Finance Rating Thursday, May 26 2016 

The University of Louisville Foundation, whose investment track record the last five years is one of the worst among Kentucky’s public colleges, has been slapped with a negative outlook by one of the nation’s major debt rating services.

The outlook downgrade came this week from Moody’s Investors Service. It stemmed in part from low investment returns that were the subject of a recent report by the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting. Out of 11 Kentucky college endowments compared, U of L’s endowment ranked ninth in average annual return over the last five calendar years. (Read “Big Endowments And Underwhelming Returns At Kentucky Universities”)

“The foundation’s operations are adversely pressured by the university’s need for greater financial support, coupled with recent weak endowment returns including in fiscal 2015,” the Moody’s report states.

Moody’s noted that the nonprofit foundation’s endowment pool closed out its latest fiscal year, which ended last June 30, with an investment return of negative 0.5 percent. That year’s median return for college endowments surveyed by the National Association of College and University Business Officers, Moody’s said, was 2.4 percent.

The Moody’s downgrade, which was first reported by the Courier-Journal, comes amid higher education cuts and widespread scrutiny of the university’s finances and the compensation of President James Ramsey, who also heads the foundation.

ky-endowments-visuals (1)The U of L Foundation endowment has 46 percent of its assets in so-called “alternative” investments, such as hedge funds and private equity funds, that spread risk away from stocks and bonds. Alternatives, however, have made substantially less money for college endowments than U.S. stocks. The Kentucky colleges with the best five-year returns as of Dec. 31 had almost no exposure to alternatives.

Jason Tomlinson, the U of L Foundation’s chief financial officer, defended the endowment’s long-term investment record. Although it has underperformed the stock market in the past five years, he said it comes out a winner over 20.

But the diversification into alternatives hasn’t helped the endowment during the past year of upheaval in the stock market. Through the first seven months of the 2015-16 fiscal year, as of Jan. 31, the U of L endowment lost 8.5 percent of its value — $66.2 million — and slumped to $646 million. It was hurt by investments in emerging markets and energy and shook up its hedge fund holdings.

The Moody’s report said the U of L Foundation’s financial reserves have been “stagnant” for five years and most recently suffered a 13 percent, one-year decline.

“A combination of the use of cash for strategic investments, weak investment returns and continued investment in real estate ventures have caused the foundation’s financial resource growth to lag peers,” the report stated. “Although the financial cushion to operating expenses is sound, this figure is substantially weaker than (fiscal) 2011.”

U of L Foundation Board Chairman Robert Hughes could not be reached for comment Thursday.

On a separate subject, Hughes and six other foundation directors wrote an open letter, dated Tuesday, defending the performance of U of L President James Ramsey and his compensation.

In the past year, Ramsey’s leadership has been criticized, his compensation questioned and his standing placed in doubt by a threatened no-confidence vote by the U of L Board of Trustees. Trustees have also complained about not being notified of foundation decisions.

In its “Dear Friends” letter, the seven foundation directors wrote that $2.8 million entered as Ramsey’s compensation in its 2014 federal tax return was “not reflective of a single year of compensation,” but included a “retention incentive” that became payable to Ramsey over a longer time period.

“Over the years, professional recruiters came after him (some sent private jets with their trustees) because they saw the same things in the president that we did — a leader who gets results in a rapidly changing environment for higher education,” the letter states. “We devised a strategy to retain Dr. Ramsey and key members of his executive team through 2012. Our efforts were successful, and Jim and his leadership team continue to achieve results for the university today.”

Along with Hughes, the foundation directors who signed the letter were Ulysses Bridgeman, Frank Minnifield, Frank Weisberg, Joyce Hagen, William Selvidge and Salem George.

Reporter James McNair can be reached at jmcnair@kycir.org and (502) 814.6543.

This story was reported by WFPL’s Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting

LouisvilleKY makes Amazon’s Top 20 Most Well-Read list Wednesday, May 25 2016 

SEATTLE–(BUSINESS WIRE)–(NASDAQ:AMZN)— Today, Amazon.com revealed their annual list of the Top 20 Most Well-Read Cities across the U.S., just in time for summer reading season. The ranking is determined by a compilation of sales data from cities with more than 500,000 residents on a per capita basis and includes purchases of all books, magazines and newspapers in both Kindle and print format from April 2015 to April 2016.

The Top 20 Most Well-Read Cities are:

1. Seattle, Wash.

2. Portland, Ore.

3. Washington, D.C.

4. San Francisco, Calif.

5. Austin, Texas

amazon logo

6. Las Vegas, Nev.

7. Tucson, Ariz.

8. Denver, Colo.

9. Albuquerque, N.M.

10. San Diego, Calif.

11. Baltimore, Md.

12. Charlotte, N.C.

13. Louisville, Ky.

14. San Jose, Calif.

15. Houston, Texas

16. Nashville, Tenn.

17. Chicago, Ill.

18. Indianapolis, Ind.

19. Dallas, Texas

20. San Antonio, Texas

Amazon took a closer look at the data and uncovered some interesting trends across the cities, revealing:

  • Seattle, Wash., the home of Amazon’s headquarters, kept its title as the Most Well-Read City for the second year in a row with the most purchases of all books, magazines and newspapers in both Kindle and print formats.
  • The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins was the top-selling Kindle and print title in five of the top 10 cities: Portland, Ore.; Austin, Texas; Tucson, Ariz.; Albuquerque, N.M.; San Diego, Calif.
  • Readers in four of the top 10 cities cleaned up their act this year, with The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing as the most sold print title in Seattle, Wash.; San Francisco, Calif.; Tucson, Ariz.; Albuquerque, N.M.
  • In Austin, Texas, reading and cooking go hand in hand, with Franklin Barbecue: A Meat-Smoking Manifesto among the top-selling Kindle and print titles.
  • California is for bookworms, with three cities making the top 20 list for the second year in a row: San Francisco, San Diego, and San Jose.
  • Denver, Colo., Las Vegas, Nev., San Diego, Calif., and Albuquerque, N.M. all channeled their inner child this year, with adult coloring books being among the top-selling print titles in each of the cities.
  • What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, with Grey: Fifty Shades of Grey as Told by Christian (Fifty Shades of Grey Series) as the top-selling Kindle title in Las Vegas, Nev.

Customers eager to move their city up the list can visit the Amazon Book Editors’ Summer Reading feature athttp://www.amazon.com/summerreading, where they’ll find recommendations ranging from beach reads to blockbusters.

About Amazon.com

Amazon.com opened on the World Wide Web in July 1995. The company is guided by four principles: customer obsession rather than competitor focus, passion for invention, commitment to operational excellence, and long-term thinking. Customer reviews, 1-Click shopping, personalized recommendations, Prime, Fulfillment by Amazon, AWS, Kindle Direct Publishing, Kindle, Fire tablets, Fire TV, Amazon Echo, and Alexa are some of the products and services pioneered by Amazon. For more information, visit www.amazon.com/about.

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West LouisvilleKY Outdoor Recreation Initiative master plan to be unveiled next week Wednesday, May 25 2016 

Meeting to be held at Whitney Young Elementary on May 31st


Louisville, KY., – A master plan detailing future outdoor recreation opportunities in west Louisville will be unveiled during a public meeting at Whitney M. Young Elementary School on Tuesday, May 31 from 6:30–8:30 p.m.

“The master plan for the West Louisville Outdoor Recreation Initiative is the result of a lot of hard work and thought about how to make nature-based programming and environmental education more accessible to families in those neighborhoods,” said Director of Metro Parks and Recreation Seve Ghose. “We’re hoping for abundant feedback on the plan as this initiative continues to evolve.”

In addition to programming and education, the West Louisville Outdoor Recreation Initiative (WLORI) also envisions developing infrastructure in west Louisville that would help support outdoor programs, including cleaning up the pond in Chickasaw Park for safe fishing, providing access to the Ohio River for boating and canoeing, and areas for nature play and exploration.

metro parks logo

The plan also includes creation of the Shawnee Outdoor Learning Center in Shawnee Park, which would serve as the focal point for outdoor recreational programming in west Louisville. Metro Parks and Recreation’s Natural Areas Division, based at Jefferson Memorial Forest, currently spearheads the Louisville ECHO program (Engaging Children Outdoors) that provides environmental education to students who live inside Louisville’s urban core. The Shawnee center would expand on that effort and house it in a more central location.

The rollout of the master plan also kicks off a major fundraising effort to support the implementation of WLORI-related programs.The public will also have its first chance to see a video describing the initiative at the meeting at Whitney M. Young, which is located at 3526 Muhammad Ali Boulevard. Mayor Greg Fischer said the WLORI initiative reflects all three of my administration’s main goals: That we become a community of lifelong learning; that we are a healthier city; and an even more compassionate city.”

“This project will help ensure that everyone in our community has safe places where they can get outside, learn to fish, to hike, to paddle a canoe, and to engage in a lifelong appreciation of our environment,” he said.

“In recent years Metro Parks and Jefferson Memorial Forest staff have provided many opportunities for our young people to learn about and participate in numerous outdoor recreational activities in our parks in West Louisville,” said Councilwoman Cheri Bryant Hamilton, whose District 5 includes Shawnee and Chickasaw parks.  “Numerous residents have provided input and helped shape the master plan for the West Louisville Outdoor Recreation Initiative so I invite the community, especially the residents of District Five, to come out on May 31st and hear what is planned to go forward in bringing the benefits of the great outdoors and nature-based activities to life for the young and old in our West Louisville community.”

In addition to Metro Parks and Recreation, the initiative is being supported by the National Park Service and Wilderness Louisville, the non-profit organization supporting Jefferson Memorial Forest and the Natural Areas Division of Metro Parks.



Louisville Metro Parks and Recreation, a nationally accredited parks and recreation agency, manages 120 parks and six parkways on more than 13,000 acres of land, and operates recreation programs for all ages.  Its mission is to create a City of Parks where people can play, learn, grow and be healthy.  The mission is accomplished by taking care of all parks properties and creating new ones, by providing safe and diverse recreational programs, and by protecting our public lands and resources for future generations. www.bestparksever.com

The 6,600 acre Jefferson Memorial Forest, a woodland tribute to those Kentucky veterans who have served our nation during times of war, is Jefferson County’s largest nature preserve and one of the largest municipal urban forests in the nation.  The Forest is the flagship of Metro Parks’ Natural Areas Division which is entrusted with providing stewardship, nature-based educational programming, and outdoor recreation within nearly 7,000 acres of forest, meadow, and riparian habitat across Louisville Metro. Jefferson Memorial Forest offers a full range of recreational amenities, including weekend education and adventure programs, hiking trails, camping, fishing, horseback riding trails and picnic areas.

The Jefferson Memorial Forest Welcome Center is located at 11311 Mitchell Hill Road. For more information: 502-368-5404, or visit www.memorialforest.com.


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LouisvilleKY selected for program to improve racial equity Wednesday, May 25 2016 

Story and picture from www.louisvilleky.gov.

Louisville, KY., – Louisville is one of five cities selected by national funder Living Cities and the Government Alliance on Race and Equity to join an effort, Racial Equity Here, to improve racial equity and advance successful outcomes for all in America’s cities.

“Louisville is a compassionate city, dedicated to offering each and every individual the opportunity to reach their full human potential,” Mayor Greg Fischer said. “We have taken many steps to improve our city through innovation and regular analysis of our daily work and are focused on system-wide change.

“Racial Equity Here will help us develop even more tools to address disparities  that seriously affect individuals across our community.  We look forward to further advancing racial equity here in Louisville and taking a lead in closing the opportunity gap.”

City of Louisville skyline

Louisville will join Albuquerque, Austin, Grand Rapids, and Philadelphia as part of this effort.

Government leaders in each city will complete a racial equity assessment of their core government operations. This assessment will include an intentional focus on operations as they relate to adults and youth of color aged 16 to 24, who are disproportionally out of school or work.

By understanding how and where municipal operations affect young people of color, governments will not only better understand their role in perpetuating disparities but will also begin addressing them in transformative ways. Over a two-year period, the jurisdictions will develop a blueprint of government-wide strategies and begin executing the skills, tools and processes they develop through this work.

The cities participating in Racial Equity Here were selected based in part on a demonstrated commitment to improving racial equity and improving outcomes for young people of color, and to expanding efforts across the breadth of outcomes that government influences.

A cross-functional team of Louisville government leaders, led by the Office of Performance Improvement & Innovation (OPI2), submitted the application to participate in the initiative.  The Center for Health Equity, Office for Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods, Office for Globalization, Departments of Community Services and Human Resources and the Human Relations Commission will all participate in the 24-month cohort, alongside OPI2.

Racial Equity Here builds on the work of the Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE), a joint project of the Center for Social Inclusion and the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society, a national network of governments working to achieve racial equity and advance successful outcomes for all. GARE’s approach is based on the experience of early adopters of racial equity within government. The cities participating in Racial Equity Here will strengthen the evidence base around this work and blaze a trail for even more cities to follow suit.

“GARE is excited to partner with Louisville and Living Cities on this project,” GARE Director Julie Nelson said. “We expect the Racial Equity Here cohort to be a national leader in making transformational change toward racial equity within government and to achieve equitable outcomes for our youth.  We look forward to working with this cohort and are excited to see what changes will happen.”

Living Cities CEO Ben Hecht said: “Cities participating in Racial Equity Here will be part of a leading national network of jurisdictions embracing racial equity in a systemic and structural way. This is one of the most important issues of our time, and these five cities have made an important commitment not only to their residents, but also to advancing racial equity across the country.”

Each city will receive an initial stipend from Living Cities of $25,000 to support the work, and an additional $50,000 to implement the Racial Equity Action Plan developed by that city, in addition to tools, resources, and training from GARE.These supports will enable the five cities to better understand and address the many issues tied to racial inequity—including segregation, exclusion, concentrated poverty, and blunted opportunities—that are within the power of government to change.

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Kentucky State President Raymond Burse To Resign Monday, May 23 2016 

Kentucky State University President Raymond Burse is resigning at the end of this week.

In a statement released Monday, Burse says he decided that the “further demands and challenges of Kentucky State must be undertaken by new leadership.”

A Harvard-educated lawyer, Burse was named Kentucky State president in October 2014 after a short interim period and made headlines when he gave up $90,000 of his presidential salary to boost the wages of university workers. Burse also served a term as president of the traditionally African-American university in the 1980s.

The university was spared from a recent round of funding cuts imposed by Gov. Matt Bevin.

Burse says in the statement he decided to leave the job after nearly six months of personal assessments and evaluations. His last day is Friday.

UofL researchers team up with NASA to study fundamentals of physics Friday, May 20 2016 

Stuart Williams explains a research process to PhD candidate Vanessa Velasco in the Microfluidics Lab at UofL. | Courtesy of NASA.

Louisville-resident Gerold Willing sat in his recliner in early December and stared at the laptop screen, which was transmitting the launch of a NASA supply rocket from Cape Canaveral, Fla., to the International Space Station. The associate professor of chemical engineering at the University of Louisville was plagued by a mixture of anxiety and anticipation, […]

Guest Commentary: ‘The Prize’ is a cautionary tale we might learn from in working to improve Louisville’s public schools Friday, May 20 2016 


By David Jones Jr. | JCPS Board Chairman Over the past year or so I’ve found time to read some thoughtful, provocative books about education amidst the daily flood of news and real-time journalism. Several of these influenced my thinking about Louisville’s public schools, but Dale Russakoff’s “The Prize: Who’s in Charge of America’s Schools?” […]

Walden and Blue Apple rebrand as Commonwealth Theatre Center Thursday, May 19 2016 

Walden's "Misalliance" continues through Dec. 19. | Courtesy of Walden Theatre

Walden Theatre and the Blue Apple Players merged in 2015 and now are reintroducing themselves as Commonwealth Theatre Center, home of the Walden Theatre Conservatory and Blue Apple Outreach. Both institutions were formed in 1976. Walden Theatre is an independent conservatory theater program offering training for Louisville-area students. Walden also offers outreach programming that had been similar to […]

Kentucky’s higher education budget cuts remain among highest in the country Thursday, May 19 2016 

Kentucky State Capitol

A new report by the national think tank Center for Budget and Policy Priorities shows that while many states are beginning to restore their steep cuts to higher education spending since the Great Recession, Kentucky’s cuts remain among the highest in the country and it is one of only three states to continue such cuts […]

LouisvilleKY schools focus of Harvard poverty study Thursday, May 19 2016 

Mayor Fischer, Superintendent Hargens and Community Leaders Begin Harvard Project to Tackle Systemic Poverty Issues

“By All Means” initiative kicks off with two-day session in Cambridge

CAMBRIDGE (May 19, 2016) – Mayor Greg Fischer, Jefferson County Public Schools Superintendent Donna Hargens and other Louisville leaders on Wednesday wrapped up two days of intensive learning at the first session of a two-year Harvard Graduate School of Education initiative to study and develop solutions to tackle the impact of poverty on education and child achievement.

“Over and over again, people share with me their dream to develop a system that gives every child a chance at success,” said Mayor Fischer. “I am excited Louisville is part of a select cohort to accelerate progress toward that goal. We know that there are no quick fixes and that solutions will require thoughtful change and time, but it is critical work for the future of our children and our city. “Jcps

Louisville is one of six cities selected to take part in this major education initiative aimed at reducing barriers to educational success caused by a child’s socioeconomic status.  The other participating cities are Oakland, Calif.; Providence, R.I.; Salem, Mass.; Somerville, Mass.; and Newton, Mass.

As outlined by Paul Reville, professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, the initiative will focus teams on social service and health interventions, out of school time, and personalized learning, and it defines success by these measures:

  • Students can get and hold a 21st Century, high-skill, high-knowledge job that enables them to support a family;
  • Students become informed citizens and active leaders;
  • Students become heads of families and fulfilled lifelong learners.

Members of the Louisville team:

  • Mayor Greg Fischer, Louisville Metro Government
  • Donna Hargens, Jefferson County Public Schools
  • Joe Tolan, Metro United Way (represented by Amy Neal, Vice President Early Care and Education)
  • Mary Gwen Wheeler, 55K Degrees
  • Michael Gritton, KentuckianaWorks
  • Sadiqa Reynolds, Louisville Urban League (represented by Cassandra Webb, Youth Development Coordinator)
  • Mason Rummel, James Graham Brown Foundation
  • Tony Zipple, Seven Counties Services
  • Yvette Gentry, Community Building, Louisville Metro (represented by Rashaad Abdur-Rahman, Director of the Office of Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods)

“The By All Means initiative aligns well with our strategic plan, and gives us an amazing opportunity to identify and develop the tools and supports our community needs for our kids to thrive and succeed,” said Dr. Hargens.

The team will be meeting frequently over the next two years, both in Louisville and at Harvard, and will engage the larger community with opportunities for involvement.

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