Towson University President Kim Schatzel will be the next president of the University of Louisville.
Schatzel will be the university’s 19th president and the second woman to lead the school. U of L’s board of trustees voted unanimously to hire her in a special meeting Wednesday morning.
Speaking briefly to the board immediately after their vote, Schatzel said the appointment is a “lifetime opportunity.” for her.
"I'm all in for U of L," Schatzel said, adding she plans on spending at least a decade in Louisville.
She is set to start Feb. 1, and interim President Lori Stewart Gonzalez is expected to return to her prior post as provost once Schatzel is in place. Gonzalez has led the school since last December after President Neeli Bendapudi left to take the top job at Penn State University.
Schatzel, 66, will have a $925,000 yearly salary and receive $200,000 annually for her retirement, according to a draft of her contract.
She comes to Louisville with decades of experience in both the private sector and higher education. She was a first generation college student, she said in her remarks, just like one-third of U of L students.
"I hope they see themselves in me and that they, too, can - and should - aspire to be the president of a premier metropolitan research university," she said.
Her career started in business. She earned a doctorate in business administration from Michigan State University and spent more than 20 years in the technology and manufacturing sectors.
Schatzel pivoted to higher education as an assistant professor of marketing at the University of Michigan-Dearborn before advancing to school leadership. She served as provost at Eastern Michigan University from 2012 to 2016 before going to Towson as president.
With her at the helm, Towson underwent a rebranding mission "to retell the contemporary story of Towson University and its significant positive impact on Baltimore, Maryland, and the entire Mid-Atlantic Region," according to her school biography.
Towson also created an Office of Inclusion and Institutional Equity. Schatzel has won multiple awards for her focus on diversity, equity and inclusion.
Her hiring at U of L concludes a monthslong national search, which was conducted behind closed doors. University spokesman John Karman confirmed recently there were multiple finalists, but he did not disclose who they were.
Schatzel steps into a leadership role that has seen significant turnover and now must steer U of L past the scars left by scandals over the past several years.
U of L's longtime former president, James Ramsey, resigned under pressure in 2016 after a series of controversies, including multiple embezzlement cases involving university employees, questionable spending by the school's investment foundation and an NCAA investigation into allegations that a university employee paid women to strip and have sex with basketball players.
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Ramsey's departure led to a rotating door of leaders, including multiple interim presidents before Bendapudi took over in mid-2018.
The university also is moving out from under the cloud of a five-year, and finally completed, NCAA investigation into various allegations involving its men's basketball team, including recruiting-related violations. In the end, the program didn't receive major penalties.
Schatzel said one of her first steps will be a listening tour to hear from the community and campus.
That tour, in a way, has already begun. Schatzel and her husband, on their campus visit a few weeks ago, hit up some hot spots like the Ville Grill, the student dining hall. She told students she was there getting a sense of the campus for a relative who was considered going there.
Schatzel said she asked what they thought about the campus and U of L. Some said that it was a "diverse and friendly place" and that their professors were "real experts in their field and totally committed to outstanding teaching."
"They also said that Jack Harlow visits sometimes," she said.
In its news release, U of L emphasized Towson's six-year graduation rate of 72% − the second-highest in the University System of Maryland − and said Towson "is one of few universities in the nation where Black, Latinx and Pell-eligible students achieve the same graduation rate as the overall student population."
This year, 57% of Towson's students identified as under-represented minorities.
Improving graduation rates is a priority for Louisville. Available data show a six-year rate of about 60% for a cohort of students that started school in 2014.
When asked if she is committed to staying at U of L long term, Schatzel responded: "I want to make it real clear: You're stuck with me."
And don't worry about her age in the process, she added. She said she's already signed up for the Kentucky Derby Festival mini-marathon for spring 2023.
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This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Kim Schatzel named University of Louisville's new president