TIMES TRIBUNE (CORBIN, Ky.)
By Jeff Noble / Staff Writer
The President of the University of Kentucky came to Corbin Tuesday to talk about some “incredible partnerships.”
And while the Corbin Rotary Club listened as they ate lunch, Dr. Eli Capilouto also brought up three numbers as food for thought on UK’s current state of affairs.
Those numbers were 105, 540 million, and 500 billion.
He brought up number 105 first.
“This year, we had a record freshman class. The best prepared, and most diverse class ever. This year we have 105 National Merit (Scholarship) Finalists. This year, we’re confident we’ll be able to be in the Top 10 among public universities. We strive to be a school for the best and brightest to graduate and get a degree,” Capilouto told Rotarians at their meeting held at David’s Steakhouse.
He was especially proud of one partnership — the “First Scholars” group at UK. They’re composed of students who are the first in their families to go to college.
“The last two years, we’ve hit a 97-98 percent retention rate for them,” noted Capilouto.
The 540 million came second.
Put a dollar sign in front of it and the number comes to $540 million. That’s the total amount of money for construction that’s now underway, or will start soon on the UK campus in Lexington. He added, “it does not involve a dime of state money.”
Revitalizing the main campus, and creating a modern environment for learning and living is being done through an innovative public-private partnership. Capilouto said it involves revitalizing the university’s residence halls.
Of that total of $540 million, nearly half of it — $265 million — is for over 4,000 residence beds and 175 active learning spaces in 10 residence halls.
“It’s the most revitalization of residence halls designed for 21st Century living. The construction on the residence halls have brought a lot of good jobs to the campus. You realize how much integrity there is when you have a job. A good-paying job,” he said.
The rest of that $540 million involves three projects.
Capilouto said it involves the expansion and renovation of the Gatton College of Business and Economics, a new Academic Science Building pegged at $100 million, and $110 million for renovations to Commonwealth Stadium and the Nutter Training Center, used for football.
Those three projects total $275 million. He added that UK Athletics is helping to put up the money for some of the cost.
“Of the sports we offer, football and basketball are profitable. Believe it or not, basketball is not the most profitable, football is. It funds the other sports and provides scholarships,” said Capilouto.
The 500 billion number came last.
Capilouto pointed out, “It’s 500 billion dollars. It’s the number of dollars that’s been generated economically in Kentucky by research dollars. In Kentucky, it means announcing that our Markey Cancer Center was recognized by the National Cancer Institute as a National Cancer Center. Cancer kills Kentuckians, and this center helps save their lives.”
He added that because of the research faculty, staff and students, UK has become one of the country’s most productive public research schools.
“In 2008, construction started on a new School of Pharmacy facility. UK Hospital has over 30,000 patients annually. We have a federally-supported Alzheimer’s research center at the Sanders-Brown Center of Aging. … The UK Center for Applied Energy Research is getting a federal grant for ‘carbon capture’ research, to reduce carbon emissions and put them into power plants. …We have a nucleus of talent. We have open space,” Capilouto said.
Earlier in his remarks, Capilouto — a native of Montgomery, Ala. who spent several years in Birmingham and was Provost at the University of Alabama-Birmingham (UAB) — told the Corbin Rotarians he was once a member of the Kiwanis Club. But they had a common goal with his Rotary friends.
“There, in Birmingham, both the Kiwanis Club and the Rotary Club built a polio facility years ago. I know how important the cause of ending polio worldwide is to all of you.”
He also mentioned visiting other communities in eastern and southeastern Kentucky, witnessing some of the partnerships made by UK and other groups in the region, such as a cardiac care agreement with Appalachian Regional Healthcare in Hazard, and cancer screenings for thousands of people living in the Whitesburg-Letcher County area.
Capilouto brought up one partnership with Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation (KHIC) in London, and called on KHIC President and CEO Jerry Rickett to speak to the audience.
Rickett brought up one project in Whitley County that’s a partnership KHIC had with UK — the Houseboat to Energy Efficient Residences, or HBEER, initiative — where the Lake Cumberland area’s houseboat manufacturers produced 13 energy-efficient, affordable housing units in the Emlyn community. Rickett added HBEER has created jobs for the region, and has given people good housing.
Capilouto became UK’s 12th President in July 2011. He ended his remarks by noting the people, resources and experience of UK have left a lasting mark on the Commonwealth.
“We have a lot to be proud of. Our commitment is 150 years strong,” said Dr. Capilouto.