By Joseph Lyell —

On Tuesday morning, more than 200 people gathered on the steps of Grawemeyer Hall to welcome President Neeli Bendapudi on her first day at U of L.

Bendapudi, named president April 3, is the first woman and the first person of color to be president of U of L.

Her first remarks echoed those she made when she was hired, saying her mission is to help make U of L a great place to learn, work and invest.

“For us as a university to be very very successful, we cannot lose sight of the students,” Bendapudi said.

For faculty and staff, Bendapudi said she wants to instill a sense of community in those who have stayed loyal through ups and downs at the university.

She also said she will focus on restoring the confidence of U of L’s investors.

“[We must] rebuild trust, rebuild confidence among some people who might have said ‘We’re not quite sure,'” Bendapudi said.

Diversity was a theme Bendapudi reiterated several times throughout her remarks.

She said she’d like to see U of L flourish under diversity of thought, life experiences and studies.

“We have to be a place that celebrates diversity, fosters equity and achieves inclusion every time,” Bendapudi said.

One of Bendapudi’s first tasks will be drafting the 2018-19 budget before the June 21 board of trustees meeting, but she said much of that work has already been done.

“This year, the whole group has been working so hard, and if they’ve come up with something, I want to be supportive of the work that has gone on. And next year I’ll obviously have the opportunity to really study and shape it,” she said.

Bendapudi said it was a little early to determine what kind of legacy she wants to leave behind at U of L, but she wants to leave the university in a better condition than she found it in.

“I hope that people say ‘this is somebody who acted with the highest integrity’ in terms of doing the best for the university,” she said.

Photos by Joseph Lyell / The Louisville Cardinal