From Alabama to campus, Capilouto feels ‘fortunate’



By Cheyene Miller

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When Eli Capilouto received a phone call asking him if he wanted to be president of UK, he was wearing a T-shirt and blue jeans at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati.

“I thought at that moment, ‘This is the opportunity of a lifetime,’” Capilouto said. “And I’m fortunate every day to live it.”

Raised in Montgomery, Ala., Capilouto grew up during some of the biggest moments of the Civil Rights Movement.

The Montgomery Bus Boycott, the Selma to Montgomery March, and the bombing of Martin Luther King Jr.’s house all happened when Capilouto was growing up in Alabama.

“The march from Selma came behind my high school when I was a high school student,” Capilouto said.

“In my youth (I) certainly felt the impact of the Civil Rights Movement,” said Capilouto, who said having grown up in such an environment “broadens and deepens my perspective,” and “makes me more empathetic.”

Prior to getting the job as UK president in 2011, Capilouto served as provost of the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

A search firm contacted Capilouto and he then entered a national search for the new president.

“I came in on a Friday and I was told that by Sunday afternoon I’d be contacted about either packing my bags or driving to Lexington,” Capilouto said.

As they were entering the stadium on Sunday, he got a phone call from Britt Brockman of the UK Board of Trustees who asked him, “If we were to offer you the presidency of the University of Kentucky, would you accept?”

Capilouto said he and his wife Mary Lynne were overcome with emotion at the life-changing news.

“I think there were some tears of joy,” Capilouto said.

Capilouto said UK HealthCare, the performing arts programs and research on new and effective forms of energy, as well as being home to some of the highest achieving students in the country, are among UK’s greatest accomplishments.

“I think that we are increasingly the first choice of the best and brightest students,” Capilouto said.

Whether he’s greeting incoming freshmen on Move-in Day, playing Twister at DanceBlue, or just walking home from a work out at the Johnson Center, Capilouto said he’s always eager to converse with students.

“I love walking around campus, because I feel like I have my hand on the pulse of what’s going on,” Capilouto said.

A native of Alabama, Capilouto leaves no uncertainty as to who he roots for in the SEC.

“True blue, all the way,” Capilouto said. “I can’t wait until 2016 season when we go to Tuscaloosa to play.”