Todd says it was ‘right time’

By Becca Clemons

In less than a year, someone new will be wearing the shoes — and carrying the duties — of UK’s highest leadership position.

At a news conference Wednesday, UK’s 11th president, President Lee Todd, announced he will retire on June 30, 2011, after serving for 10 years.

Todd said neither he nor his wife have health concerns, and health was not the reason for the decision, but after serving in the 24/7 job, “it was just the right time.”

During his presidency, Todd worked toward making UK a top-20 public research university, and said during his time at UK one improvement has been an increased enrollment.

In fall 2001, total enrollment was 24,791, and in fall 2009, total enrollment was 27,171, according to UK’s website. This is about 9.6 percent increase.

The graduation rate for UK students grew from 55 percent to just more than 61 percent during the same time frame — currently the highest of any public university in Kentucky, Todd said.

“I feel a great sense of accomplishment from this place,” he said.

He said he is most proud of the attitude change instilled in students and faculty, causing improvements in medical facilities, athletics and academics across campus.

Todd said UK’s goals differentiate the university from others across the state. He said UK is not a selective university and gives more students a chance at higher education. UK doesn’t look strictly at ACT scores when admitting students, he said.

“Not all universities striving to be in the Top 20 would do that,” he said.

He compared UK’s growth and goals to those of schools like the University of North Carolina and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Todd said for UK to reach that kind of success, the school has to be bigger. He said after he is gone, UK needs to continue growing in accordance with the Top 20 plan.

Todd hopes that through education, the Commonwealth can rise to the top economically and academically, and he said UK is a university changing the state, particularly through its work in health care.

He said UK medical facilities can compete with top hospitals in the region and have been working hard to treat patients from across the state.

Todd said even after his retirement, he aims to help raise funds and scholarship money to continue working toward the Top 20 goal.

“I am as enthusiastic about this institution today as I was when I accepted this job at Patterson Plaza,” Todd said.

Todd’s future plans will still involve improving education across the state through his membership on the National Academies’ Committee on Research Universities and his plans to work with superintendents of Kentucky’s K-12 schools in improving science, technology, engineering and mathematics education.

Todd said he never had plans to serve as UK’s president.

“I can’t explain the honor of having served in this position for 10 years,” he said.