University of Louisville Foundation hires Keith Sherman as interim director

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) --  The University of Louisville Foundation has hired Keith M. Sherman, a former high-level executive at Thornton’s, Inc., to be its interim executive director and chief operating officer.

The foundation, a nonprofit that manages the university’s roughly $700 million endowment, had been led by former university President James Ramsey for fourteen years until he resigned from the nonprofit in September.

Sherman, 52, will start on Thursday at a $240,000 annual salary. His appointment is for one year, with a “guaranteed term” of six months, according to Foundation Chairwoman Brucie Moore.

Sherman was previously vice president for human resources at Thornton’s, the Louisville-based chain of gas stations.

Before joining Thornton’s in December 2014, Sherman was vice president for human resources and labor relations at the American Red Cross from 2010 to 2014 and held the same position at Louisville-based Kindred Healthcare from 1994 to 2003, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Sherman could not be immediately reached. A Thornton’s representative said he no longer works there.

Foundation leaders described Sherman’s hiring as another step in restoring confidence in the foundation, whose finances have attracted intense scrutiny.

“There is a lot of work to be done here at the foundation,” Moore said in an interview Tuesday.

Moore said some of Sherman’s first duties will include managing the foundation’s response to Kentucky Auditor Mike Harmon’s examination of the organization’s governance. Harmon’s report is expected to be released in December.

Meanwhile, the foundation is about undergo a “forensic audit” at the request of the university’s Board of Trustees.    

“It’s going to take some guidance to be able to accomplish those things… in addition to the regular operating functions of the foundation,” Moore said.

Moore said there is a “high likelihood” that the permanent leader of the foundation – whether an executive director or president – will be someone other than the next president of the university.

Ramsey led both the university and foundation for 14 years. In practice, the foundation’s operations were overseen largely by Ramsey’s former chief of staff Kathleen Smith, whom Ramsey appointed “acting chief administrative officer” of the foundation two months before he resigned.

Smith has been on paid administrative leave from the foundation since Sept. 27, and Moore said Tuesday that there has been no change in her employment status.  

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Chris Otts reports for about business and economic topics, higher education and local / state government. He joined WDRB News in 2013 after seven years with The Courier-Journal. Got a tip? Chris is at 502-585-0822 and