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Metro Newsroom

Riehm Environmental Award Goes to UofL's Larry Owsley

Thursday April 22, 2010

Award given at Joan Riehm Memorial Garden dedication

The first Joan Riehm Environmental Leadership Award was presented today to a University of Louisville administrator who “walks the walk” when it comes to environmental sustainability, said his nominators.

Larry Owsley, UofL’s vice president for business affairs, received the award created by the Partnership for a Green City – a collaboration among UofL, Louisville city government and the Jefferson County Public Schools. It honors Riehm, a former Louisville deputy mayor and a lifelong advocate of environmental and public partnership initiatives who died of cancer in 2008.

“It’s very fitting that an award presented yearly to an individual who has provided environmental leadership in the public sector be named for Joan Riehm, who cared so much about her hometown and the environment,” said Mayor Jerry Abramson.

Owsley, who joined UofL in 1983, oversees the university’s business, construction and renovation, physical plant, police, parking, transportation, food services and vending operations. The size and scope of his work in sustainability has been “immense,” said his nominators.

During his time at UofL, Owsley has revitalized hundreds of acres of brownfields into environmentally-safe properties such as Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium, Jim Patterson Baseball Stadium and a new student housing complex on the former American Standard property.

He also negotiated a contract with TARC that allows UofL students and employees to ride the bus free with a valid university ID, a step that has encouraged thousands of people to use alternative transportation, nominators said.

"The University of Louisville is proud of its innovative approaches to improving sustainability on our campuses," said UofL President James Ramsey. "Larry Owsley has been a tremendous force in driving and overseeing these 'green' initiatives."

The Riehm Award, which will be presented yearly on Earth Day and includes a $500 cash award, recognizes a person or group that leads environmental sustainability efforts in the community.

“Joan Riehm’s vision was to create a greener city,” said Jefferson County Public Schools Superintendent Sheldon Berman. “Through new recycling programs and the development of more energy efficient schools, we continue her work with vigor and ingenuity.”

The award was presented during the dedication of a garden named for Riehm on the grounds of Louisville Metro Hall. The garden features two benches set among knockout roses, yellow tickweed flowers and boxwood shrubs. Funding was provided through private donations to Brightside.

“Joan not only believed in the environment, she believed in bringing people together,” Abramson said. “So she would appreciate this spot in the heart of our city’s civic district where residents can sit, talk and enjoy nature.”


Larry Owsley

Larry Owsley was one of the first people to champion environmental sustainability at the University of Louisville.

Largely because of his efforts, UofL earned a B+ on a report card issued last fall by the Sustainability Endowments Institute, a national organization that rates sustainability at more than 300 colleges and universities.

Owsley also took a lead role in securing a $21.7 million, 13 ½-year performance contract to make Belknap Campus more energy efficient. The project is expected to reduce UofL’s annual greenhouse gas emissions by 55.5 million pounds, an amount equal to removing 4,000 cars from the road for a year.

His award nominators cited more than a dozen other accomplishments, including:

· Anchoring efforts at UofL to adopt more sustainable practices in a wide range of university operations from purchasing to food services to single-stream recycling

· Playing a key part in UofL’s receiving a Gold LEED rating for its new Clinical and Translational Research Building in February

· Working with the Old Louisville Neighborhood Council to convert unused open space to viable green space for human use and enjoyment

Owsley, a Centre College graduate, has two master’s degrees, one in public administration from the University of Virginia and another in public policy from the University of California-Berkeley.

Besides serving as chief business officer under three UofL presidents, he was associate director of the Kentucky Governor’s Office for Policy and Management and chief financial officer for Kentucky’s Council on Higher Education.

About Joan Riehm

Joan Riehm dedicated her professional life to public service – to strengthening Louisville and its region. She worked primarily in the public sector, for the city of Louisville, the state of Kentucky and for Louisville Metro, helping create the newly merged city and county.

Her hallmarks were idealism, practical strategy and a positive personality that built partnerships and could create community collaboration toward the most ambitious goals.

Riehm was instrumental in developing the Partnership for a Green City, creating the

director’s position. She was a lifelong advocate for environmental issues and a passionate supporter of Brightside.

After voters approved government merger in 2002, Riehm co-chaired the Mayor’s merger transition team. In 2003, she joined Mayor Jerry Abramson’s administration as deputy mayor. She spoke to dozens of cities and groups around the country about Louisville’s experience with government merger, sharing insights on how to create efficient government partnerships.

In 2007, she retired as deputy mayor to become a private consultant and chairman of the Philadelphia-based Alliance for Regional Stewardship, a national organization that promotes regionalism and assists metropolitan areas with their efforts to collaborate.

Riehm spent more than three decades in communications and government service. She was a reporter and editor for The Courier-Journal, news editor for two weekly newspapers in the U.S. Virgin Islands and communications director for the Kentucky Department for Human Resources.

She was press secretary to Louisville’s mayor in the 1970s and deputy mayor from 1986 to 1996. In the private sector, she managed government relations for Humana Inc., operated her own consulting business in public issues management and communication and coordinated a 23-county Regional Leadership Coalition of area business leaders.

She co-founded the Leadership Kentucky program, now in its 25th year.

Riehm died at age 62 after losing a battle with cancer in 2008.

Partnership for a Green City

The Partnership, the first of its kind in the country, represents a collaborative effort to improve environmental education, health and management by three of Louisville's largest public entities: Louisville Metro Government, University of Louisville and Jefferson County Public Schools. It was created in 2004 to help overcome challenges to Louisville's environmental practices.

Together, the partner agencies employ some 26,000 people, enroll 120,000 students, and own more than 500 buildings, 7,000 vehicles, and 25,000 acres of land.