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Dunn & Nostaja: The Louisville Sluggers

LouisvilleSluggerAlbany Times-Union writer James Odato has an interesting story about how a crisis at the State University of New York Downstate Medical Center has created a windfall for private public relations consultants. He writes:

In public and private meetings, the SUNY leaders urged lawmakers last week to add $185 million to the $969 million Gov. Andrew Cuomo has budgeted — about $150 million alone to keep SUNY Downstate afloat. The Brooklyn school and medical campus is on a path to bankruptcy and planning 500 layoffs, largely because of its misguided 2011 acquisition of Long Island College Hospital, which is being closed, according to state reports.

Amid the fiscal challenges, SUNY Downstate President John Williams awarded a no-bid consulting contract for $12,000 per month to a pair of former Albany political operatives now running their own PR firms, Robert Bellafiore and Steve Greenberg.

Ah, yes. Where would our public university systems be without private consultants? Let’s consider, say, the University of Louisville. That’s where former SUNY at Buffalo vice president of health sciences David L. Dunn landed in 2011 after he followed former UB president John Simpson in jumping ship. Dunn was among those getting paid very handsomely by the UB Foundation, in addition to his state salary, back in those halcyon years when UB Believers were straight-facedly asking Albany for $5 billion dollars for UB2020.


After a few years of making this pie-in-the-sky $5 billion request of Albany, with cheerleading from various lobbyists, every local politician, and the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, Governor Cuomo finally said, “That’s like all the money in the world.” The great UB 2020 plan shrank into something called the NYSUNY 2020 plan, with Buffalo getting $35 million.

Dunn got while the getting was good. Here’s how they greeted him in Louisville.

In a prepared statement, U of L president Dr. James Ramsey said Dunn has the skills to quickly move the university “to the next level” as an academic medical center.

“We sought a national leader for this position and we have found one.”

A year later, here’s how Louisville journalist Terry Boyd described Dunn:

Dr. David Dunn may end up being the best thing that ever happened to local journalism.


Because any reporter walking out of an interview or press conference with Dunn, U of L executive vice president for health affairs, takes away the gnawing suspicion there  are few public figures in Louisville so richly deserving of scrutiny by Louisville’s feeble Fourth Estate.

Personally, Dunn motivates me to come back and look at everything he touches at U of L, at the School of Medicine and most importantly, at University of Louisville Hospital. This is to some extent an issue of the wrong person in the wrong, thankless job.

Instead of someone with diplomatic skills and a willingness to say mea culpa, mea bene culpa when caught, U of L officials selected Dunn – a little god – as the public face of the university.

A little god who is truculent, imperious, officious and superior, yet oddly crude and ham-handed in his obfuscation.


Dunn is not the only luminary from this golden age of big talk at UB to find a place at the University of Louisville. Remember former UB president, err, interim president Scott Nostaja? He was brought to Buffalo by Simpson, where his consulting firm AVCOR caused all kinds of controversy at UB, dating back to 2005, for the secretive nature of its role at the university.

Nostaja did not wind up becoming UB president, and he abruptly “retired.”  Business First covered it this way.

Turns out it was a brief retirement. Nostaja has changed the name of his consulting firm from the meaningless AVCOR to the equally meaningless EXCELCOR.

EXCELCOR is—you guessed it—performing consulting services for the University of Louisville. From the story:

Respondents to an analysis of UofL’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) indicated that one of the university’s biggest strengths is its people.

Consultant Scott Nostaja reported on the SWOT analysis at the first of two open campus forums to provide updates about and get input for the 21st Century University Initiative at the University of Louisville. Another open forum is scheduled for Kornhauser Library auditorium at the Health Sciences Center Thursday, Jan. 31, at 9 a.m.

Nostaja, from the company Excelcor, had met with several campus groups representing faculty, staff and students to gather their perspectives. A SWOT analysis also was online for faculty, staff, students and external stakeholders. All totaled, 650 people completed a SWOT analysis.

Turns out U of L has a 2020 plan of its own. Seems they want to revitalize the university and community by building up their medical school campus—if you can believe such a crazy thing. They even think this “will ultimately leverage the academic and research functions of the University of Louisville into an exceptional economic engine that will result in an influx of high-wage jobs, growing revenue for the region and state.” At least, that’s according to the U of L Development Company, an affiliate of the University of Louisville Foundation, which controls around $750 million, à la the UB Foundation(s).

Click here to read the U of L’s “vision statement.” An excerpt here:

Process: How will we do this?

As always with such endeavors, the outcome will only be as good as the inputs. We want the process to be open, transparent, and inclusive and to mirror the values of shared governance and honest dialogue.. Some of this will be challenging – the idea of change always is – but there are also exciting possibilities that we deserve the right to explore together.

We have been working with the national consulting firm, Excelcor, Inc., to guide us through this exercise…




And here’s one going out by popular request…


  • Monorail! (What’s that name?) Monorail! (Say it again?) MONORAILLLLLLLLLLLLLL!

    • Jim_Holstun

      M: “But Main Street’s still all cracked and broken!”
      B: “Sorry, Mom, the mob has spoken!”

      Professor Henry Hill could at least play a trombone. What can Scott Nostaja play–I mean, aside from gullible university administrators?