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Louisville native Laura Douglas serves as Muhammad Ali Center's first Black female president

The former board chair talks about coming out of retirement to lead the organization until a national search is complete.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — After nearly a decade in Louisville, Donald Lassere will leave the Muhammad Ali Center and move back to his hometown of Chicago. Taking his place as interim CEO is Louisville native Laura Douglas, serving as center's first Black female president.

Douglas grew up in the Russell neighborhood with eight brothers and sisters, going to James Bond Elementary School before attending Western Junior High School and Shawnee High School.

"As a small child, I know my mother and father encouraged all of us to expand our horizon and to dream big," Douglas said. "I'm really fortunate to have the opportunity and to be able to continue to work in a community that I really love."

After attending UofL's Brandeis School of Law, Douglas worked as general counsel for several businesses and organizations, retiring after working at LG&E.

To many in the community, Douglas is known as a stabilizer, helping corporations and nonprofits maintain their business practices while stabilizing their leadership.

"Throughout my career I have always been a volunteer and I've always served on a number of boards in the community," Douglas said. "And one of the places I invested a great deal of my board serve was here at the Muhammad Ali Center."

As the immediate past board chair, Douglas came out of retirement to take on the role, hoping to reopen the Ali Center's doors during her tenure.

"It's an outstanding organization with a very impeccable national a reputation," Douglas said. "My role is here is to keep the ship steady in the water as the board looks for a permanent CEO. I'm happy to do that”.

Douglas came out of retirement to take on this role, and said she plans to return to her life as a grandmother once she is finished.

"I was a granny, and my grandchildren kind of run my life for me," Douglas said.

Douglas said she excited about keeping the Ali Center moving until the national search is completed, which could take up to six months. She said her family is happy about the role, and understands the importance of the position, but her role in their life holds more importance.

"My family is proud, but one thing they remind me every day, I'm just granny as far as they are concerned, and I'm mom," Douglas said.

The Muhammad Ali Center will reopen to the public Thursday, April 1, and its Truth Be Told temporary exhibit has been extended to 2022. 

June will mark the fifth anniversary of Muhammad Ali's passing. The Ali Festival June 4-13 will honor him and his six core principles: confidence, conviction, dedication, giving, respect and spirituality.

Contact The 411’s Sherlene Shanklin at sshanklin@whas11.com or follow her on FacebookTwitter, or Instagram.

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