Governor Haslam Appoints UT Alumnus John Tickle to Board of Trustees

Businessman, philanthropist and University of Tennessee graduate John D. Tickle has been appointed by Gov. Bill Haslam to serve on the UT Board of Trustees.

Tickle is chairman of Strongwell Corporation and a 1965 graduate of UT Knoxville with a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering. In 2013, the 110,000-square-foot Tickle Engineering Building, funded in part by a gift from Tickle and his wife, Ann, was dedicated on the Knoxville campus.

In 2010, the couple were named Philanthropists of the Year by the UT Development Council. The award recognized their support for the $1 billion Campaign for Tennessee through a gift that enabled a 32,000-square-foot expansion, the John and Ann Tickle Small Animal Hospital, within the UT College of Veterinary Medicine in 2008. Ann Tickle received a bachelor’s degree in education from UT Knoxville.

“John and Ann are long-time friends and supporters of the University of Tennessee, and as alumni, they both have a great affinity for UT and care deeply about its mission,” UT President Joe DiPietro said. “Because of that, and the proven leadership John will bring to his service on the board of trustees, his appointment is great news and I look very much forward to working with him.”

Tickle, a resident of Bristol, fills the unexpired term of former UT trustee and board vice chairman Brian Ferguson, who resigned in April upon moving out of state. Tickle’s current appointment is through 2017.

Tickle will serve on the UT board’s finance and administration committee; and on the research, outreach and economic development committee.

Tickle was president of Morrison Molded Fiber Glass Company in Bristol before he eventually purchased the company and renamed it Strongwell Corporation in 1997. Today, Strongwell is a worldwide operation, headquartered in Bristol.

In addition to their gifts to the UT Knoxville College of Engineering and College of Veterinary Medicine, the Tickle family has made numerous other gifts to benefit the University.

Op-Ed by President Joe DiPietro: UT’s advocates vital to steering through change

UT President Joe DiPietro addressing the Public Higher Education Legislative Advocacy Professionals National Conference, hosted by UT

President Joe DiPietro addressing the Public Higher Education Legislative Advocacy Professionals National Conference, hosted by UT

More than 60 officials from 33 universities came to Nashville last week for a national conference hosted by the University of Tennessee. Members of the Public Higher Education Legislative Advocacy Professionals have responsibility for grassroots political advocacy on behalf of their institutions. As such, they all face a rapidly changing landscape in which advocacy has a growing role.

Meaningful, effective advocacy is as vital to a public university as a great medical staff is to a hospital. It enables speaking with one voice, a critical element in working with elected officials and delivering advocacy messages. UT’s advocacy network is built on a strong core of passionate alumni and friends who insist on more opportunities to advocate for the university in political circles.

For some university presidents, vocal supporters can be a concern. There’s concern about the prospect of an out-of-control, off-message, disorganized group hindering your work with government entities.

I consider passionate, energetic alumni a gift. Effective engagement enables them to help achieve good outcomes. That engagement involves a few vital ingredients UT is fortunate to have:

  • University leadership support;
  • A strong government relations team;
  • Strong alumni relations; and,
  • Training and regular communication with advocates.

At UT, we embrace the energy and passion of our alumni and friends. Advocacy is addressed in one of five broad, strategic goals — making it intentional, measurable and a priority for our entire statewide system. This focus led to creation of our UT Advocacy Network, run out of our government relations office in strong partnership with our alumni association.

Our government relations team is empowered and encouraged to speak frankly with advocates. When they do, their expertise is clear and establishes credibility with alumni and friends. If a call to action on key political issues is necessary, our advocates understand it’s an urgent matter for the university.

It’s uncommon for higher ed to engage supporters so visibly and actively, but I believe we must be willing to do so. It’s necessary to put public higher ed on even footing with special interests or competing government priorities. While this risks getting caught in a political battle, sometimes that’s where the biggest impact is made. That doesn’t mean we join the fight on every issue, but on the ones that matter we shouldn’t shy away.

I’m proud of how we’re engaging advocates at UT, including one of our boldest and most visible efforts: re-evaluating our entire business model. UT faces plenty of challenges, but one that easily overshadows the rest is finding sustainable, long-term funding.

Midway through 2014, I outlined our broken business model and projected a funding gap of $377 million over 10 years. Averting that gap means changing how we do business, and we are. We’re maximizing effectiveness, efficiency, excellence and being more entrepreneurial. To keep tuition increases at 30-year record lows like this year, we must either cut costs or increase revenue outside annual tuition increases. Solving the problem should secure affordability of a public higher education at our campuses.

Beyond change within UT, there has to be cultural change involving state support for public higher education. This can’t happen without our advocates. Tough choices and hard decisions will be part of the process, and informed advocates will help us make our case.

Tennessee’s same funding challenges are happening throughout the country. Nationally, higher education’s business model is at a crossroads. There’s rapid turnover in elected officials in state governments. Out-of-state interests are growing, along with PACs and super PACs. Lawmakers more frequently dive into policy matters traditionally left to universities.

As times change, so must we. University presidents must be bold and unapologetic in embracing advocacy. Failure to do so puts public higher education at a competitive disadvantage. Fortunately, UT has a clear, strong, positive impact on the lives of all Tennesseans, and when the university’s best interests call for engaging advocates, we can find them in every political district of the state.

Read the op-ed in the Knox News Sentinel and the Commercial Appeal.

Beloved UT President Emeritus Dr. Ed Boling Passes Away at Age 93









Dr. Edward J. Boling, president of the University of Tennessee system from 1970 to 1988, died on Thursday at the age of 93.  Dr. Boling’s 18 consecutive years as UT president make up the longest recent term of service in the office. Before his appointment as president, Dr. Boling was UT’s vice president for development for nine years.

“During his long career at the University of Tennessee, including 18 years as president, Dr. Boling embodied a dedication and devotion to his alma mater and to its students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends that we should all strive to emulate,” said UT President Joe DiPietro.

“He oversaw the birth of a modern, high-quality land-grant institution linked to national labs with excellence at every level. We are all grateful for his service.”

Dr. Boling was a graduate of UT and was brought back to his alma mater by former UT President Andy Holt in 1961 and then succeeded Holt as UT’s 17th president. Before working at UT, Dr. Boling served as budget director and then commissioner of finance and administration for the state of Tennessee. Dr. Boling and Thomas W. Humes, who was president of the then-East Tennessee University and the newly-named University of Tennessee from 1865-1883, are the longest serving presidents of the University.

Dr. Boling became president emeritus after his retirement in 1988 and remained active in building and maintaining relationships with UT donors and prospects. He frequently attended UT basketball and football games. Continue reading

The Legislature Has Adjourned: How Did This Session Impact UT?

The Tennessee General Assembly has officially adjourned for the year after considering the final legislative calendars and passing the State’s $33 billion spending plan for FY15-16.  A number of higher education issues impacting UT were addressed this session.  We’ve been keeping our UT Advocacy Network up-to-date through our weekly legislative report, The Weekly Watch.  If you don’t already get that report, make sure you sign up here.

Thanks to the work of our state policymakers and UT advocates, the legislative session resulted in mostly favorable outcomes for the University of Tennessee. Some of those outcomes include:


97mFull Funding for State’s Higher Ed Outcomes-Based Formula: Funded
UT works hard to make sure its institutions are the state’s top performers. This year, the legislature fully funded the outcomes-based formula, resulting in a $9.7 million recurring operational increase for the UT campuses. While this funding does not address the projected $377 million budget gap over the next ten years, it does enable the University of Tennessee to mitigate the need for significant tuition increases this year.


funding increaseIncreased Funding for UT Institutions That Provide Services to All Tennesseans (Non-Formula Units): Funded
The increased recurring funding of $4.89 million will cover the Institute of Agriculture (UTIA), which has a presence in all 95 counties, Institute for Public Service (IPS) and Health Science Center (UTHSC). In 2013, UTIA, IPS and UTHSC provided outreach to more than six million people. Unlike our traditional campuses, these units have limited or no tuition mechanisms to offset previous declines in state revenue.



UT Knoxville Science Laboratory: Funded
The state authorized $99.5 million for a new UT Knoxville science laboratory building on Cumberland Avenue at 13th Street.  The new science laboratory will provide cutting-edge facilities to educate students and produce groundbreaking research. The project was one of UT’s top budget priorities this year and was included in the Governor’s original FY15-16 budget proposal.  It will help advance UT Knoxville’s ‘Top 25’ Initiative.


4HWest Tennessee 4-H Camp and Conference Center: Funded
The state authorized approximately $16 million for UT’s new West Tennessee 4-H Camp and Conference Center, to be located in Hardeman County.  The Center is turn-key ready and will fulfill a key part of the University’s outreach mission, providing youth in west Tennessee with an interactive environment to learn about STEM subjects, natural resources and agriculture.  It will be self-supporting through revenues generated via the Conference Center.  UT Extension’s three 4-H centers in Middle and East Tennessee currently serve 13,000 young people.  West Tennessee was the State’s only grand division without a 4-H Center.


windtunnelUT Space Institute Wind Tunnel Construction: Funded
The state authorized $1 million in capital outlay toward the construction of a new advanced wind tunnel at the UT Space Institute for the purpose of high speed flight and hypersonic research.  The wind tunnel would be the second of its kind in North America and is believed to be only the third of its kind in the world.  This funding will hopefully leverage additional future investment in this emerging research priority of the U.S. Department of Defense and the United States Air Force.


maintenanceMaintenance Projects on All UT Campuses: Funded
The legislature appropriated funding that will go toward ensuring our campuses and institutes are providing safe learning and work environments for our faculty, staff and students.  There are maintenance projects for all UT campuses included in the budget.  Examples of these projects include ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliance upgrades, fire safety improvements, roof replacements, and security upgrades, among others.


utpedsUT Pediatric Research Initiative: Funded
Included in the budget is $3 million in matching funds for a joint pediatric research initiative of the UT Health Science Center, Le Bonheur Children’s Medical Center, and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.  The initiative, ‘UT Peds,’ has helped reduce childhood obesity and asthma as well as assisted in recruitment of world-class staff, researchers, and physicians to treat Tennessee’s children.  This is year three of a five-year state funding commitment of $15 million.


advmanuUT-ORNL Advanced Manufacturing Initiatives: Funded
The budget includes $3 million in non-recurring funding to support UT-ORNL’s Advanced Manufacturing initiatives and supplement a $250 million federal grant in this area.




payforplayPay-for-Play for Student Athletes: Not Passed
For the second year in a row, Rep. Antonio Parkinson (D-Memphis) and Sen. Reggie Tate (D-Memphis) filed legislation seeking to pay student athletes that graduate from a Tennessee public higher education institution.

Paying student athletes upon graduation is a direct violation of NCAA bylaws.  Passage of the bill would have rendered every NCAA Division I athlete attending a public Tennessee university automatically ineligible to compete and, by extension, eliminate all Division I sports at Tennessee’s public postsecondary institutions.  While the House sponsor of the legislation argued that the legislation would force the NCAA’s hand on the issue of pay for student athletes, current NCAA bylaws are clear on requirements to maintain amateur status.

The legislation required colleges and universities to deposit 1 percent of their gross athletic revenue from merchandise sales and broadcast licensing agreements into a state-administered trust fund, which would be invested and then doled out to graduating athletes in payments not to exceed $50,000 for Tier 1 athletes (football, track & field, basketball and baseball) and $25,000 for athletes in other sports.  Ultimately, the bill was sent to “General Sub.”  The “General Sub” status took the bill off notice for this year, but keeps it alive if the sponsors request to put it on next year’s legislative calendar.


rotcIncreased Lottery Scholarship Flexibility for ROTC Students: Not Passed
Unfortunately, a bill that sought to provide more flexibility for current and future ROTC student cadets to retain their HOPE Lottery Scholarships did not make it successfully through the legislative process this year.  Currently, students must complete all their required ROTC courses and major and minor-related courses within an unlimited-hour eight-semester timeframe or an extended timeframe with a limit of 120-semester hours.

These limitations are particularly problematic for ROTC cadets majoring in STEM fields, which traditionally have little flexibility to accommodate the credit hours required for ROTC.

The legislation, sponsored by Rep. John Ragan (R-Oak Ridge) and Sen. Mark Green (R-Clarksville), would have removed the semester hours attempted in required ROTC courses from the semester hours attempted for Lottery Scholarship participation purposes.  The bill was taken off notice in the last days of the legislative session.  It had been flagged for fiscal concerns by the Administration as it required roughly $200,000 in lottery funds, which otherwise would be used for the Tennessee Promise.



perfevalEmployee Performance Reviews No Longer Public Record: Passed
Governor Bill Haslam has signed into law a measure exempting public higher education employee performance evaluations from the public record, essentially correcting a public policy oversight in state law.  Since the passage of the TEAM Act in 2012, state service employee performance evaluations have not been part of the public record.  One of the initial rationales of removing these evaluations from the public record centered on sound management practices:  Having performance evaluations as a public record simply discouraged managers from documenting needed areas of employee improvement.  Without formal documentation of these matters, the State was left with no reliable evidence of employee performance.

This change will afford higher education employees the same level of privacy as most other state government employees. The University supported the measure as it addressed an important fairness issue.


salaryCost-of-Living Adjustment for Higher Education Employees: Partially Funded
The University has a $150 million market gap in employee pay which it is seeking to close over time. Due to limited state revenues, UT employees did not receive a cost-of-living adjustment in last year’s budget. This year’s cost-of-living raise will help UT remain a competitive employer in higher education and recognize UT employees as a critical component of the state’s workforce.  The budget provides 55 percent of the funding necessary to provide a salary increase at UTC, UTK and UTM, essentially requiring these campuses to secure the additional funding needed to cover the unfunded portion of the salary increase.  The budget fully funds salary increases for the University’s non-formula units (Institute for Public Service, UT Institute of Agriculture, UT Health Science Center).



counselingLegislation Threatening Accreditation of State-Based Psychology Training Programs:  Not Passed
This legislation meddled with higher education degree program requirements and placed the accreditation of psychology programs at Tennessee public higher education institutions at risk.  The bill would have allowed any counseling, social work, or psychology student trainee to refuse treatment to any client with whom they might claim to have a religious difference.  Currently, student trainees are made fully aware of the ethical codes governing the training programs at the beginning of their coursework.  Yet, proponents of the legislation argued that the ethical codes that require counselors, including student trainees, to treat the clinical needs of all patients should no longer be recognized as reasonable guides.  Much like the professions of medicine and law, social work and psychology professionals have clearly defined scopes of practice and ethical guidelines adopted by national associations that govern their respective professions.

The implication from proponents of the legislation was that the accrediting associations such as the American Psychological Association, and by extension, the American Bar Association, or the American Medical Association, have no standing in Tennessee.

Because the bill placed accreditation of psychology programs at state universities at risk, sought to micromanage higher education curriculum, and modified degree program requirements, UT opposed the bill.  The sponsors, Sen. Joey Hensley (R-Hohenwald) and Rep. John DeBerry (D-Memphis), ultimately deferred the legislation.


opensourcetextbooksBill Opening Door for Sole Use of Open-Source Textbooks for General Education Courses: Not Passed
Public higher education institutions reached an agreement with Rep. Mike Sparks (R-Smyrna) this session to defer legislation he sponsored to authorize a special legislative committee to review and recommend new policies regarding higher education textbook selection, the use of open-source materials for general education courses, and efforts to minimize the costs of textbooks.

Instead of legislation, a formal request will come from the Education Committee chairs asking that public higher education institutions coordinate a review process to look at current policies, what innovative steps are being explored, and what some other states are doing to minimize the cost of textbooks. A presentation before the House and Senate Education Committees will be expected in March 2016.



distanceedA More Efficient Approach to Distance Education: Passed
Lawmakers passed the “State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement Act,” which authorizes the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) and public and private higher education institutions in Tennessee to join the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA).   This authorization will offer significant relief from the current administrative burden and cost associated with offering distance education/online programs in other states. UT was very supportive of the legislation as an efficiency and cost-saving measure.  Rep. Harry Brooks (R-Knoxville) and Sen. Dolores Gresham (R-Somerville) served as the bill sponsors.



veteransPublic Higher Education Institutions Required to Commemorate, but Not Close, on Veterans Day: Passed
Lawmakers passed an amended version of a bill that requires Tennessee public universities to hold an official campus program or event commemorating Veterans Day, as well as allow students, faculty, and staff who are veterans to participate in campus observances without adverse action or absence.  The University of Tennessee supported the amended version of the bill, which will ensure campus commemorations continue into the future and that students and employees that are veterans can easily participate.

The original bill required the public universities to close on Veteran’s Day, which would have dealt a devastating blow to the high-quality annual Veterans Day events that currently happen on each UT campus.  We appreciate the sponsors of the legislation, Sen. Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) and Rep. Dennis Powers (R-Jacksboro), working towards an amended version of the bill that achieved positive outcomes for all involved parties.

Legislators question, may oppose UT’s number one capital project priority

Could set a very damaging precedent for the future prioritization of higher ed projects

Lone Oaks Aerial

In recent days, it has become increasingly apparent that a growing number of legislators (mostly from within the House) are raising questions and concerns about UT’s top capital project, the West Tennessee 4-H Center known as Lone Oaks Farm.

This is of great concern.  The Board of Trustees in their June 2014 meeting approved the project and it was submitted by the Governor as the State’s second highest overall capital project for higher education.

UT Advocates should be concerned that UT’s top capital project is being put at risk.  What should concern all other advocates for higher education is the very dangerous precedent of removing or reprioritizing—essentially politicizing—a need-based priority system established over 25 years ago for higher education capital projects.

The West Tennessee 4-H Center will serve as a critical part of UT’s outreach mission.  4-H remains one of America’s most successful youth educational programs, reaching over 168,000 students in Tennessee each year.  In addition to hands-on STEM education in biology, agriculture, and other sciences, the program also arms youth with critical soft skills needed to stand out in today’s workforce.

The West Tennessee region has been without a 4-H Center since 2009, when the previous facility was closed and sold due to budget cuts and inadequate capital maintenance over a period of many years.

The offer of Lone Oaks Farm as a proposed replacement for the West Tennessee 4-H Center was recommended through an exhaustive selection process last year.  The more than $30 million dollar, 1,200-acre property is being made available to the University for approximately $16 million.  It is expected to be self-supporting through the revenue it generates from programs and educational meetings, events, and workshops that will take place at the site.  Lone Oaks Farm comes turn-key ready—as opposed to the 19 other sites reviewed throughout West Tennessee for the same purpose.

But funding for the project could be in peril.   Advocates can help support UT and the future of all higher education projects by asking their legislators to support Governor Haslam’s proposal for UT’s highest capital priority, the new 4-H Center.

Click here to take action.