KNOXVILLE — The University of Tennessee Board of Trustees has approved UT President John Petersen’s recommendation of Jimmy G. Cheek as the new chancellor of UT Knoxville.
The board voted unanimously in favor of Cheek’s appointment at its board meeting on Friday in Knoxville.
Cheek is currently the senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources at the University of Florida.
“Dr. Cheek is an excellent choice and, we believe, the best fit for the university from among a superb field of candidates. The Knoxville campus is a top public research university with great potential to grow and advance its national profile,” Petersen said. “I’m recommending Dr. Cheek because he will ensure this momentum continues in a way that positively impacts our students, faculty and staff, and the state.”
Petersen said this chancellorship is an exceptional opportunity in higher education, as was proven in the quality of candidates.
“That made for a difficult decision, but that is the kind of decision you want for a position of this importance and magnitude. Dr. Cheek is a consensus-builder who has a solid reputation for moving initiatives forward in challenging circumstances,” Petersen said. “I am pleased to recommend him to the board.”
Cheek said he looks forward to leading the Knoxville campus.
“I am delighted,” Cheek said, “to be chosen as chancellor of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. This is one of the best public institutions in America with many unique assets and a very bright academic future.”
“The interview process was open and in-depth and provided very real insight into both the challenges and the opportunities,” Cheek said. “I was very impressed with the faculty, the students and the overall academic priorities. There is a strong statewide constituency of broad support. This is an outstanding university with a commitment to be even better.”
“My goal will be to develop an aggressive strategic agenda for the campus in concert with the overall strategies of the university. I am confident with the excellent campus team in place, we can do that together.”
“My wife, Ileen, and I look forward to moving to Knoxville,” Cheek said. “We will be active participants in the community.”
Pending confirmation by the board, Cheek would begin serving as Chancellor on Feb. 1, 2009. His annual salary would be $345,000.
Appointed to the vice president post at Florida in 2005, his current role involves managing the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences which includes the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, the School of Natural Resources and the Environment, the School of Forest Resources and Conservation, elements of the College of Veterinary Medicine, the Florida Agricultural Experiment Station, 13 Research and Education Centers throughout Florida and the Florida Cooperative Extension Service.
Prior to that, Cheek was dean of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences for five years and assistant dean for seven years.
Cheek, 62, earned a doctorate in interdisciplinary education from Texas A&M University. A native of Texas, he and his wife, Ileen, have two adult children and one granddaughter.
Jan Simek has been serving as interim chancellor since January 2008. He will continue to lead the campus until the transition in February.
The search for a new chancellor began in January and was overseen by a 21-member committee of faculty, staff, students and community leaders chaired by Hap McSween, UT Knoxville Distinguished Professor of Science, a Chancellor’s Professor and head of the Department of Earth & Planetary Sciences.
With the assistance of Parker Executive Search firm, the committee considered 37 candidates. Twelve were chosen for a round of preliminary interviews and, from that group, five finalists were selected and visited campus for two full days of interviews and public forums in September. Feedback was solicited from the campus community.
“This was an outstanding search committee,” Petersen said. “They did an excellent job, and I appreciate Dr. McSween’s leadership and the hard work from its members, as well as participation and input from the campus community throughout this process.”
The search committee reviewed feedback and provided President Petersen information about the candidate’s strengths and weaknesses. After reviewing that information and conducting his own follow-up interviews, Petersen recommended Cheek to be the new chancellor.
Search committee members were McSween; Denise Barlow, vice chancellor, finance and administration; Palmira Brummett, history professor and Distinguished Professor of Humanities; John Currie, senior associate UT athletics director; Joe DiPietro, vice president, Institute of Agriculture; Barbara Dewey, dean and professor, University Libraries; Debbie Diddle, past president, UT Alumni Association; Rita Geier, associate to the chancellor; Dee Haslam, chair, UT Development Council; Joan Heminway, associate professor, law; Doug Horne, trustee, Knoxville; Larry Martin, deputy to the mayor, city of Knoxville; Susan Martin, interim provost and professor, classics; Thomas Mason, director, Oak Ridge National Laboratory; Daniel Murphy, professor, accounting; John Rader, UT law student; Gary Sayler, Distinguished Professor, microbiology; Terrell Strayhorn, associate professor and special assistant to the provost; August Washington, chief, UT Police; Jan Williams, dean and professor, College of Business Administration; and Meghan Blackwell, UT Knoxville Student Government Association vice president.