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President Petersen Addresses UT Board of Trustees; Simek Officially Named Acting President

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MEMPHIS -– The University of Tennessee Board of Trustees today accepted John Petersen’s resignation as president and appointed Jan Simek as acting president.

In his farewell address to the board, Petersen looked back at the challenges facing him when he was hired in 2004, thanked his staff and offered advice to the board as the University faces serious budget reductions.

“We’ve got the spirit. We’ve got the vision. We’ve got the plan. We’ve got the opportunity even though these are tough times,” Petersen said.

He said each campus and institute is making tough choices to meet their budget reductions, and he asked the board to “question them but trust them.”

Simek will be acting president March 1 through June 30 while Petersen is on administrative leave with pay. Simek will become interim president on July 1, and he will serve a term not to exceed two years.

Board Vice Chair Jim Murphy commended Petersen for accomplishing four tasks the board set before him when he was hired: restoring confidence with the governor, legislators, alumni and donors; filling vacancies in campus and system leadership; maximizing the University’s relationship with Oak Ridge National Laboratory; and increasing fundraising.

“He succeeded in all priorities we set. Now he has decided to take another course,” Murphy said. “We thank him for his devotion to the University.”

Simek, a Distinguished Professor of Anthropology, has been at UT Knoxville since 1984. Previously, he was interim chancellor in Knoxville.

“This is a very difficult time for the University, but it is a time for opportunity,” Simek said. “We have the best students we’ve ever had in the 25 years I have been teaching. They deserve our great attention. We’ll strive through all these difficult times to focus on the students and their needs.”

At its annual meeting June 16-17, the board will vote on the budget for FY 2009-2010 and any tuition increases under consideration.

In other business, UT Knoxville Chancellor Jimmy Cheek asked the board to table a proposal for consolidation of the UT Knoxville College of Social Work by relocating the MSSW program location in Memphis to Nashville and Knoxville. More information will be gathered to determine if the proposal will move forward. Under the proposal, the location would have been relocated in May 2010.

The board’s Academic Affairs and Student Success Committee was presented a list of academic programs identified for review and possible discontinuance or consolidation. The board approved a system-wide procedure that will be used to review and decide on programs. Recommendations for programs to be discontinued will be presented to the board for action in June.

The board also:

  • Approved creation of a master’s degree in mathematics with concentrations in applied mathematics, applied statistics, algebra and discrete mathematics and education at UT Chattanooga. It is supported by existing resources and has minimal new costs. Pending approval by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, it would go into effect for Fall 2009.
  • Approved creation of the Graduate School of Education in the College of Education, Health and Human Sciences at UT Knoxville. It will serve to organize already existing programs and heighten the visibility of graduate education programs. No new faculty members are required. Pending approval by THEC, it will be created in July.
  • Approved the awarding of honorary degrees to retired Gen. Burwell B. Bell (Doctor of Philosophy in Public Service and Leadership at UT Chattanooga) and to Dolly Parton (Doctor of Humane and Musical Letters at UT Knoxville).
  • The Academic Affairs and Student Success Committee heard a report from UT Knoxville about a proposal to locate recreational fields on a site about three miles off campus. Currently, graduate student housing is located on the site. Those apartments would be closed next spring.
  • The Research, Outreach and Economic Development Committee heard an update on the master plan for the Cherokee Farm research campus in Knoxville.

Category: Announcements