KNOXVILLE — University of Tennessee President Joe DiPietro announced today that he will retire Feb. 14, 2019.
He will step down from active service Nov. 21 to use his remaining vacation time.
DiPietro, UT’s 25th president, has led the University of Tennessee system since January 2011. He serves as the chief executive officer of UT and its campuses in Knoxville, Chattanooga and Martin, the Health Science Center in Memphis and the statewide Institute of Agriculture and the Institute of Public Service.
The time has come for him to step down, he said.
“I am very proud of all we have accomplished together, which would not have been possible without the important efforts of our talented faculty, students, staff and administrators and the steadfast support of the Board of Trustees,” DiPietro said. “The University is well positioned for success—we are coming off a record-breaking year in research funding as well as private fundraising, and we have a committed group of chancellors and system administrators to move the University forward.”
UT Board of Trustees Chair John Compton praised DiPietro. “We should all be thankful for Joe’s leadership. He and the former Board of Trustees accomplished a great deal together. All stakeholders in the University system have been well-served by his tireless commitment to continual improvement across all of our campuses. Our new board will convene soon to discuss next steps in selecting a new leader for the University of Tennessee system.”
During DiPietro’s tenure, he oversaw a record four years of low tuition increases, including a zero percent tuition increase this year for UT Knoxville and UT Chattanooga. In 2017, UT research achieved a record-high, system-wide $481 million in sponsored-program expenditures. The UT Foundation experienced a record fundraising year of more than $397 million given during 2017-2018 fiscal year. The record year of giving included the naming of two colleges at the UT Institute of Agriculture and UT Chattanooga, which join two other colleges named at UT Knoxville since 2014. The UT Institute of Agriculture and Institute for Public Service had more than 5 million contacts with Tennesseans statewide.
He oversaw the construction of the Cherokee Farm Innovation Campus and its growth to two buildings providing laboratory and work space for private industry, researchers and scientists affiliated with the University and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Also, during DiPietro’s tenure, UT was chosen to lead the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation, a $259 million public-private partnership. Under DiPietro’s leadership, more than 240 projects totaling more than 11.5 million square feet were constructed or renovated across the system. Those projects reflect investments by the state of more than $727 million and more than $1.25 billion by the University.
When notified of an impending $377 million shortfall by 2025, DiPietro established the Budget Advisory Group. Through cost cutting, reallocated funds and unexpected increases in state allocations, the project shortfall has been erased.
“I did not want to kick dealing with this problem down the road,” DiPietro said. “It was important for me to leave the University in good financial shape, and now thanks to hard work by faculty, staff and the Board of Trustees as well as increases in state appropriations for the last seven consecutive years by the governor and legislature, we are. ”
Since a 25 percent budget cut in 2012 of state appropriations following the Great Recession, funding has rebounded. Compared to 2013, UT’s funding has grown by almost $164 million, a 38 percent increase in fiscal year 2019.
Donations in honor of DiPietro may be made to the newly established Joe and Deb DiPietro Endowment for Leadership Development. The endowment will provide support to assist UT employees in developing their leadership skills and understanding leadership’s role in higher education.
The endowment will be used to provide funding for the Executive Leadership Institute, which DiPietro established to help with succession planning for the University. It also will provide scholarships for participants. The institute will kick off with its first cohort this fall, and DiPietro plans to teach part-time in the program.
Before serving as president, DiPietro led the Institute of Agriculture for five years from 2006 until he became president in 2011. He previously served as dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Florida and was a tenured professor and associate dean for research at the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine, where he conducted research on the biology and control of parasites in horses and other domestic animals.
DiPietro plans to retire to Illinois and to spend time with his wife, Deb, their three children and six grandchildren.
The University of Tennessee is a statewide system of higher education with campuses in Knoxville, Chattanooga, Martin and Memphis; the UT Space Institute in Tullahoma; the UT Institute of Agriculture with a presence in every Tennessee county; and the statewide Institute for Public Service. The UT system manages Oak Ridge National Laboratory through its UT-Battelle partnership; enrolls about 50,000 students statewide; produces about 10,000 new graduates every year; and represents more than 370,000 alumni around the world.