KNOXVILLE – The University of Tennessee Board of Trustees today honored UT President Joe DiPietro for nearly eight years of leadership and bestowed upon him the status of president emeritus upon his retirement.
“You led us through an amazing transformation,” Board Chair John Compton said to DiPietro.
DiPietro will retire from UT on Nov. 21 after serving as president since January 2011.
“What this University does to make Tennessee better cannot be measured in graduation rates, funding increases or statistics,” DiPietro said. “It improves the lives, the opportunities and hope for future generations each and every day. This is what really matters and is what UT does better than anyone else in this state.”
In reflecting on his time leading the University, DiPietro said he learned the importance of having the qualities of a dove, a dragon and a diplomat.
“You have to be trusting, tough, an absolute truth-teller and thick skinned,” he said. “You also need to possess the skills and talents of a counselor, a cheerleader, a mediator and a five-star general all rolled into one.”
Of all that he accomplished during his tenure as president, DiPietro said he was most proud of establishing a sustainable budget for the system that erased a projected gap of $377 million by 2025. DiPietro established the Budget Advisory Group in 2014 to develop a two-year plan for self-imposed fiscal restraints to increase revenue, cut costs and establish budget parameters worked to keep tuition increases low and to help. And it worked.
He accomplished the sustainable budget and eliminating the projected budget gap while leading a record four years of low tuition increases, including a zero percent tuition increase this year for UT Knoxville, UT Chattanooga and undergraduates at UT Health Science Center.
“It’s always good to leave an institution better than you found it, and, indeed, that is the case,” he said. “More than a handful of our accomplishments are system records.”
Some of the accomplishments under DiPietro’s leadership are:
- In 2017, 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 of at the UT Institute of Agriculture and UT Chattanooga, which join two other colleges named at UT Knoxville since 2014.
- Haslam College of Business – UT Knoxville
- Tickle College of Engineering – UT Knoxville
- Herbert College of Agriculture – UT Institute of Agriculture
- Rollins College of Business – UT Chattanooga
- The UT Institute of Agriculture and Institute for Public Service had more than 5 million contacts with Tennesseans statewide.
- 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.
- Since a 25 percent budget cut in 2012 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.
- Student enrollment has increased 2.6 percent from Fall 2011 of 49,545 students to Fall 2018 with 50,810.
- Six-year graduation rate rose from 55.5 percent in 2011 to 59.6 percent in 2017.
DiPietro called the University of Tennessee a special place.
“I will continue to be proud of the University and watch you achieve even bolder successes, bigger partnerships and accomplishments in the future,” DiPietro said. “I’d expect nothing less of you. You will educate, discover and connect even more and more and more, and be of even greater benefit to the state’s citizens and beyond.”
During Friday morning’s meeting of the Education, Research and Service Committee, provosts and chancellors of each campus answered questions related to different tenure policies and procedures. UT Knoxville and UT Institute of Agriculture’s policies and procedures governing early application for tenure before the sixth year of the probationary period and enhanced tenure-track review were postponed until the procedures can be reviewed by their faculty senate. Other campus’ policies and procedures were approved as presented. Also, after discussion, the committee approved campus procedures for post-tenure track review. The full board then approved all the post-tenure review procedures and policies.
Trustees also ratified Compton’s appointment of a Special Committee on UT’s Athletic Programs. Former Trustee Charlie Anderson and current Trustees Kara Lawson and Lang Wiseman will serve on the committee. In 2016, an athletic committee was established by the Tennessee General Assembly. The 2018 UT FOCUS Act eliminated the athletics committee.
“I concluded some of the work of the former committee was still needed, especially with an entirely new board,” Compton said. “I think this, personally, is an important committee.”
The special committee will work to assure that the University athletic programs at UT Knoxville, UT Chattanooga and UT Martin operate effectively and in compliance with UT polices and NCAA rules.
The board also approved extending the lease with the University Health System of the UT Medical Center from 2045 until 2099. The board previously approved a lease in 1999 for 50 years. UT Chief Financial Officer David Miller said the previous lease terms required UT revisit the payments from the hospital to UT after 20 years. The board approved a method for continuing lease payments for the next 30 years of the lease. The lease extension also allows the Health System board to make long-range plans regarding the hospital campus.
In other business, the trustees approved:
- Appointment of new trustees to standing committees
- FY 2019-20 operating budget request for non-formula units
- New policy on expenditure of year-end carry forward unrestricted funds
- Revised policy on approval of student fees
- Revised investment policy and procedures
- Authorization for the president to approve an affiliation agreement with West Tennessee Medical Group