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Thank You!

Last Friday I had the honor and pleasure of being invested as the eighth chancellor of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. I cannot express how meaningful and memorable the ceremony was on so many different levels. Thank you to each and every person who attended, including our faculty, staff, and students; special guests; and colleagues from colleges and universities across the region and around the country. I am especially grateful to all the faculty who participated in the academic processional.

If you were at the event, you heard from University of Tennessee System President Joe DiPietro, Interim Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor John Zomchick, Professor of English Marilyn Kallet, and my son, Ford Sypher. I so appreciated their words of support, encouragement, and inspiration.

In my remarks, I outlined a vision for the university, a call for us to be our better selves, a call to want more, be more, and do more. I talked about the Tennessee and Volunteer difference and focused on the journey that moves more programs into the Top 25, joining nuclear engineering, supply chain management, accounting, art, and architecture, just to name a few.

I also was proud to share my vision of our campus:

  • We will be a campus of civility and respect. We will stand up for each other and against bigotry and racism.
  • We will value and welcome honest and informed intellectual debate.
  • As a point along the corridor that’s been identified as the Maker Belt, we stand ready to promote innovation and entrepreneurship with job-ready graduates.
  • We will be outward facing and known by our partnerships with the city, state, other educational institutions, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. And we will put the city of Knoxville at the forefront, because great universities need great cities and great cities need great universities.
  • We will demonstrate our commitment to student success and access by enrollment growth, increased scholarships, advising, and partnerships with other institutions.
  • We will be a torchbearer for inclusiveness, which at its core means respect for others and their contributions.

These are the things that differentiate Volunteers from others. We are servants, leaders, torchbearers, competitors, and winners—and we are the first and the only Volunteers!

Choral performers from the UT Singers and UT Chamber Singers closed out the afternoon with a powerful rendition of one of my favorite songs, Andra Day’s “Rise Up.” To say it was moving is an understatement. What beauty and power our students brought to the stage.

Thank you for entrusting and supporting me with the leadership of this 223 year old institution. As Rosabeth Moss Kanter said, “A vision is not just a picture of what could be; it is an appeal to our better selves, a call to become something more.”

Thank you for rising up with me to be the best version of our Volunteer selves.