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Update on the Search for the Next Vice Chancellor for Research

On August 13, I announced that we would begin an internal search for a new vice chancellor for research with a goal of having someone in the position by the end of October.

Feedback from the search committee, chaired by Stacey Patterson, vice president for research at the UT System, has led me to the decision that a national search is in the best interest of the university.

We are suspending the current search. At the appropriate time, we will initiate a new, broader search to fill this key leadership position.

In the meantime, Interim Vice Chancellor for Research Robert Nobles has agreed to continue serving in his current role. I greatly appreciate his commitment and service to the university.

I would also like to express my gratitude to the search committee for their time and efforts during this process.

Welcome, Randy Boyd

This afternoon, the Board of Trustees selected Randy Boyd to be interim president of the University of Tennessee System. He will officially begin his duties on November 22.

Incoming Interim President Boyd has been instrumental in positioning Tennessee as a pioneer in higher education, helping launch both tnAchieves and Tennessee Promise. He has advised Governor Bill Haslam on education and economic development and has been a leader in the state’s ambitions to provide opportunities for all Tennesseans and to create an educated workforce—goals that dovetail with our own.

Randy Boyd

Randy Boyd

As alumni and prominent leaders in our community, both he and his wife, Jenny, have a long history of engaging with and investing in our campus. They have endowed professorships, supported student scholarships, and served on college advisory boards.

I have no doubt that Randy Boyd loves this university and will work tirelessly to help us succeed.

One of my priorities as interim chancellor is to prepare this campus for the years ahead. President Joe DiPietro and incoming Interim President Boyd are committed to discussing the status and timing of the chancellor search with the Board of Trustees at their November meeting. In the meantime, our goals remain unchanged. We will continue to grow our enrollment, hire new faculty, provide opportunities and resources for our students to succeed, conduct world-class research, and create a welcoming campus for all.

We have tremendous momentum, and I am certain the best is yet to come for our campus and the University of Tennessee System.

Please join me in welcoming Randy Boyd back to Rocky Top.

Mossman Distinguished Lecture featuring Adam Savage

Adam Savage

Adam Savage

I invite you to attend the fourth annual Mossman Distinguished Lecture on Friday, September 21, at 6:30 p.m. This year’s event features special effects designer and former MythBusters co-host Adam Savage. The lecture will take place at Cox Auditorium in the Alumni Memorial Building. Free parking will be available until 9 p.m. in the G10 Garage, adjacent to Neyland Stadium.

An artist and a self-defined skeptic, Savage will celebrate wonder, whimsy, and the maker movement in his lecture. His credits as a special effects designer include blockbuster Hollywood films such as Star Wars: Episode II–Attack of the Clones and The Matrix Reloaded.

His never-ending curiosity led him to co-host the popular TV show MythBusters. A new spin-off of the show, MythBusters Jr., features Savage attempting to answer questions with the help of brilliant children. The show is scheduled to air this fall on the Science Channel.

Savage’s accolades include a 2009 Emmy Award nomination and the 2010 Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award in Cultural Humanism from the Harvard Secular Society.

Also on September 21, I will lead the dedication and official opening of the Ken and Blaire Mossman Building. I’m excited to see the amazing things our UT community will accomplish in these state-of-the-art classrooms and science laboratories.

Both the Mossman Building and the Mossman Distinguished Lecture Series are possible thanks to a generous endowment provided by the late Ken and Blaire Mossman, who met in Knoxville in 1968 while pursuing their degrees at the University of Tennessee.

I look forward to seeing you September 21.

Mossman Building Dedication

Ken and Blaire Mossman Building

Please join Interim Chancellor Wayne T. Davis as we celebrate the opening of the Ken and Blaire Mossman Building on Friday, September 21 at 3:30 p.m.

The new state-of-the-art building located at 1311 Cumberland Avenue is named for the late Ken and Blaire Mossman, who met as students in 1968. It houses spaces for microbiology, biochemistry, cellular and molecular biology, psychology, and nutrition.


UT Knoxville’s $1.7 Billion Impact Only a Fraction of Our Contribution

Thousands of new freshmen arrived on our campus last week, the largest and perhaps most impressive class in recent memory. These new Volunteers are part of a vibrant student body of nearly 29,000.

Over the next four years, they will rent apartments in Knoxville neighborhoods and eat at local restaurants. Their parents will visit and stay in nearby hotels. They will attend concerts, movies, and festivals.

They will spend their money to live here and to attend the state’s flagship university.

And we will spend money to educate them.

This flow of funds—from our students into the community and from the university to our employees, subcontractors, and area businesses—generates $1.7 billion in economic activity every year, according to a new report by UT’s Boyd Center for Business and Economic Research.

To support our students, we spent $575 million in salaries and benefits for more than 10,000 faculty and staff in 2017. We spent another $636 million on goods and services, including construction, utilities, office supplies, and laboratory equipment.

When we buy these things from local and state businesses, those purchases support jobs. Likewise, when our employees spend their salaries here—buying houses, purchasing cars, paying for child care and gas and groceries—they are also stimulating the economy.

Spending by the university ultimately supports 35,232 jobs across Tennessee. It also generates $166 million in state and local tax revenue.

Considering that the state provided $211 million of our campus budget in 2017, our $1.7 billion economic impact is an impressive return on investment.

The 5,180 freshmen who arrived on campus last week are remarkable. They include an Alabama state record-holder in track and field, a nationally recognized trombone player, and a pre-med student who was born in a refugee camp.

In all, more than 85 percent of our students are Tennesseans, and they come to Knoxville with ambition, compassion, and an eagerness to learn as much as they can.

And we are here to teach them. It’s our mission.

US Census Bureau data shows that people with four-year degrees earn 70 percent more than those with high school diplomas. That’s a tangible payoff for the time and money our students spend on their education—for both them and our state economy.

But their diploma comes with more than an increased earning potential and a set of skills for their chosen field. An education from the state’s top public university means developing the ability to learn, to think critically about the world, to analyze problems and identify solutions.

That big number? The $1.7 billion? It captures only a fraction of what Tennessee’s flagship university contributes to our state. The true measure of our value is what our graduates do with their education.

When they leave this campus, they launch businesses, inform public policy, create meaningful art, and come up with new inventions and technologies. They join the workforce or the military. They become leaders and entrepreneurs. They teach the next generation of Tennesseans.

And that is the real impact of our university.

Search Underway for Two Vice Chancellors

I am pleased to announce two searches now underway for key members of the chancellor’s cabinet—vice chancellor for research and vice chancellor for communications.

An internal search for the vice chancellor for research has begun, with a goal of having a new leader in place by late October. This member of our senior leadership team serves as the chief research officer of the university and works to promote research and economic development activities, particularly in collaboration with Oak Ridge National Laboratory through UT–Battelle and with other research and development institutions in the state and region.

Stacey Patterson, vice president for research at the UT System, will chair the search. Members of the search committee include:

  • Christine Boake, associate dean for research and facilities, College of Arts and Sciences
  • Michelle Buchanan, deputy for science and technology, Oak Ridge National Laboratory
  • Mark Dean, John Fisher Distinguished Professor, Tickle College of Engineering
  • Terry Hazen, Governor’s Chair for Environmental Biotechnology
  • Diane Kelly, director of the School of Information Sciences, College of Communication and Information
  • Jean Mercer, assistant vice chancellor and director, Office of Sponsored Projects, Office of Research and Engagement
  • Marisa Moazen, executive director, undergraduate research, Office of Research and Engagement
  • Jeff Pappas, director of the School of Music, College of Arts and Sciences
  • Hollie Raynor, interim assistant dean for research, College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences
  • Tami Wyatt, associate dean of research and Torchbearer Professor, College of Nursing

Robert Nobles has been serving as interim vice chancellor for research since August 1 and will continue to serve until the position is filled.

In addition, a national search is underway for our next vice chancellor for communications.

This position is the university’s chief communications and marketing officer and advises the chancellor and other senior leaders on communications-related matters. The position oversees the Office of Communications and Marketing and WUOT-FM 91.9, the university’s public radio station.

Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Vincent Carilli has been serving in this role unofficially since May and will continue to do so until the position is filled.

Mike Wirth, dean of the College of Communication and Information, is chairing the search. Committee members include:

  • Lola Alapo, public information officer for the UT Police Department
  • Chip Bryant, vice chancellor for advancement
  • Tiffany Carpenter, associate vice president for communications and marketing for the UT System
  • Fabrizio D’Aloisio, assistant vice provost for enrollment management and director of undergraduate admissions
  • Tyra Haag, director of media and internal relations in the Office of Communications and Marketing
  • Sadie Hutson, assistant dean for graduate programs in the College of Nursing
  • Haley Paige, vice president of the Student Government Association
  • Donna Thomas, senior associate athletics director and chief of staff for the Athletics Department

The committee’s review of candidate materials for the vice chancellor for communications will begin in the coming weeks with the intent to bring candidates to campus in late September or early October for public forums.

I encourage you to refer or nominate qualified candidates for both positions to Brooke Swart, executive recruiter in UT Human Resources, 865-974-5942 or

Position descriptions are available online.

Nobles to Serve as Interim Vice Chancellor for Research

I am pleased to announce that Robert Nobles has agreed to serve as interim vice chancellor for research beginning August 1.

An internal search for the next vice chancellor will begin in the coming weeks, with a goal of having a new leader in place by November. As I announced last week, Victor McCrary has decided to leave the university for family reasons effective July 31. Stacey Patterson, vice president for research at the UT System, will chair the search for his replacement.

In the meantime, I am confident in Robert’s ability to lead the Office of Research and Engagement. I know he will keep our university moving forward following a record year for research in fiscal year 2017, which saw $203 million in total research expenditures including $117 million in federal research expenditures. Robert has been associate vice chancellor for research since 2013 and spent seven months as interim vice chancellor for research last year.

In his earlier service as interim, Robert instituted several initiatives that increased faculty engagement in research and creative activities, including the launch of a new faculty orientation in the fall and an investment of nearly $1 million in internal seed funding. These measures resulted in significant increases in the number of proposals submitted and awards granted during fiscal year 2018.

Robert has maintained an active research program throughout his career. He has a bachelor’s degree in molecular biology and a master’s in public health from Florida A&M University and a doctorate in public health from the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.

Information about the search, including the appointment of the search committee members and a call for applications, will be posted at in the coming days.

Vice Chancellor for Research Victor McCrary to Step Down

Vice Chancellor for Research Victor McCrary has informed his team that he has made the difficult decision to return to the Maryland/DC area for family and other personal obligations.

His last day will be July 31.

I’d like to thank Dr. McCrary for his time and effort in helping to move our research efforts forward. He has worked with a dedicated team and key stakeholders important to our university’s success.

His achievements include conducting a strategy summit that led to a new vision and mission for the Office of Research and Engagement as well as a plan to evaluate the office’s centers and institutes; implementation of a portfolio management framework to increase agency research funding with the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, and the National Science Foundation; an in-progress agreement between UT and Auburn University to create a new research institute in aerospace materials, and manufacturing; and positioning UT to be the host of the SEC Chief Research Officers meeting in the upcoming fall semester.

Dr. McCrary and I will work closely together during his last two weeks to ensure a smooth transition.

I intend to appoint someone to serve in the interim role until a search can be completed. I will keep the campus informed during this process.

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