Ed Boling

UT Knoxville, ’48, ’50


When I was vice president for development, I led the search for the new chancellor at the UT Health Science Center, then known as UT Memphis. We weren’t finding the candidates we wanted, when Ed Boling, who was UT president, poked me one day and said, “Why don’t I send you to be the chancellor in Memphis.” I said, “Ed, I don’t know how to spell medicine.” But I went to Memphis and served as interim chancellor and then chancellor from 1970 to 1973.

That was Ed Boling: He’d push you to do things you didn’t think you could do.

President Andy Holt had the good sense to hire Ed as vice president for development in 1961 and turn him loose to do his job. Ed changed the way the alumni association did business. Instead of alumni paying dues to be members of the association, Ed decided that anyone who attended the University of Tennessee would be a member. Then, he would work on raising money from them. That was a different philosophy for the time. We grew from an endowment of $2 million in 1963 to now close to $1 billion. He was the father of development for UT.

Ed became president of UT in 1970 and served until 1988. His years of leadership set the trajectory for what was to come, from buying land for UT Knoxville to expand to establishing the vet school and negotiating the agreement that brought the University of Chattanooga into the system.

Andy Holt once said Ed was the most honest man he ever knew, and I agree. He always asked: “Is it good? Is it honest? Is it decent? Is it legal? Is it good for the University of Tennessee?” And then he’d know how to proceed.

Ed Boling, a Sevier County, Tennessee, native, earned his bachelor’s degree in accounting and a master’s degree in statistics at UT Knoxville. He received a doctorate in education at Peabody College at Vanderbilt University, and the subject of his dissertation was the funding of higher education using a formula. He died in 2015.

Part of the Tennessee Alumnus100 Distinguished Alumni feature.

—Joe Johnson (Knoxville ’60, ’68) is UT president emeritus. He was UT president from 1990 to 1999 and served as interim president from 2003 to 2004.