Don’t count us out

Robert Fisher pours a bucket of ice water over Joe DiPietro's head

Photo: On a challenge from Brad Lampley, a trustee and UT Knoxville alum, President Joe DiPietro took the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge in August in front of the Institute of Agriculture campus entrance in Knoxville. UT Chattanooga Student Government President Robert Fisher, who was working with the president this summer, poured the ice water.

Four years have passed since I was elected president by the Board of Trustees. I’ll never forget that day. The vote was 12-11. When I came into office in January 2011, I felt like I had to earn the board’s trust. The first calls I made were to the 11 who voted against me. I am humbled to have been recently elected by the board for another term that runs through June 2019.

In every place I’ve been, I’ve built strong teams that really have the institution at heart and a sense of trust. Building that here at UT in the last four years I think is a good legacy. I am ready to take that team and create an even more long-lasting legacy that could impact the university for generations to come.

I’m talking about the university’s business model, and you can read more about it in this issue of the magazine. Finding a solution to this problem is something I think about all the time. We can no longer lean on our students and their families to fill in the gap. I have asked a group of trustees, faculty, staff, students and chancellors to serve in an advisory role to help get this project under way.

As the university works on this internal matter, I will be championing higher education and education in general in our state. I believe preparing students well for college through rigorous standards is a good way to start greater support of our public universities. We do not know what more funding our state can provide to higher education, but we will make the case to be a higher priority.

To do this, the university will need the support of alumni like you. We need to galvanize behind the idea that a college education is important not just for families and individuals but for our entire state. A better prepared workforce drives economic development, which creates a better quality of life for all of us. More details about this advocacy project will be announced in the coming months.

As this project begins, I believe it is important to note the need for our statewide UT Alumni Association. This effort is exactly why we have a UTAA to represent alumni from all our campuses. Another article in this issue discusses changes to the alumni chapter structure, but I want to make known my support for the UTAA, its staff and all alumni who are so committed to this great institution.

We have a tough road ahead, but as I like to say, don’t count us out.

All the best,

Dr. Joe DiPietro has served as UT System president since January 2011.