Learning Through Leading

By Jackie Wise Photo

By Raffe Lazarian

Lee Ann Adams

Even now, as Lee Ann Adams (Chattanooga ’94, Knoxville ’97) practices estate planning and estate administration law in Chattanooga, she continues to enjoy learning.

Her face lights up reminiscing over the world that opened through the course catalogues during her time as an undergraduate at UT Chattanooga. While she was surprised by the rigor of college coursework, she found a love for academic challenge and exploration.

“I loved being able to explore ideas, foreign ideas, things that were different to me, things that challenged me,” she says.

She has carried that love with her as she embarks on a new challenge as the UT Alumni Association (UTAA) president to serve the 420,000 UT System alumni.

Adams learned of the UTAA before she made a final decision on which college she would attend. Through the UTAA, she was awarded the Andrew D. Holt Scholarship, which drove the decision to don the blue and gold at UTC.

“I knew that the scholarship I had was based on the generosity of alumni,” she says. “I was benefitting from things that people had put in motion years before it had even occurred to me to go to UTC.”

Her time at UT Chattanooga came to a close as she walked across the stage in 1994, earning her degree in English and minoring in women’s studies. She had sadness over the realization that it would be a long time, if ever, before she would get to play in that intellectual world, but she was anxious to start her next chapter at the UT Knoxville College of Law.

After obtaining her law degree, Adams launched her career while growing her passion for UT.

She was involved with the UTC Young Alumni Council and attended various athletic events with her family. Her volunteerism as an alumna took on a new meaning in 2015 as a member of the UTAA Women’s Council. She served on that council through 2019 and was elected chair in 2018. In addition, she represented the Women’s Council on the UTAA Board of Governors in 2016.

Now, six years later, Adams will take the reins of the board that she credits with providing the space to understand the complexities of the UT System. She has enjoyed absorbing the information on the campuses and seeing how each unique entity has a role in the overarching goals of UT.

“Going to the different campuses, seeing the different programs, hearing the different chancellors speak on who they serve and what they are doing in their communities, it’s opened my eyes to the very special roles that each serve,” she says.

With a love for learning, Adams has a goal of making sure that she and the board not only learn but disperse the information to the alumni community. She knows how easy it can be to focus on the negative, but she knows that there is much more positive news to celebrate.

Along the way, she will ask alumni to help her not only celebrate the good but to be part of it.

“What alumni have received from the UT System is due to what people have done before them—money given, their efforts, their goals, their dreams, their vision. We have benefitted from what people did for us,” she says. “Now it’s our turn to do it for the next generation.”

Adams is married to Tom (Knoxville ’96), and they have two children, Hunter and James.

2022-23 Board of Governors

Alumni Officers

President: Lee Ann Adams (’94 Chattanooga, ’97 Knoxville), Chattanooga

President-Elect: Dr.Brian L. Winbigler (’03 Knoxville, ’14 Health Science Center), Maryville

Treasurer: Darrell W. Urban (’91 Knoxville), Nashville

Immediate Past President and Chair of Annual Giving: Emily Capadalis Love (’78 Knoxville), Memphis

Alumni-at-Large Members

  • Dr. Cynthia “Cindy” A. Brasher (’02 Martin, ’14 Health Science Center ), Memphis
  • Stephen L. Carter (’77 Knoxville), Douglasville, Georgia
  • Kevin E. Clark (’95 Knoxville ), Hoover, Alabama
  • Kim W. Coffey (’77, ’87 Chattanooga, ’78 Health Science Center), Ooltewah
  • James W. Dale (’94, ’01 Chattanooga), Ooltewah
  • James “Jim” H. Duke Jr. (’73 Knoxville), Brownsville
  • Dr. Mary E. Ergen (’78 , ’82 Knoxville), Goodlettsville
  • Alison W. Franklin (’98 Knoxville), Bartlett
  • Erin B. Freeman (’02 Knoxville), Knoxville
  • Michael J. Griffin (’85 Chattanooga), Cleveland
  • Ryan C. Groves (’01, ’03 Knoxville), Memphis
  • Dr. Deborah A. Ingram (’84 Chattanooga, ’94 Knoxville), Ooltewah
  • Delmont E. Jones (’97 Knoxville), Nashville
  • Donna S. Lawrence (’81 Chattanooga), Ooltewah
  • Sarah E. Luna (’05 Southern), Lawrenceburg
  • Dr. Jimmie Mancell (’90 Martin, ’94 Health Science Center), Collierville
  • Tonya D. Parson (’93 Martin, ’04 Health Science Center), Cordova
  • Dr. Leviticus S. Pointer (’94 Martin), Collierville
  • William L. Winstead (’98 Martin), Germantown


  • UT System President: Randy Boyd (’79 Knoxville)
  • President and CEO, UT Foundation: Kerry Witcher (’81 Knoxville)
  • Assistant Vice President for Alumni Affairs & Advocacy, UT Alumni Association: Michael P. McCay (’06 Knoxville)
  • Associate Vice Chancellor, UT Knoxville: Duane M. Wiles
  • Assistant Vice Chancellor for Alumni Affairs, UT Chattanooga: F. Jeff Cogburn
  • Assistant Vice Chancellor for Alumni Relations and Annual Giving, UT Martin: Jacquelyn T. Johnson (’08, ’10 Martin)
  • Director of Alumni Affairs and Annual Giving, UT Southern: Laura K. McMasters
  • Assistant Vice Chancellor for Alumni Affairs, UT Health Science Center: Chandra A. Tuggle-Wilson