Haslam Announces Higher Education Initiative

Corporate leader & UT Alumnus to spearhead effort in coordination with state leadership

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced that Randy Boyd will join his administration as special advisor to the governor for Higher Education to focus on affordability, access and quality of state programs.

Boyd will consult with a formal working group appointed by Haslam made up of the governor, executive director of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC), chancellor of the Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR), and president of the University of Tennessee.  Although Boyd’s position will be full-time, he will be working for the state on a voluntary, unpaid basis.

“Over the past six months, I’ve spent a lot of time learning from experts in our state and across the country about the challenges we face in higher education,” Haslam said.  “Only 32 percent of our state’s adult population has a post-secondary degree, but if we are going to a have a workforce that’s job-ready, we need to be at 55 percent by 2025.  The conversation needs to be about K to J with the ‘J’ meaning jobs.

“It is clear to me that unlike K-12 education where there is general consensus about how to improve education. That isn’t the case when it comes to tackling the ‘iron triangle’ of affordability, access and quality in post-secondary education. I am grateful that Randy has agreed to join our team to head up this crucial effort.  He will bring a business, workforce alignment perspective and a demonstrated passion for improving access to higher education to this issue. I believe it says a lot about the importance of this issue to the future of our state when someone of Randy’s caliber is willing to come from the private sector and serve in this way.”

In 2009, Boyd helped start tnAchieves, a non-profit organization that has sent over 3,200 high school graduates to community college free of charge with mentors. Of those students, 68 percent are the first in their families to attend college, and more than 65 percent have family incomes below $50,000.  The organization serves 26 counties providing universal college access to those high school graduates.

“I am passionate about improving educational opportunity for all our citizens,” Boyd said.  “To achieve the governor’s mission, we will need to broaden the net and to provide greater access.  I’m excited about this opportunity because Gov. Haslam is determined to make a material impact.  I believe our state has a rare opportunity, and I am honored to be able to assist.”

Boyd, 53, is chairman of Radio Systems Corporation, which he started in 1991.  Radio Systems is headquartered in Knoxville and has more than 600 associates worldwide with offices in seven countries. The company produces over 4,000 technology-based pet products under brand names such as Invisible Fence, PetSafe, SportDOG, and Premier. It is a private company with sales over $300 million.

Boyd received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Tennessee in industrial management in 1979 and a master’s in liberal studies from Oklahoma University in 1988.

Boyd also currently serves on the board of a number of organizations including the University of Tennessee College of Business Dean’s Advisory Council, the University of Tennessee Alumni Association, and Knox County’s Great Schools Partnership.  He also established the PetSafe Chair of Companion Animal Behavior within the Small Animal Clinical Sciences department of the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Tennessee.

He has received several awards including Ernst and Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year for the Southeast in 2008, Tennessee Business Magazine’s CEO of the Year in 2009, UT’s Entrepreneur of the Year in 2009, and was inducted into Junior Achievement’s East Tennessee Hall of Fame in 2008.

He and his wife, Jenny, have two sons.  Boyd begins his role in Nashville today, January 15.


Senate, House Committee Assignments Made

House Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) and Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey (R-Blountville) announced committee assignments for the 108th General Assembly this morning.

In the Senate, Senator Dolores Gresham (R-Somerville) was reappointed as Education Chairman.  Senators Reggie Tate (D-Memphis) and Steve Dickerson (R-Nashville) were named first and second Vice-Chairmen, respectively.  Other members of the Senate Education Committee include:

  • Sen. Charlotte Burks (D-Monterey)
  • Sen. Stacey Campfield (R-Knoxville)
  • Sen. Rusty Crowe (R-Johnson City)
  • Sen. Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga)
  • Sen. Joey Hensley (R-Hohenwald)
  • Sen. Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown)

Senator Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) was reappointed as Chairman of the Finance, Ways and Means Committee, where Senator Douglas Henry (D-Nashville) serves as Chairman Emeritus.  Senators Bo Watson (R-Hixson) and Doug Overbey (R-Maryville) were named first and second Vice-Chairmen, respectively.  Other committee members of Senate Finance, Ways and Means include:

  • Sen. Steve Dickerson (R-Nashville)
  • Sen. Lowe Finney (D-Jackson)
  • Sen. Ferrell Haile (R-Gallatin)
  • Sen. Joey Hensley (R-Hohenwald)
  • Sen. Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro)
  • Sen. Jim Kyle (D-Memphis)
  • Sen. Mark Norris (R-Collierville)

In the House, Representative Harry Brooks (R-Knoxville) was named Chair of the Education Committee.  Representative John Forgety (R-Athens) was named Vice-Chair.    Representative Mark White will lead the Education Subcommittee as Chairman.  Other members of the House Education Committee include:

  • Rep. Kevin Brooks (R-Cleveland)
  • Rep. Jim Coley (R-Bartlett)
  • Rep. John DeBerry (D-Memphis)
  • Rep. Lois DeBerry (D-Memphis)
  • Rep. Bill Dunn (R-Knoxville)
  • Rep. Roger Kane (R-Knoxville)
  • Rep. Ron Lollar (R-Bartlett)
  • Rep. Harold Love (D-Nashville)
  • Rep. Debra Moody (R-Covington)
  • Rep. Joe Pitts (D-Clarksville)
  • Rep. Dawn White (R-Murfreesboro)
  • Rep. Mark White (R-Memphis)
  • Rep. Ryan Williams (R-Cookeville)

Leading the House Finance Committee will be Representative Charles Sargent (R-Franklin) who will serve as the committee’s Chair.  Representative David Alexander (R-Winchester) will serve as Vice-Chair.  Representative Mike Harrison (R-Rogersville) will serve as the Chair of House Budget Subcommittee.  Other members of House Finance include:

  • Rep. Joe Armstrong (D-Knoxville)
  • Rep. Kevin Brooks (R-Cleveland)
  • Rep. Kent Calfee (R-Kingston)
  • Rep. Mike Carter (R-Ooltewah)
  • Rep. Barbara Cooper (D-Memphis)
  • Rep. Lois DeBerry (D-Memphis)
  • Rep. Craig Fitzhugh (D-Ripley)
  • Rep. Steve Hall (R-Knoxville)
  • Rep. Mike Harrison (R-Rogersville)
  • Rep. David Hawk (R-Greeneville)
  • Rep. Matthew Hill (R-Jonesborough)
  • Rep. Curtis Johnson (R-Clarksville)
  • Rep. Gerald McCormick (R-Chattanooga)
  • Rep. Steve McDaniel (R-Parkers Crossroads)
  • Rep. Larry Miller (D-Memphis)
  • Rep. Gary Odom (D-Nashville)
  • Rep. Dennis Roach (R-Rutledge)
  • Rep. Johnny Shaw (D-Bolivar)

While the Education and Finance Committees see the highest volume of legislation that could impact the University each year, numerous other committees vet a host of University-related issues.  Click the links below to see the full committee listings for the 108th General Assembly.

For a full listing of House Committees, click here.
For a full listing of Senate Committees, click here.

Opening Day


UT President Joe DiPietro and Senator Dolores Gresham (R-Somerville)

UT President Joe DiPietro engaged a number of state lawmakers today, the opening day of the 108th Tennessee General Assembly.  The President makes numerous visits to the State Capitol during the legislative session each year to ensure that the University plays a leading, active role in policy discussions impacting the University of Tennessee System and it’s multiple missions of education, research, and outreach.

During today’s opening session, Sen. Ron Ramsey (R-Blountville) was reelected as Speaker of the Senate.  Similarly, Rep. Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) was reelected as Speaker of the House.  A change in House leadership did occur with the election of Rep. Curtis Johnson (R-Clarksville) as Speaker Pro Tempore.  Rep. Judd Matheny (R-Tullahoma) previously held this position.  The Senate does not elect a Speaker Pro Tempore.  Instead, this position is appointed by the Lieutenant Governor.  Stay tuned for more legislative leadership news.

For a list of state legislators that are also UT alumni, click here.


UT President Joe DiPietro with Agriculture Commissioner & UT Trustee Julius Johnson

A Look at the Issues for 2013

Today officially marks the start of a new legislative session in Tennessee.  The first items up for consideration will be organizational in nature—committee assignments, the selection of committee chairs, and the consideration of newly proposed rules in the House of Representatives.  The rules, proposed by House Speaker Beth Harwell, impact several organizational areas.  Perhaps the most notable proposed changes include the restructuring of House Committees and the establishment of a filing limit of 10 bills per individual legislator (with some exceptions, such as honorary resolutions, sunset legislation, and administration bills).

A number of issues will arise this session that will impact the University of Tennessee System.  As in previous years, gun legislation is expected to be filed and debated at length.  Proposals may vary from arming teachers in K-12 schools, to expanding the current law surrounding guns on public college campuses, to providing that businesses cannot prohibit guns in trunks of locked vehicles on company property.  As occurred with the “guns-in-bars” debate, posting provisions will likely be discussed.  As this issue relates to higher education, the University of Tennessee System continues to support the law in its current form.

State funding is again strained this year.  The Tennessee Higher Education Commission’s (THEC) operating budget recommendation includes a $35.5 million increase and a $14.1 million increase for non-formula units, such as the UT Institute for Public Service, the Institute of Agriculture, and the UT Health Science Center.  The recommended increase for non-formula units is critically important due to potential federal reductions in areas such as agriculture extension and agriculture research funding.  Unlike UT’s traditional three campuses, these units have a more limited (if any) tuition mechanism to help offset either state or federal cuts.  A growing interest exists amongst the legislature to establish recurring funding for the Institute for Public Service’s Law Enforcement Innovation Center (LEIC). This nationally acclaimed law enforcement center provides innovative and technology-based training and technical assistance to law enforcement agencies and communities.

THEC’s recommended capital budget includes two major UT projects: the UT Health Science Center’s renovation to the Crowe, Nash, and Mooney Building Complex and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s new multidisciplinary science laboratory facility. These projects account for $135.9 million, or 47%, of THEC’s recommended capital budget.  In regard to capital maintenance, THEC recommends an appropriation of $44.3 million for the University of Tennessee System.

These recommendations were made by THEC to the Governor in November 2012.  The Governor’s budget proposal will likely be released later this month in conjunction with his State of the State Address, tentatively set for January 28th.

Other issues that will arise this session include those listed below.  The list is not exhaustive.

  • Supercomputer
    The U.S. Department of Energy  is currently considering funding its third and final supercomputer program.  Matching support from the State of Tennessee in the amount of $20 million would demonstrate the state’s commitment to the partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy and would help advance computational modeling for scientific research and economic development. UT and ORNL have maintained the world’s fastest supercomputer, processing over 60% of the National Science Foundation’s funded research.  The supercomputer positions the state to be a world leader in climate and pharmaceutical research, materials science, and computational modeling.  The remote connection ability that the supercomputer provides allows for statewide access and benefit, attracting high levels of economic investment and high paying jobs.
  • Proton Therapy
    Again this year the University of Tennessee System is looking to advance a unique opportunity in the area of proton therapy research and treatment.  The University is not seeking state funding for this area, but is seeking permissive language that clearly authorizes the UT Research Foundation to partner with a private entity that is  bringing this technology and treatment to Tennessee.
  • UT Peds
    UT Peds, which seeks to advance research and treatment of childhood diseases, has requested matching state funds of $2.96 million annually for five years.  UT Peds is a partnership between St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, LeBonheur Children’s Medical Center, and the University of Tennessee Health Science Center.

In Washington, the University is focused on two key areas:  Securing new partnerships with federal agencies to generate research opportunities and funding, and building understanding amongst lawmakers and agency officials of UT’s value to current areas of research.  Although overall cuts to funding at the federal level are virtually unavoidable, the University hopes to protect funding for many of its key initiatives and activities.

As session begins this year, advocates can play a key role in building support for the University by staying informed and engaged in the political process.  Check the advocacy website as often as possible for updates.  Don’t miss an opportunity to tell elected officials who you are and why you support the University of Tennessee.  Ask them to support the University of Tennessee.

Higher Education Governance: Not the Focus of the Haslam Administration This Year

After a series of discussions on higher education and workforce development with business and community leaders, elected officials, educators and administrators, the Haslam Administration announced yesterday evening that they will not be seeking legislation to alter the structure of higher education governance this year.

The Governor stated that his administration had nothing major in terms of legislation planned for public higher education institutions.  However, the Governor did state that he remains concerned about the rising student cost to attend college, and announced that his administration will continue to look for ways to help relieve the burden of that cost.  Expanding scholarship opportunities is one potential avenue the administration is considering.

Quoted by the Chattanooga Times Free Press, the Governor revealed some of the items up for discussion.  “We’re looking at everything from broadening the scholarship program we have now, tnAchieves, and helping people go to community colleges free or whether we can make better use of an online education program that might work for some people to continuing what Tennessee started with the Complete College Act.”

The Tennessee General Assembly convenes on January 8, 2013.  Check back for updates on the Governor’s higher education agenda as well other legislation that would impact the University of Tennessee System.