Johnson Plans UT-Chattanooga Focus (530)

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — Chattanooga’s presence on the University of Tennessee’s Board of Trustees has never been greater, UT President Joe Johnson said Tuesday.

 “I doubt there has been a time when the UT board had more representatives from Chattanooga,” said Johnson, looking ahead to the group’s winter meeting Thursday and Friday at UT-Chattanooga.

 In addition to Chattanooga trustees Roger Dickson and Frank Kinser, the faculty trustee this year is Martha Butterfield and the student trustee is Sharmelle Thomas, both of UTC.

 “They form a quality delegation that is eager to share concerns and suggestions about ways to improve UT-Chattanooga,” Johnson said.

 When Johnson addresses the board Friday morning, he said he plans to tell the trustees that UT-Chattanooga is at a significant point in its history.

 “In the course of about 12 months a new management team has come together that will shape the course of UT-Chattanooga for years to come,” Johnson said.

 UT-Chattanooga has a new chancellor in Dr. Bill Stacey and a new provost, Dr. Bill Berry, who will help frame the university’s academic vision, Johnson said.

 In addition, Oval James has taken over leadership of the campus intercollegiate athletics program. A search is underway to replace Charles “Rocky” Renneisen, recently retired vice chancellor for student affairs.

 “The new leadership is arriving at a time when you can feel the promise and optimism of the campus — a sense that things are moving in the right direction,” Johnson said.

 The UT president said positive impressions of UT-Chattanooga are supported by accomplishments, including the following:

 — Record enrollment, with a 13 percent increase in a freshman class that has the highest average ACT scores in UT-Chattanooga history.

 — Top Performance Funding scores among all the state’s public four-year colleges and universities.

 — Graduation rates in the top three of all the state’s public institutions of higher education.

— A 21st Century Campaign for private gifts that has raised more than $30 million, exceeding the original goal by more than 50 percent.

 Johnson said evidence of UT-Chattanooga’s progress is in the opening this past fall of a new football stadium for the Moccasins, renovation and expansion of Fletcher Hall, and design dollars for construction of a badly needed math and science building.

“Communities across the state are amazed at the way UT-Chattanooga and the surrounding area came together to build a beautiful new stadium,” Johnson said.

 Dedication of Fletcher Hall, following a $7.6 million renovation and expansion project to make one of the campus’ oldest and well located buildings again fully functional, is scheduled Friday afternoon following the board meeting, Johnson said.

While the trustees are holding committee meetings Thursday, Johnson said the State Building Commission in Nashville will be considering approval to start architectural planning for the math and science building.

 “I hope to have that to talk about too,” Johnson said. “These three projects represent a big step forward for UT-Chattanooga and the community it serves.”

 Another topic Johnson said he plans to talk about is Gov. Don Sundquist’s recent budget recommendations for higher education.

 Contact: Dr. Joe Johnson (423-974-2241)