UT Board Committee Selects Search Firm (395)

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — A University of Tennessee Board of Trustees committee searching for a new UT president Tuesday picked a firm to help it identify candidates for the job.

Heidrick and Struggles, which has headquarters in Chicago, was chosen by the eight-member committee which will recommend candidates to succeed Dr. Joe Johnson, who is retiring in June 1999.

The committee, meeting by telephone conference call, asked Bill Sansom to negotiate a contract with the firm. Sansom, of Knoxville, is chairing the search committee and is vice chairman of the board of trustees.

William Bowen, vice chairman and former president of the firm, and Janet Greenwood, a partner in the Heidrick and Struggles’ Washington, D.C., office, will work with the search committee.

Also Tuesday, the board’s subcommittee on honorary degrees met to discuss opportunities the university might gain by making such awards.

Johnson, a member of the subcommittee, said board by-laws authorize the award of honorary degrees, but the authority has seldom been exercised.

The university has awarded only four or five of the degrees in the past 50 years and most of those were on the occasion of Andrew D. Holt’s inauguration as president of UT, Johnson said.

“I’ve been at the university since 1963 and we’ve awarded only one honorary degree in that time,” Johnson said. The award was to Dr. Michael DeBakey, the heart transplant surgeon, by UT-Chattanooga.

Homer Fisher, UT senior vice president, said a survey of the nation’s land grant colleges and universities yielded 48 responses, indicating that 38 institutions awarded honorary degrees and 10 did not.

UT trustee Arnold Perl of Memphis said a by-laws requirement that honorary degrees be awarded only “with exceeding care” set a standard that makes such awards very difficult.

Dr. Mark Miller, president of the UT-Knoxville Faculty Senate and member of the subcommittee, said the lack of procedures at UT for nominating and selecting individuals for the degrees also might have a dampening effect.

Fisher was asked to do a second survey of the UT campuses, peer institutions and the top land grant institutions to determine their honorary degree policies and practices.

Perl said the survey should go beyond who does or doesn’t award degrees to find out why the institutions think it is or is not a good thing to do. The subcommittee will meet again when the results of Fisher’s second survey are available.

Contact: Joe Johnson (423-974-2241) Homer Fisher (423-974-3211)