Gilley Receives Top VPI Alumnus Honor

KNOXVILLE — University of Tennessee President J. Wade Gilley is one of 100 distinguished graduates named as “Alumni of the Millennium” by Virginia Tech, his alma mater.

Gilley joins a list in VPI-s winter alumni magazine that includes jazz guitarist Charlie Byrd; best-selling mystery novelist Sharyn McCrumb; Oak Ridge National Lab Director William Madia; and Homer Hickam, author of “Rocket Boys.”

Clara Cox, interim editor of Virginia Tech Magazine, said the selection process took more than a year. Approximately 350 alumni were considered, she said.

Cox said alumni selected met four criteria: those who had risen to senior positions in government, including military service; those who had achieved distinction for personal or professional accomplishments in any field or for contributions of enduring significance or value to society; those who had committed acts heroic acts, or who had achieved celebrity for personal acts, performances, artistic endeavors, or ongoing professional status.

Gilley is one of five alumni listed in the education category. The others are Julian Burruss, the first VPI alumnus to become president of his alma mater; Edwin Broun Fred, former president of the University of Wisconsin; Edwin Harrison, former president of Georgia Tech; and Mahmoud M-d Abu Quadais, co-founder of the Hashemite University in Jordan.

“There were many reasons to include Dr. Gilley in this list,” Cox said. “He has been a major American university president, but he also has served as secretary of education for the Commonwealth of Virginia.”

Gilley was president of Marshall University before coming to UT in August 1999.

Last year, Black Issues in Higher Education named Gilley one of the most influential university presidents of the last 100 years for his efforts to promote diversity on campus.