UT Knoxville Chancellor Emeritus Jack Reese Dies

KNOXVILLE — Dr. Jack Reese, who served as the University of Tennessee, Knoxville chancellor for more than 16 years, died Monday, May 9. He was 76.

UT Knoxville Chancellor Emeritus Dr. Jack Reese

Following a private interment, a memorial service was held at 5 p.m. Thursday, May 12, at St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral, 413 W. Cumberland Ave. in Knoxville. The Rev. Canon Mary Lee Bergeron officiated. Immediately following the service there was a reception in the Great Hall.

The family also received friends Wednesday, May 11, at Rose Mortuary Mann Heritage Chapel on Kingston Pike. In lieu of flowers, send memorials to the Jack Reese Library Endowment, UT Libraries, 612 Hodges Library, Knoxville, TN 37996-1000.

Reese was a member of the university community for more than 38 years.

He served as chancellor from 1973 through 1989. Prior to that, he served as vice chancellor for academic affairs and associate dean for graduate studies. He came to UT in 1961 as an English instructor.

After stepping down as chancellor to return to the classroom, Reese directed the College Scholars Program and taught for 10 years before becoming professor emeritus in 1999.

First assuming the chancellor-s post in 1973, Reese saw the university through times of student unrest. A tireless advocate of cultural diversity, Reese led efforts to improve campus race relations and increase the number of African American students, faculty and administrators.

Among his many accomplishments as an administrator, Reese is credited with establishing new entrance requirements to reduce enrollment and enhance academic quality. He succeeded in increasing state funding for UT and was among the first to realize the potential for closer ties to Oak Ridge National Laboratory by establishing several of the first joint programs.

He was especially proud of the John C. Hodges Library renovation during his tenure as chancellor. He also established the first centers and chairs of excellence, enhancing UT’s research efforts and national profile as a top research institution.

His community and statewide service included chair of the Tennessee Arts Commission, member of the Metropolitan Planning Commission, chair of the Knoxville Waste Management Committee, and board member for Webb School, Knoxville Opera Company, Knoxville Urban League and Tennessee Technology Foundation.

He was a member of St. John’s Cathedral in Knoxville.

His daughter, Kristin Reese Williams, said, “More than anything else, he was a writer, a poet, and a teacher in his heart.” He helped organize the Knoxville Writer’s Guild.

Known for his penchant for making lists of all things in his professional and personal life, he is described by many as humorous, self-effacing, humane and open. UT’s current and former administrators remember him with great respect.

“He was always a man you could depend on. If he ever told you he’d do something, he’d do it. I don’t know of anyone I have more respect for than Jack Reese, as an educator and as a man,” said UT President Emeritus Ed Boling.

“He was a fellow whose heart was as big as his intellect and both were enormous,” said Philip Scheurer, UT vice president for operations, who served as a vice chancellor during Reese’s term.

Homer Fisher also served as vice chancellor with Reese and is now UT senior vice president emeritus.

“Jack was such a fine person. He had a very sincere concern for the well being of students, faculty, and support staff throughout his term as chancellor. He was a very good consensus builder, and with Herman Postma reached some of the initial agreements that ultimately led to the University of Tennessee being in the position to seek management, with Battelle, of Oak Ridge National Laboratory,” Fisher said.

Dr. Don Eastman, now president of Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Fla., also paid tribute: “Jack Reese was one of the kindest, most thoughtful, and graceful of college executives. He was a superb teacher and a passionate advocate for the students, faculty, and staff of the University of Tennessee. He set a standard of high principles and professional elegance that raised the tone of the entire institution.”

Eastman was an executive assistant to the chancellor during Reese’s last years as chancellor of the Knoxville campus.

A native of Hendersonville, N.C., Reese received his bachelor’s from Berea College and both a master’s and a doctorate in English from the University of Kentucky. He served in the United States Navy from 1953 through 1957.

He is survived by his wife of 47 years, Nancy; daughter, Kristin Reese Williams and son-in-law, John Williams, Jr.; son, Brad Reese and daughter-in-law Cindy Reese; grandchildren, Scott Goodlin, Ashley and John and Williams, IV; and brother, Thomas Reese of Brevard, N.C.