Roger Brown, chancellor of University of Tennessee at Chattanooga since 2006, has announced that he would retire by March 2013. A search for his successor will start soon, but it will be difficult to find a replacement as well suited to UTC as the retiring chancellor.
Brown has not had the smoothest of tenures, but most of the difficulties were not of his making. External forces -- especially an economic climate that has made life difficult for all colleges and universities and for those charged with oversight of them -- are to blame. UTC is no exception. Despite it all, though, Brown's years at the helm of the university have been remarkably successful.
He's maintained salutary relationships with faculty and staff. He's encouraged and enjoyed a strong bond with students. He's worked diligently to represent UTC and the city in the state's higher education circles. And he's become a powerful advocate for UTC and higher education in both the community and the region. Many high-ranking university administrators across the nation understandably envy the ease with which he's accomplished those feats.
His other achievements are similarly admired. During his tenure, UTC enrollment has increased by nearly 20 percent. It stood at over 11,400 last fall. In addition, more than $100 million in construction and capital improvements -- including the long-awaited and much-needed $48-million new library -- have been made on campus. It should be noted, too, that external grant funding and fund-raising increased during Brown's tenure. All are benchmarks his successor will have to strive to match or exceed if their tenure is to measure up to Brown's.
The retirement announcement does not mean the chancellor will be a lame-duck in office. He's still adding to an agenda he'd like to complete before he leaves his post. Foremost among his goals are to see the completion of the massive new library and the creation and development of an expanded honors college within the university. He rightly views both as important adjuncts to UTC's continued growth and success.
Brown 's retirement will not end his involvement in the community. Thank goodness for that. He says he plans to stay in Chattanooga, to remain an advocate for the university and, perhaps, to teach. If he does all three, the community, the university and those he teaches will be better for his presence.
Joe DePietro, University of Tennessee system president, will appoint a search committee to help find a new chancellor. A head-hunting firm likely will assist. Ultimately, the committee will recommend possible successors to Brown. DiPetro will have the final say.
His decision will not be an easy one, and it must be well-considered. The future of UTC rides on hiring a qualified, energetic and visionary successor to Brown.