Knoxville businessman and former Tennessee gubernatorial candidate Randy Boyd has been tapped as a possible appointee to serve as interim president at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, after current UT President Joe DiPietro announced plans to retire on Monday.
The UT Board of Trustees will meet at 11:45 a.m. Sept. 25 to consider an interim appointment, according to a statement issued Wednesday by the board.
DiPietro's retirement is effective Nov. 21. If appointed, Boyd could serve as the interim president for up to 24 months or until the effective date of appointment of a new president following an external search, officials said.
If appointed interim president, Boyd has declined to be paid a salary.
UT board chairman John Compton said in the statement that appointing an interim president gives the trustees time to plan for the university's future. He and the other trustees, since beginning their work Aug. 1, have individually been meeting with and listening to key stakeholders, including legislators, faculty, campus leadership and alumni, the release states.
"These conversations have revealed that it is necessary to take a step back and evaluate the strategic needs of each campus and institute and support required from the UT System administration in order to raise the bar on our overall success," Compton said.
The board is passionate about elevating UT, he said in the release.
"Our students, faculty, research partners and citizens all expect us to continually improve. Our campuses and institutes individually and the UT System collectively have many areas of pride. Yet, with any success, one always needs to raise the bar for achievement," Compton said. "This is a chance for us to take our time — perhaps 12 to 24 months — to reflect on the input we've been given, gather additional input, and objectively lay out our future plans and leadership needs."
Boyd, besides running for governor this year, is the founder and chairman of Radio Systems Corporation, with more than 700 employees, offices in six countries and the brands PetSafe, Invisible Fence and SportDOG, the release states.
Boyd was the architect for "Drive to 55" and tnAchieves and served as Gov. Bill Haslam's adviser for higher education, board officials said. He also served as chair of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission and as Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development.
"Randy is a Tennessean, a UT alumnus and a hugely successful business person. He has invested in the University, personally and financially," Compton said. "The University of Tennessee is more than its network of campuses and institutes across the state. We have a presence in every county across this state. During the past 18 months, Randy has visited every county at least two times, he knows the landscape, he has relationships and understands the needs of our state."
Board officials said that through his philanthropy, Boyd also supports the UT Knoxville Boyd Center for Business and Economic Research and the UT Institute of Agriculture's College of Veterinary Medicine Boyd Venture Challenge seed grant program for student entrepreneurs.
"He's a true public servant, and he will work every day to make sure the University of Tennessee System is meeting the needs of our state," Compton said in the release.
Members of the public can preregister to address the board regarding the proposed appointment during a 30-minute comment period at the Sept. 25 meeting at the Visitors Center on the UT Knoxville campus.