University of Tennessee President Joe DiPietro made his first official visit to the University of Tennessee at Martin, Oct. 28, and talked about his vision and first steps as the university’s 24th president. Previously serving as the UT Institute of Agriculture chancellor, he was elected by the UT Board of Trustees during the fall meeting. He began his new role on Jan. 1, 2011.
“When I look at this university, and I’ve gotten to know it very well, … our mission is to educate, to discover and to connect.” said DiPietro. “So, you do that very well here in Martin in many ways. You educate your students. Your enrollment is growing. It’s a vibrant campus,” he said.
He also talked about UT Martin’s “connected nature” with initiatives such as the extended-campus centers that joined the Oct. 28 event by webcast from the Martin campus and the WestStar Leadership Program that has been developing leaders across West Tennessee for 22 years. These connections, he said, “are key to our success and the bright future that we have together.”
As he establishes his new administration, DiPietro said he will continue what he has always done – build teams. “… I can’t tell you how humble I am about that opportunity, but excited.” He also will continue to foster relationships with the new governor and other elected officials in Nashville and Washington. Finally, DiPietro said he will push the Complete College Tennessee Act to increase the number of young adults in Tennessee who receive a baccalaureate degree and also support and promote the new UT Foundation, “because fund raising has become more critical for us.”
DiPietro said he wants to be aware of what’s happening and will spend time on the campuses. “I think that’s the best way I’ll be equipped to realize what challenges you have, what things you need and how I can best help you as the 24th president of this university.”
“People are what make this work and make us great. It’s no one individual in a university that makes that happen. It’s all of us collectively together. And the university needs to be the centerpiece, not the president.”
DiPietro said the university owes a debt of gratitude to Dr. Jan Simek, interim president, and to the board of trustees members, such as Betty Ann Tanner and Crawford Gallimore, “for what they’ve done in developing a structure that I think will send us to the next level.”
Simek also spoke and discussed the presidential search that culminated when the trustees elected DiPietro during the fall meeting. “We really needed somebody who understands who we are – and that’s exactly what the board of trustees did,” said Simek. “He is perfect, I believe, for the future of the University of Tennessee.”
Reflecting on his time as interim president, Simek thanked the UT Martin campus community for its support. He added that getting to know and work with the UT Martin campus community “has been really one of the very greatest parts of the experience that I’ve had. This is a terrific place. You do a wonderful job.”
UT Martin Chancellor Tom Rakes welcomed DiPietro and his wife, Deb, and those attending the event, including UT Trustee Betty Ann Tanner, of Union City, who was accompanied by her husband, Congressman John Tanner, and UT Trustee Crawford Gallimore, of Martin, and his wife, Nancy.
A reception was hosted for the new president following the program. DiPietro departed Martin for a stop at the UT Health Science Center in Memphis to end the first day of his two-day tour of campuses.