Dr. Robert Smith

Dr. Robert M. Smith was named the 10th chancellor of the University of Tennessee at Martin by the University of Tennessee Board of Trustees in March 2017 and conferred the title of chancellor emeritus after serving as the university’s interim chancellor from 2015-2017. Smith previously served the university as dean of the School of Arts and Sciences from 1987-1999. In that period, he co-created the WestStar Leadership Program and served as executive director for 10 years. He also served as director of the Tennessee Governor’s School for the Humanities from 1996-1999. From 1999-2012, he served as provost and president of Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania, retiring as president emeritus.

Smith returned to UT Martin in 2015 to guide the university through a series of historic achievements while addressing financial, enrollment and accreditation obstacles. By the end of the period, the university had created new revenue models for both in-state and out-of-state students to increase investments in student progression and academic success, and laid a foundation for a strategic enrollment plan that included the university’s first comprehensive marketing campaign. During Smiths’ tenure, UT Martin also successfully removed probation status by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges while also achieving initial accreditation for the computer science program, reaccreditation of engineering and business programs, and two consecutive single-year fundraising records.

At the end of his time as chancellor, applications and admissions were increasing and the previous classes recorded historic records for ACT admission scores and the university’s highest freshman-to-sophomore retention rate and six-year graduation rate at the time. The university’s success was acknowledged by more than two dozen national rankings, including U.S. News and World Report’s ranking among the top-20 public southern regional institutions; a listing by Institutional Research and Evaluation Inc. as one of “America’s 100 Best College Buys;” and Princeton Review’s “Best Colleges in the Southeast” and “Best 294 Business Schools” ratings.

Faculty and administrative innovation led to approval of a new master plan and use of the Gallup/Purdue Index as guiding metrics for success. The first Living-Learning Communities and a reconstructed Career Planning and Development Center were introduced in 2016. Expanded veterans’ resources and a new lounge led to UT Martin’s national recognition as a “Military Friendly School.” A 20,000-square-foot academic building and press box in Hardy M. Graham Stadium was completed, and ground was broken for the UT Martin Somerville Center. Looking toward the future, Smith championed a vision for an Innovation and Product Realization Facility where regional entrepreneurs could partner with UT Martin students. He also organized a regional work-group with the city and county to develop the Northwest Tennessee Rural Convention Center and secured the then-largest financial gift in university history ($6.5 million) to build the Latimer Engineering and Science Building.

Smith and his wife, Ramona, have two children, David (wife, Laura) and Angela (husband, Brandon). All four are UT Martin graduates.