University of Tennessee president Joe DiPietro retiring

Friday, September 14, 2018, Vol. 42, No. 37

KNOXVILLE (AP) — University of Tennessee President Joe DiPietro announced Monday that he plans to retire early next year.

DiPietro said he will retire Feb. 14, but will actually step down from active service Nov. 21 to use his remaining vacation time.

"We're facing a time of transition in this state," DiPietro said. "We will have a new governor and many new legislators in the General Assembly. For me, the timing makes sense for the new UT president to step forward and lead the university through these changes."

DiPietro said that at the start of the year, he had mentioned his interest in retirement to Gov. Bill Haslam and Raja Jubran, the vice chair of Tennessee's Board of Trustees at the time. DiPietro said he decided to wait until the new Board of Trustees was formed before announcing his decision.

The 67-year-old DiPietro has served as president of the University of Tennessee system since January 2011. His role makes him chief executive officer of the University of Tennessee and its Knoxville, Chattanooga and Martin campuses as well as the Health Science Center in Memphis and the statewide Institute of Agriculture and the Institute of Public Service.

UT Board of Trustees Chair John Compton praised DiPietro's leadership.

"He and the former Board of Trustees accomplished a great deal together. All stakeholders in the University system have been well-served by his tireless commitment to continual improvement across all of our campuses," Compton said.

Compton said in a statement that the new Board of Trustees will select DiPietro's successor "soon" without specifying a date.

DiPietro advised the board to "find somebody who can keep pushing this place forward and be willing to challenge the institution like I have." He also suggested finding someone who is willing to consider new ideas and who understands "the culture of the state of Tennessee and the unique place it is."

"I know that we'll find a leader who loves this place as much as I do," DiPietro said.

DiPietro forced out chancellor Beverly Davenport earlier this year, citing "numerous areas of unsatisfactory performance." Her ouster came less than 15 months at the helm after a tumultuous search for a head football coach and other controversies.

During DiPietro's tenure, UT had low tuition increases and the UT Foundation had record fundraising. DiPietro cited his ability to solve the budget issues and keep tuition in line as the greatest successes of his tenure.

"It was important for me to leave this university in better shape - particularly financially - than when I (got here)," DiPietro said. "And we are, thanks to the hard work of everyone."

DiPietro oversaw the construction of the Cherokee Farm Innovation Campus as well as 240 construction or renovation projects across the system.

"His commitment to the university and his steady and wise leadership will pay dividends for years to come," Haslam said in a statement. "Everyone who has worked with Joe will long remember his selfless service to building a great university."