The old maxim “never succeed a winning coach”–or a popular chancellor–may sound like good advice. But Dr. Thomas A. Rakes, the new chancellor at the University of Tennessee at Martin, prefers to think about the work ahead in a different light.
Rakes recently succeeded Chancellor Nick Dunagan, who retired June 30 with 34 years of service to UT Martin. “I appreciate the many excellent decisions and initiatives Chancellor Dunagan brought forward,” Rakes says. “Working with him provided an excellent basis from which we can develop additional positive actions.”
A strong foundation, a 35-year career in higher education and experience in the business world are what Rakes brings to the post. His 5 years at UT Martin and previous service at two other higher education institutions, give him “a wonderful perspective to make the kinds of measured decisions that can maintain the many great initiatives we have in place and also provide new insights in order to move forward,” he says. “I am pleased and very honored to have been selected as chancellor.”
UT president John Petersen gives Rakes his stamp of approval: “In Tom Rakes, we are fortunate to have an individual who is known and respected on this campus, who understands the Martin mission, and who can move seamlessly into the leadership role. At the same time, he has demonstrated his commitment to pursuing excellence and to continuing to raise the bar,” Petersen said in making the May 7 announcement at UT Martin.
Rakes has identified eight focuses for the next several years. Increasing academic rigor and completion rates, reviewing levels of student and academic program services, refining the enrollment management plan, enhancing security measures, and continuing to assess resource allocation are among his priorities.
UT Martin’s role as a catalyst and resource in West Tennessee’s economic development is also an area of emphasis. “There is an excitement about a university environment with its diverse mix of people, events, and a changing landscape of issues and opportunities for growth and learning,” Rakes said. “I have only the needs and best interests in mind for our campus, community, and those we seek to serve–students, employees, and our stakeholders.”
Rakes joined UT Martin as vice-chancellor for academic affairs and professor of educational studies in May 2002. He was named provost in 2005. He received a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Milligan College, a master’s degree in reading from East Tennessee State University, and a doctor of education degree from UT Knoxville. Before coming to UT Martin, he was interim president at University of Louisiana at Monroe. Rakes held other administrative positions at UL Monroe, as well as at the University of Memphis. He began his higher education career as a UT Knoxville instructor and the University Reading Center’s assistant director.
Rakes has an extensive list of scholarly activities and has helped develop training programs for business and nonprofit organizations in six states. As a corporate consultant, he focuses on communications improvement and human-resources evaluation for hotel, manufacturing, and retail businesses.
Rakes’s wife, Dr. Glenda Rakes, is a UT Martin professor of education. The couple has two children, Karee and Patrick.