Mike Moss of Memphis, 2010-11 president of the UTAA, addressed the association Board of Governors last June in Knoxville. Moss holds degrees from UT Martin and UT Knoxville and is retired from a 40-year career in education. Following are excerpts from his remarks.
Since most of my working life has been spent as a student or teacher, education is important to me. And education is important to the state of Tennessee. Lack of education has a severe impact on the state.
A strategic plan for the alumni association will be put in place over the next several years to help us be better representatives of the university. Just one of the objectives will be to develop lifetime relationships by offering programs for each segment of the alumni lifecycle. As we look at lifecycle, you as alumni become agents for the university.
You are a real estate agent
We have the best real estate in the state of Tennessee in the four diverse UT campuses across the state. Two campuses are in West Tennessee and two in East Tennessee. Each has its own unique identity. There are a lot of fine publicly supported colleges and universities in the state, but here is only one University of Tennessee. Our university has alumni in all 95 counties, from Johnson County with 72 alumni to Shelby County with over 17,000 alumni. We are a statewide university.
You are a county agent
Support local chapters by attending meetings and telling the UT story in your community. Talk about the good things going on with UT. Diversify your board to help diversify your programming. Things that are important to a young alumnus, such as networking and career skills, are not of the same interest to alumni who are older and settled in the work place. Get new graduates involved early.
You are a talent agent
Our most talented students are entering the UT system now. It is important that we get them to UT, but it is more important that we keep them at UT and graduate them.
You are an insurance agent
We want to insure that the state of Tennessee has the best protection for its residents. We celebrate the 100th year of the campus of the Health Science Center in Memphis. More than 40 percent of the medical doctors and 70 to 80 percent of the dentists and pharmacists in the state are educated by the University of Tennessee. The quality of our state health care depends on the University of Tennessee.
But are you a secret agent?
Don’t keep it a secret that you are a graduate of UT. It is important to let our friends in the legislature know the good work the university is doing and how their support is critical.
Why is it important to be an agent and advocate for education? A quote Richard Stearns, president of World Vision, tells the story well. “Education is foundational to the development of a child, his or her community, and the entire nation, and no long term escape from poverty is possible without the methodical and routine education of children.”
We can not be satisfied with Tennessee being 42nd in graduation rate in the United States. We have no choice but to support the flagship university in this state.
The University of Tennessee has been around a long time. George Washington was president when the university was founded. The first years were rough with only one graduate in 13 years. In the beginning there was no need for an alumni association! Over two centuries later the situation has changed dramatically with more than 325,000 alumni in the U.S. and 30 plus other countries. This UT Alumni Association is a powerful organization of well-educated and influential people.
We are one university. We have different degrees from different campuses, but we are all agents for UT. I challenge you to embrace this new strategic plan for the alumni association and return to your hometowns with a renewed excitement about your University of Tennessee.
We are one university. We are the University of Tennessee!