What has been the hardest task you’ve faced as president?
Garnering all the resources to drive the place forward. The other part that has been hard has been controversial issues, aka Sex Week. I don’t mind controversy or conflict, but what I don’t like is when it’s over an issue that takes away from an issue we need to tackle or accomplish.
What has been the easiest?
Assimilating to the culture of Tennessee and loving the people because I already had experience doing that. The other easiest was knowing the components of the UT System and understanding who they are and where they are.
What has been the most surprising?
The calendar. The other surprise was not recognizing how meaningful it was for the president to be at an event. Also, how quickly I lost my anonymity. I tell the story about how I went to the hardware store because I needed a bolt to fix a wagon for my grandchildren. I was in an old pair of blue jeans and ball cap and had been in this job about four months. Three times on the way through the store somebody said, ‘Aren’t you the new president?’ and I knew my life had changed.
The next four years for UT’s president start in January with a huge vote of confidence, optimism and a big challenge. He is taking on the university’s business model to take financial pressure off students and their families. And he’s committed to speaking out about the importance of quality education for all Tennesseans. Read more in the Fall 2014 issue.