Alumni Board of Directors Elects New President

Category: News

The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Alumni Board of Directors has called W. Gary Beard (’80) to serve as president for the 2022–23 year and inducted eleven new members. Beard will begin his term in July, succeeding J. Phenise Poole (’95), who will remain on the board as the immediate past president.

“I am excited to help shape the university’s future,” said Beard. “I love the University of Tennessee. Just like so many Volunteers, I want UT to become the best in everything, from academics to athletics. We already have so many positive actions occurring at Tennessee, making it exciting to be a part of it. If I can play a role to further improve UT through my leadership, then I am thrilled to assist.”

Beard studied political science and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Signal Corps through the Army ROTC program. He spent much of his military career in the Army Reserve with approximately 20 years on active duty in Bosnia, the Philippines, Kosovo, and Iraq among others. As a paratrooper, he served in the 82nd Airborne Division and joint Special Operations Commands in Germany and South America. Ultimately achieving the rank of major general, Beard concluded his 37 years of service as the deputy commanding general, Hawaii, and as senior Army Reserve advisor to the commander, Pacific theater.
His civilian career centered on service of a different kind: public service in law. In Florida, Beard worked as a state prosecutor and later as the director of professional development for the Fourth Judicial Circuit Office of the Public Defender. Retired in 2010, he led attorney training and continuing education programs, while also representing and advocating for clients.

In 2011, Beard was honored for his impressive career achievements with an Accomplished Alumni Award from UT, with which he remains actively engaged.

At UT, Beard has served as an Alumni Board of Directors member since 2019. As board president, he will focus on continued board giving, supporting the Chancellor’s priorities to improve the university, and encouraging the board and alumni at large to enrich the student experience through mentoring, guest lectures, and other engagement activities.

“I hope the board positively impacts our students and inspires our wonderful alumni to take active roles with the university, whether through donations, building the alumni chapters, or coming to campus to engage faculty and students,” said Beard. “The Alumni Board includes very talented and dynamic members who could all be president, and I was flattered and humbled by the nomination. If there is one thing I hope we’re known for this year, it’s that we achieved all our goals as the stellar team that we are.”

Beard’s service to UT includes support of the ROTC program and the many veteran resources on campus. In 2016, he was inducted into the Army ROTC Alumni Council Hall of Fame.

“The Army ROTC program is an excellent application of leadership training, and it was the foundation to a successful career for me,” said Beard. “The lessons and experiences from my ROTC training prepared me to become an Army leader.”

He and his wife, Elaine, established the Gary and Elaine Beard Army ROTC Alumni Council Scholarship Endowment to support current Volunteer cadets in the program.

Duane Wiles, associate vice chancellor of alumni affairs, praised Beard’s extraordinary support and welcomed him to the new role as president.

“Gary has lived out what it means to be a Volunteer, dedicating his life to serving others, and we could not be prouder to have him in the Volunteer family,” said Wiles. “His exemplary service will no doubt continue in this new capacity with the board. I am excited to see what he and our impressive board members accomplish this year.”


New members of the Alumni Board of Directors, as of July 1, include:
  • Leslie Benmark (’67, ’70), At Large
  • Cynthia Finch (’79, ’81), At Large
  • Jim Flood (’80), At Large
  • Logan Hickman (’80, ’92), Presidential Appointee
  • Karen Robinson (’81), Presidential Appointee
  • Lori Wharton (’83), At Large
  • Beth Schussler, president of the Faculty Senate
  • Tony Murchison (’06), president of the LGBTQA+ Alumni Council
  • Jennings Dooley (’17), president of the Young Alumni Council
  • Mary Grace Myers, president of the Student Alumni Associates
  • Jordan Brown, president of the Student Government Association