Alumni Board of Directors Seeks to Bolster Student Success and Recognize Volunteers

Category: News

Twelve new members have joined the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Alumni Board of Directors for the 2020–21 year under the leadership of Phil Jacobs (’77), who was initiated in July as the board’s new president. He succeeds Mike Berry (’77) and will serve for a year.

Established in 2009, the Alumni Board of Directors currently has 31 members and 10 ex-officio members, including Chancellor Donde Plowman. Board members live across the country, but are all unified in their service to the university.

UT Knoxville Alumni Board Members

“The board is an amazing group of people,” Jacobs said. “It is very diverse in that members represent all colleges, walks of life, and ways of thinking. One thing we all share is our enthusiasm and love for UT. This group is unrivaled by anything I’ve experienced before, and I am flattered and honored to serve as president.”

Jacobs has several goals for his tenure as president, developed in conjunction with Plowman, Vice Chancellor for Advancement Chip Bryant, and Associate Vice Chancellor of Alumni Affairs Duane Wiles.

One primary goal is to increase the number of alumni chapters and councils offering endowed scholarships. There are 44 chapters and eight special interest/diversity councils throughout the United States, and while all currently provide some form of financial assistance to undergraduate and graduate students, Jacobs would like to see the addition of at least 10 more endowed scholarships.

“We believe the way forward is having a very active board and promoting that the purpose of these scholarships is to attract more great students and give them the opportunity to attend UT Knoxville,” Jacobs said. “This will enable us see all chapters and special interest/diversity councils providing endowed scholarships in the near future. When you look beyond the borders of Tennessee, there are quite a few markets where these endowed scholarships will be difference-makers and help us recruit the best and brightest students who have an affinity for UT.”

“ We believe the way forward is having a very active board and promoting that the purpose of these scholarships is to attract more great students and give them the opportunity to attend UT Knoxville. – Phil Jacobs (’77)

The UT’s Office of Advancement is currently offering an Alumni Scholarship Matching Program. Signed pledges of $2,500 or more will be honored by a one-to-one match toward any UT Knoxville Alumni Scholarship endowment, up to a maximum of $12,500 matched per endowment account. For a limited time, a special matching gift scholarship is offered for alumni and friends who establish an endowed scholarship of $25,000 or more as a way to honor a loved one. In this case, a person can pledge $12,500 (payable at once or over five years), which will be matched by $12,500 to fully fund the endowment. To learn more about this opportunity to support UT students, please contact Taylor Thomas, director of alumni student recruitment and scholarships, at

Other goals Jacobs would like for the board to pursue are increasing the number of engaged alumni and supporting at least one key initiative with the Division of Student Success. “We are proposing a program around the concept of ‘pay it forward,’ where students will benefit, understand the role that the alumni board played in supporting the program, and then choose to pay it forward after they graduate.” He also wants to increase the recognition Volunteers receive for their contributions to society on a daily basis.

“We want to launch a program that recognizes Volunteer greatness,” Jacobs said. “While many UT supporters do receive recognition, there are 257,000 alumni out there doing great things every single day and flying below the radar. These could be doctors, nurses, educators, social workers, or businesspeople. They may come from any walk of life and have graduated from UT. Ultimately, the point is to recognize Volunteer greatness among those who have helped to better our lives and perfect our freedoms. I think doing so will lift spirits and make clear that Volunteer greatness lives everywhere.”

Jacobs added that, with an eye toward an upcoming year made unconventional by COVID-19, he’s excited to “get things done, because that’s what Volunteers do.”

“This year is full of uncertainty and challenges, but it’s also full of opportunities,” Jacobs said. “I think our board is going to capitalize on some opportunities, build enthusiasm among alumni, help students, and continue to grow the Volunteer spirit. We’ll keep things moving in the right direction and make a difference.”