Gary Beard (’80) Shares Reflections on the Alumni Board of Directors’ Past Year

Category: News

Volunteers! Congratulations on helping make 2022-23 a fantastic successful year for the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Whether a record enrollment of 33,000, employing over 150 scientists ranked in the world’s top 2 percent, or defeating Alabama in every sport, Tennessee displayed its rising stature in the SEC, the nation, and the globe. Our torch shines brightly as Chancellor Plowman, the administration, faculty, and alumni lead the way into an exciting future.

UT is the fastest growing institution in the SEC in undergraduate enrollment. Although we came out of the pandemic in great academic shape, there was no crystal ball to predict what the university would accomplish until the numbers reflected this tremendous progress. As UT President Randy Boyd expressed, this will be the “best decade in UT history.”

UT is #1 in the SEC for faculty and staff giving. We also saw 1 in 3 seniors contribute to the university this academic year. This spirit of giving is a fantastic reflection of donors’ belief in Tennessee and its future. Yet the statistics do not capture the tremendous Volunteer spirit of students and alumni who gave their time and energy improving the lives of others on campus and around the world. I was fortunate to observe the Volunteer spirit firsthand with alumni rolling up their sleeves working in Smokey’s Closet or helping organize the Big Orange Pantry, shoulder-to-shoulder with students.

The Alumni Board of Directors set three goals to help advance the University of Tennessee. Our first goal was to raise $60,000 for Big Orange Give among the board members, which we accomplished. Thanks to private matching, our total donations exceeded $100,000. The second project was continuing the LEAD enterprise providing first-generation students with scholarships. Again, we were successful, seeing the first students receive initial scholarships. Our third effort was to connect the Alumni Board of Directors with more UT students and faculty. My predecessor Phenise Poole (’95) started this idea, and I thank her for her leadership and guidance in this endeavor. As board members, we wanted to be a part of the academic journey of our great student body in cooperation with the deans and faculty. During this past year, the board lectured, taught, mentored, and engaged students in Engineering, Arts & Sciences, Business, Veterans Affairs, Nursing, Army ROTC, and the physical sciences. Our board members devoted many fun hours to meeting with students and providing them with guidance on networking and other pertinent advice as the students began their journey as successful Volunteer graduates.

Our Alumni Board of Directors for 2022-23 exceeded our goals with plans to do even more this next academic year as Joshua Dobbs (’17) takes the helm as president. Joshua will bring fresh ideas and excellent leadership to the board.

Furthermore, I want to thank the Board of Alumni Directors for their strong support to the university. They are stellar men and women in their own right. They are leaders achieving high levels of success, a reflection of the magnificent foundation the University of Tennessee laid for them to climb their own mountains to success. As always, the members of the board put their egos in their back pocket, working as one team to better the university. There was unison in every decision to speak as one voice. How many Boards of Directors are known to be that unanimous without someone dissenting or breaking ranks over an issue? Likewise, the magnanimous generosity of the board is unmatched with either time or money. Their love for Tennessee is displayed in all they accomplished the past years.

Graduates of the United States Military Academy at West Point are known as “the Long Gray Line,” describing the color of their uniforms on parade. Graduates of the University of Tennessee can claim to be members of “the Long Orange Line!” Over 280,000 graduates in every corner of the globe are making a difference for their nations and our world. Every year the Long Orange Line grows longer! There are 59 active alumni chapters and councils worldwide, with more to come. These chapters raised funds for 123 scholarships this year.

As you can tell, I am extremely proud of the Alumni Board of Directors, but their efforts would not have achieved fruition were it not for the marvelous leadership of Duane Wiles, associate vice chancellor for alumni relations, and his staff, namely: Jenna, Leslie V., Eric, Phyllis, Gina, Sam, Toni, Mallorie, Jordan, Leslie N., Chelsea, John, Meghan, Taylor, and Mary. These great Volunteers have a strategy in place guiding the board and providing assistance to enable the board to meet its goals every year. If you are near the Tyson Alumni House, please stop by and visit them (but understand they are constantly in motion planning or prepping excellent UT events on- and off-campus!).

In conclusion, being president of the University of Tennessee Alumni Board of Directors was humbling, exciting, and rewarding, as we worked on making our university the best in all areas. I also want to thank my wife, Elaine, who supported me, volunteered on campus activities, and provided great ideas making our board experiences even better.

Thank You Vol Nation!

Go Vols!

Gary Beard (’80)