UT President Joe DiPietro and Interim Chancellor Wayne Davis discussed ways to move forward with the recent changes in UT leadership Monday afternoon.
On Wednesday, May 2, DiPietro announced the dismissal of the university's eighth and first female chancellor Beverly Davenport. Davenport was appointed in December of 2016 and sworn into office in February of 2017. DiPietro cited performance issues and Davenport's inability to fix the issues as cause for her dismissal.
“It's a very unpleasant decision,” DiPietro said. “I...felt that because I was the person who selected her and recommended her, and I was very excited to have a woman in this role, that it was very important for me not to allow somebody else to have to deal with the issues that I thought were so difficult and so challenging and they were unlikely to be resolved.”
DiPietro announced Davis as interim chancellor on Thursday, May 3. Davis's tenure at the university stems across 44 years with the most recent being his appointment as dean of the Tickle College of Engineering in 2009.
“I approached Wayne last week about his opportunity to help us, if he was so inclined,” DiPietro said. “Because not long ago...he said to me one day 'if there's anyway I can ever help the institution, I'd love it and I'd be willing to help you out.'”
Davis, who was set to retire this year, extended his retirement and has committed to serve as interim chancellor for the next year as the university searches for a new chancellor.
“I am really humbled and honored to be asked by the president of the university to serve in this capacity during this period of what will be an interim situation where we're really looking for a new chancellor,” Davis said.
Born in Orange County, North Carolina and graduate of Orange County High School, Davis said his life started with orange. After learning his graduate stipend was no longer available at Clemson University at the end of June 1971, Davis reached out to three schools he considered transferring to, one being UT. Davis met with faculty on the Saturday of the July 4 weekend of 1971 and joined the university two weeks later.
“Tennessee, UTK, said 'we'll take you',” DiPietro said. “So Wayne ended up here as a graduate student, finished his PhD work, and climbed right through the faculty ranks. (He) is a very talented administrator and the (Tickle) college has grown incredibly on his watch.”
Davis has served various roles on campus including serving the UT Graduate School as assistant dean from 1985 to 1988 and associate dean from 1988 to 1991.
“I've had a long, really exciting (and) wonderful career here at the University. I was truly going to retire and I was really looking forward to it but I have to admit that my blood truly runs orange and when I was asked to do this I thought you know I think I can help the university through this process,” Davis said. “I am really excited about the fact that we will be able to move toward conducting a search this coming year for a new chancellor. I am excited for the future.”
DiPietro addressed his own future and dismissed rumors of his retirement that he said have littered the media recently.
“The reality is I feel it's prudent to not make any decisions about my date until this new board is convened (in July),” DiPietro said. “But it has to be one of the first issues we deal with, this transition of leadership, not only my position eventually, but also Wayne's.”
Davis said he will begin to meet with the Chancellor's Cabinet, critical people, students and new Student Government Association president Ovi Kabir as he adjusts to his new role.
“I believe in listening and I also believe in supporting students. I'm extremely student-oriented,” Davis said. “I think if you asked the students in the college of engineering they would say, 'well he's not with us every single day, but his heart is there.'”
DiPietro said Davis is passionate about the university and has the attributes to fill the interim position.
“The reality is, Wayne loves this university, he's willing to step up to serve it,” DiPietro said. “I really appreciate his willingness to do that in a time where we really need his competent leadership, his outstanding vision, his ability to work with people to meet the goals and the mission of the university.”