Davis emphasizes UT-Knoxville growth

School is growing at a noteworthy pace that includes enrollment

University of Tennessee, Knoxville is growing at a noteworthy pace, including enrollment, for the first time since 1983, UT interim chancellor Wayne Davis announced to Rotary Club of Farragut members.

At that time the university had 31,000 students, which dropped to 26,000 by 1985.

“We’re growing because we need to provide access to students in the state of Tennessee, as well as neighboring states,” Davis said as RCF featured speaker during a Wednesday meeting in Fox Den County Club. “We actually just grew our freshman program — our largest growth — since 1983.

“We grew by 6 percent this year in the freshman class,” he added. “That translates to 5,213 undergraduate freshmen.”

The total growth amounts to 29,000 students overall.

“So, we’re in our growth mode,” he said. “Of the incoming freshmen, their grade-point average is 3.98 and they have an average ACT score of 28.”

“As a public university, we are, by far, providing access to some real high-quality students, Davis added.

In terms of administration, “We have a lot of leadership changes that are in process,” Davis said.

For example, UT Board of Trustees recently appointed Randy Boyd, a Farragut-area businessman, philanthropist and former Republican gubernatorial candidate, as interim president for UT’s statewide system.

While Boyd, a UT-Knoxville graduate, officially assumed that role Sunday, Nov. 25, he “jumped in head-first” dating back to October, Davis said.

The university is celebrating its 225th anniversary with celebration plans under way for fall 2019.

Davis, who has been with UT for 47 years, was appointed interim chancellor in May.

“I really am humbled to be asked to be interim chancellor,” he said. “It’s been very exciting.

“My role, really, was to stabilize the campus, as much as I could, to create an environment where when we do a search for the new chancellor, that chancellor would have the opportunity to come in and… spend their time planning for the strategic vision of the campus,” Davis added.

However, “UT needs a real chancellor,” he said.

“While I could stay on another year, what’s really important for the University of Tennessee is that they have stable leadership,” he added. “They wouldn’t be wondering in six months what’s going to happen with the chancellor.”

Before accepting the interim chancellor post, he was UT’s dean of the college of engineering.

Although he had planned to retire in June, Davis said stepping into the interim chancellor shoes has been a pleasure.

“I have to say my blood truly runs orange,” he said.