Interim chancellor is second finalist in search for UTM’s next leader

WELL WISHES - Dr. Ahmad Tootoonchi, dean of UTM’s College of Business and Global Affairs, (from left) greets UTM interim Chancellor Dr. Philip Cavalier after his public address as a finalist for the UTM chancellor position.

Sabrina Bates
MVP Regional Editor

The search continues for the next leader of the University of Tennessee at Martin. The search field has been narrowed down to three finalists and each were invited to meet and greet UTM students, faculty, and staff, as well as community members during public forums held on campus the past three weeks. 
The second chancellor candidate, Dr. Philip Acree Cavalier, is no stranger to UT Martin. He has filled the role of interim chancellor since Dr. Keith Carver left the role for a leadership position with the UT Institute of Agriculture in March.
UT President Randy Boyd said the search field was narrowed down from 41 applicants to 11, with one who opted not to interview, and then 10. The search committee was made up of exempt and non-exempt staff members, students, faculty, a dean and alumnus Jerry Reese – a Lake County native who went on to lead the New York Giants football to a national championship.
Dr. Cavalier addressed the crowd gathered in UTM’s Watkins Auditorium on June 22. He talked of how in his role as Provost for UTM for the past 12 years, he is prepared for the leadership position. He talked about his wife, who serves as a high-school teacher in Lake County and their three children, who are spread out across the country.
“As provost, I have had an opportunity to understand all parts of the university – from athletics to student affairs,” Dr. Cavalier said. He spoke of his experience in finance and budgets and the university’s improvement in fall enrollment with new and retained students. 
He mentioned there was a shift coming and the area is poised for seismic movement from BlueOval City and its regional economic-development impact.
“We are already the premier, regional comprehensive university in Tennessee. Let’s add Arkansas, Missouri and Kentucky. Dr. Carver did a great job at getting the word out about UTM,” Cavalier said.
Through the university’s partnership with Ford Motor Co. and the BlueOval City project, the regional center at Somerville is slated for a renovation of the back half of the property to be used as an onboarding facility for BOC employees. With a slate of different versions of the engineering field that will be needed, UT Martin has an advantage with its recently-completed Latimer-Smith Engineering and Science Building.
We need to be able to respond to a broad set of needs in West Tennessee communities and that is where all of us will benefit. We need to help those communities thrive – from hospitals to social work to hospitality – every single major will benefit from this project and we can help lead that effort,” Dr. Cavalier said.
He shared his vision for preparing students for things that don’t exist right now, and are yet to come, by creating students that are able to learn.
“Parents want to make sure their kids are able to get jobs. … If they decide they don’t want to be a teacher after taking classes, how do we transition them? We need to expand access to regional centers and adult learners. We need to expand recruiting into more public schools, post-secondary institutions and adult learners and put Martin in front of these students,” he said.
He talked about the potential for offering dual-enrollment courses to high school students in the region at night and the potential to further the education of those attending TCATs in the region.
Dr. Cavalier closed out his public address on the topic of fundraising. He noted that fundraising alone “won’t get you out of a bad budget.” He spoke of targeted fundraising campaigns with potential alumni donors.
“Fundraising is about two things – relationships and using their money to do something good,” Dr. Cavalier added.
Boyd emphasized the critical need for public feedback for the candidates as the System prepares to hire UTM’s next chancellor. The portal for online public feedback closes at noon on July 5. To view all three candidates’ bios and their public addresses, as well as leave feedback for the System, visit


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