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KNOXVILLE, Tenn.– The University of Tennessee Development Council, which advises UT officials on private fund-raising, will have new leadership July 1.

Dwight Kessel, president of Knox Air and former Knox County Executive, will become council chairman, and John Thornton of Chattanooga will be the new vice chairman, UT President Joe Johnson announced Wednesday.

Kessel succeeds Tim Epps as chairman. Epps is vice president for people systems at Saturn Corp.

Thornton founded American Rug Craftsmen and is a consultant to the Chattanooga firm.

“We are fortunate to have volunteer leaders of the caliber of Dwight Kessel and John Thornton who give of their time, energy and expert abilities to the university,” Johnson said. “Over the years, UT has enjoyed strong volunteer leadership in our private fund-raising programs, and that is a significant factor in their successes.”

Kessel, a 1950 UT-Knoxville engineering graduate, is chairman of the college of engineering’s portion of the 21st Century Campaign. He has been a volunteer leader of several UT fund-raising efforts and has served as chairman of the UT-Knoxville Chancellor’s Associates.

“Dwight and his family are generous supporters of UT and its fine College of Engineering,” Johnson said.

Kessel served as Knox County Executive from 1980-94.

Thornton, who last year gave the University of Tennessee $1 million for the Athletics Department, is a native of Maryville and a graduate of Tennessee Wesleyan College. He currently chairs the UT-Chattanooga Chancellor’s Roundtable and is on the board of the University of Chattanooga Foundation.

Thornton was named Walmart’s Vendor of the Year and Entrepreneur of the Year.

The Development Council has a membership of 65 men and women who provide leadership and advice to the university on private fund-raising. Since it was established in 1955, UT has received more than $500 million in gifts for its five campuses and other statewide programs.

Contact: John Sheridan (423-974-2115)