KNOXVILLE, Tenn.– Charles F. Brakebill, a principal architect of the University of Tennessee’s nationally recognized fund-raising program, is retiring.
Brakebill, vice president for development, will wind up a 35-year career at UT on Dec. 31.
He and his wife, Joyce, live in Loudon. They were honored Nov. 22 at the UT Alumni Board of Governors meeting here.
In the early 1960s, then-UT President Andy Holt decided to ask alumni for gifts to their alma mater. Holt said private gifts to UT would “provide the icing on the cake” to supplement state appropriations. His first move was to hire Edward J. Boling in 1961 as UT’s first vice president for development.
A year later, Boling convinced Holt his Army buddy from World War II should join him in the new development office. Brakebill, sales manager for Bacon’s Creamery in Loudon, was interviewed by Holt on the floor of Stokely Athletics Center in August 1962 following a tribute to airmen (including Brakebill) who had just returned from Germany after the Berlin Crisis.
A few days later Brakebill became UT’s director of gifts and grants.
Over the years his titles would be assistant vice president, senior associate vice president and vice president. Through them all, Brakebill said the job was the same — friend raising and fund raising for the university.
Brakebill recalls the university raised only a few hundred thousand dollars a year in the early 60s. Last year the total had grown to nearly $56 million.
“I’m proud of the dollars we’ve raised, but I’ve always tried to keep an eye on what those dollars are doing,” Brakebill said. “The scholarships, fellowships and salary supplements for faculty have made a big difference in the quality of our campuses.”
UT President Joe Johnson, who has worked with Brakebill in development since 1963, said Brakebill deserves much of the credit for the growth and success of UT’s alumni and development programs.
“UT has one of the most successful fund-raising programs of any public university in the country,” Johnson said. “And Charlie Brakebill is a major reason why.
“He knows our alumni and development program better than anyone else. He understands people; he works hard. I admire and respect Charlie and Joyce. I appreciate all they’ve done for UT.
“They are irreplaceable.”
Brakebill says, however, the four presidents he has served and the development and alumni staffs are largely responsible for UT’s fund-raising success.
“Continuity is very important in alumni and development work. Many of our people have more than 25 years of service with UT. Some of the success of the 21st Century Campaign can be attributed to that continuity.”
Brakebill says he has never thought of his job as work because of the joy of greeting new and old friends. Development activities at UT have always been a family affair,” he said.
“When we have events for the Development Council, the Alumni Board of Governors or a college advisory group, we’ve included the spouse and sometimes the entire family in the activities. Spouses of the presidents, vice presidents and members of the development staff have always been part of our team.”
Joyce Brakebill had an important role in helping secure UT’s largest gift, he said.
A 26-year friendship the Brakebills cultivated with a Hollywood movie producer resulted in a $12 million bequest from Clarence Brown, a 1910 UT engineering grad, and his wife, Marian.
The team of Holt, Boling, Johnson and Brakebill stayed in touch with the Browns over the years. Brakebill says Joyce’s role may have been most important.
“Joyce is a partner. She’s always been a good-will ambassador for the university, and nowhere was this more apparent than with the Browns,” Brakebill said. “When someone from UT visited with Clarence and Marian, they always talked to or inquired about Joyce.”
During Brakebill’s tenure at UT, funds endowed to benefit UT have grown from about $1 million to $400 million.
The 21st Century Campaign blasted through its original $250 million goal two years early and is speeding toward the new goal of $308 million. The current total is approximately $280 million.
Brakebill says he doesn’t see a problem with slowing the pace of a hectic schedule of meetings, official travel, alumni gatherings and development calls. He and Joyce plan to travel, and he plans to spend more time in his lawn and garden. Brakebill says he hopes to spend more time with his grandchildren.
He attended Madisonville High School, graduating as salutatorian in May 1942. He entered UT’s college of agriculture the following month, but saw his college education interrupted by World War II service in France. After the war, Brakebill became a member of the Tennessee Air National Guard, rising to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.
He returned to UT and graduated with a degree in agricultural education in 1948, and he and Joyce married later that year. Brakebill accepted a teaching position at Loudon County High School and established a new department of vocational agriculture.
The Brakebills have two children, Linda Brakebill Bilderback and Dr. Larry Brakebill, both UT grads. One grandson, John Bilderback, is a freshman at UT-Chattanooga, and Brakebill says it’s a safe assumption the other grandchildren will attend UT.
A national search is underway for Brakebill’s successor.
Contact: Charles Brakebill (423-974-4531)