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KNOXVILLE — A private foundation that will support programs benefiting the University of Tennessee has been established.

The foundation’s board of directors reads like a who’s who of Tennessee. Among its members are Howard H. Baker, newly named Ambassador to Japan, and two former governors, Lamar Alexander and Ned McWherter. Knoxville businessman and UT trustee Jim Halsam is chairman.

UT President J. Wade Gilley said Tennessee is joining a number of large, public institutions, including the universities of Illinois, Georgia, Florida and Indiana, that already have foundations.

“Foundations add a degree of flexibility and options to the university’s fund-raising efforts. In some cases, a foundation can move more quickly to receive a gift or a piece of property when timing is critical,” Gilley said.

Gilley said the foundation will work closely with the UT Development Council and the UT National Alumni Association’s Board of Governors, both of which have helped the university raise private gifts for more than 40 years.

Emerson Fly, president of the foundation, said its activities will be for the benefit of the statewide university but it will receive no state tax dollars, he said.

“We will serve the university in a number of ways, such as in partnerships, joint ventures and in certain real estate transactions,” said Fly, UT’s executive vice president.

“It is a vehicle to help secure additional private gifts that will augment state and institutional funds.”

Other founding members of the foundation are: James Ayers, an asset manager from Parsons, Tenn.; Ben Kimbrough, retired banker from Clarksville and long-time member of the Development Council; R. Clayton McWhorter, UT trustee from Nashville; and William B. Sansom, UT trustee from Knoxville.

Gilley and Jack E. Williams, UT vice president for development and alumni affairs, are ex-officio, non-voting members of the foundation board.