Skip to main content

NASHVILLE — Dr. John W. Shumaker has been unanimously elected 21st president of the University of Tennessee.

UT’s Board of Trustees, meeting at the Capitol, approved the recommendation of its 10-member Search Committee that Shumaker, president of the University of Louisville, become UT’s next chief executive officer.

Gov. Don Sundquist, chairman of the UT board and chairman of the search committee, said the university has an outstanding president in Shumaker.

“This is an exciting time for the University of Tennessee,” Sundquist said. “Dr. Shumaker has an outstanding track record when it comes to keen vision and strong leadership. I look forward to working with him in making our university the best it can be.”

Dr. John Shumaker

Shumaker told the board he approaches the job with enthusiasm.

“Lucy and I very much look forward to working with all of you as we take the University of Tennessee to the next level of quality, ” he said. “I have been telling you this morning that we’ve got to commit ourselves to giving Tennessee the very best university it can afford and encourage Tennesseans to afford the very best. That’s the philosophy that I’ll bring to this very challenging position.”

Johnnie Amonette, vice chairwoman of the board and a member of the search committee, said the university needs Shumaker’s special leadership skills.

“He is a great communicator with a good message. I am delighted he accepted and the board has elected Dr. Shumaker as our next president,” she said.

Following the board meeting Tuesday, Shumaker and Gov. Sundquist were to leave Nashville to meet with students, faculty, staff and community and alumni leaders at UT’s campuses in Chattanooga, Knoxville, Martin and Memphis. Shumaker appeared Friday at an open forum on the Knoxville campus.

UT’s Presidential Search timeline calls for the new president to be in office by July 15, but Shumaker has indicated he could be on the job sooner, perhaps as early as May.

Shumaker comes to UT after serving as Louisville’s president since 1995. He said Friday when he accepted UT’s offer to become its next president that he foresees spending the rest of his career leading the UT system.

“It really is a thrill and a challenge to become president designate of one of the top 50 research universities in the United States,” he said. “It is a wonderful, varied and strong system.”

Shumaker earned the bachelor’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh and master and doctoral degrees in classical studies from the University of Pennsylvania and began his academic career at Ohio State University.

He left Ohio State in 1977 to become dean of humanities and fine arts at the State University of New York at Albany where he was vice president for academic planning and development before his election in 1987 as president of Central Connecticut State University.

He is married to the former Lucy Craig Steilberg.