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KNOXVILLE — Dr. John Petersen is the University of Tennessee’s new president.

Petersen, provost and executive vice president at the University of Connecticut, was elected Wednesday by the university’s Board of Trustees after an unprecedented search involving broad input and candidate interviews broadcast over the Internet.

Petersen is expected to be on the job July 1.

“Under Dr. Petersen’s leadership, UT can renew its mission and set its sights on a successful future,” Governor Phil Bredesen, who is chairman of the board, said. “In launching the search process, I was convinced an open process would restore confidence and attract the right caliber of candidates.

“I commend the presidential search committee and the advisory council for a job well done,” Bredesen said.

When the search began last fall, the governor called for an open process. That challenge is reflected in the guiding principles of the search.

The principles state that the search would be conducted in an open, fair and competitive manner. Minorities and women were to be affirmatively sought for inclusion in the candidate pool.

Further, no candidate was to be considered by the search committee or the board unless his or her candidacy had first been evaluated through a public evaluation process.

“The guiding principles served us well, and I think we lived up to our promise,” Trustee Andrea Loughry, head of the search committee, said. “I thank the members of the advisory council and search committee for their hard work.”

Immediately following Petersen’s election as UT’s 23rd president, he met students, faculty and staff at a reception in the University Center in Knoxville.

Receptions at UT’s other campuses across the state are planned Thursday and Friday.

“You can’t imagine how excited Carol and I are to have this opportunity, and from the bottom of our hearts, we thank you,” Petersen told the board, “not only for the hospitality you’ve shown us while we’ve been here during the process of the search, but also for the opportunity to work with all of you on the board and all the campuses in the system, and the people of Tennessee, the legislature and the governor.”

Prior to coming to the University of Connecticut in 2000, Petersen was dean of the College of Science and professor of chemistry at Wayne State University from 1994-2000. Previously he held positions as the department head of chemistry and associate dean for research in the College of Sciences at Clemson University, and assistant professor of chemistry at Kansas State University.

He received the Ph.D. in inorganic chemistry from the University of California at Santa Barbara and the B.S. in chemistry from California State University.

A 19-member Presidential Search Advisory Council, which included faculty, students, staff, trustees and alumni leaders, screened resumes of 47 applicants.
It also conducted background checks on 12 that were invited for interviews. The council further reduced the number to six and sent those to the board’s search committee.

Meeting Tuesday in Knoxville, the nine-member search committee cut the field to three: Dr. Jack Burns, vice president for academic affairs and research of the University of Colorado system, Dr. Kermit Hall, president of Utah State University, and Dr. Petersen.

Interviews were conducted by the full board before Wednesday’s election of Petersen.

Baker-Parker, a search consulting firm in Atlanta, was hired to assist with the search. Andrea Loughry, a trustee from Murfreesboro, headed the search committee. Jim Murphy, a Nashville trustee, chaired the advisory council. Margaret Perry, chancellor emeritus of UT Martin, was the executive director of the presidential search.

The reception schedule is as follows:

10 a.m., Thursday, April 22, UT-Martin.
1 p.m., Thursday, UT Health Science Center, Memphis.
4:30 p.m., Thursday, UT Space Institute, Tullahoma.
10 a.m, Friday, April 23, UT-Chattanooga.