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KNOXVILLE — Former U.S. Senator Howard Baker will help the University of Tennessee Development Council celebrate its 50th anniversary Friday, Sept. 30, with a reception and dinner at the Tennessee Theatre.

Approximately 350 people are expected to attend the event. Baker, formerly U.S. Ambassador to Japan, will deliver remarks at the dinner, along with UT trustee and council member William B. Stokely III and Development Council past chairs Ben Kimbrough and John W. Fisher.

Also on Friday, USA Today founding editorial director John Seigenthaler will moderate a discussion with Baker on a wide range of topics. The session is set for 2 p.m. in room 32 of the Alumni Memorial Building.

The 68-member council is convening this weekend in Knoxville for its semiannual business meeting as well as to celebrate its 50th anniversary. Among the members are UT trustees Clayton McWhorter and John Thornton, and Chattanooga Times-Free Press publisher Tom Griscom.

Fifty years ago, fund raising at public universities was in its infancy. UT was one of the first public institutions in the South to organize business and civic leaders to help attract private gifts.

UT founded its Development Council in 1955 under the leadership of Dr. Andy Holt. The citizen group was charged with securing gifts to help grow the university to greatness. In the ensuing 50 years, the Development Council has answered the call and helped raise $1.5 billion for the statewide UT system.

UT President John Petersen acknowledged the important role of the Development Council.

“The council and the legacy it has built are the keys to success. I challenge us all to begin the Development Council’s next 50 years with a renewed commitment to a partnership and a promise that will assure UT’s legacy continues.”