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KNOXVILLE — Dr. Robert A. Levy’s more than 30 years of service to the University of Tennessee have coincided with a period of notable progress for the university, all of which Levy credits to people whose names are seldom widely known.

Bob Levy
Bob Levy
“Certainly, between when I began and now, the university has become much, much more diverse in terms of student body and employees, in terms of race, gender and all different kinds of ways,” said Levy, vice president for academic affairs and student success, and who joined UT in 1973. This week he announced plans to retire in December.

“Also, the university has really created the kind of atmosphere and curricula that are essential for a public land-grant institution – specifically, making the commitment to help all kinds of people gain the skills they need to do well in life.

“That happened by hard work on the part of a lot of people. In fact, most of what happens is because of all kinds of people who are anonymous and who get up every day and come in and just do their jobs. The faculty work really hard day in and day out to help their students learn, and the staff work really hard to make the learning environment possible.”

Levy was hired as assistant to the vice president for academic affairs in 1973 after earning a Ph.D. in English from UT. He advanced professionally within that office until his July 2004 interim appointment as vice president for academic affairs. He was officially named to the post in June 2006. With the launch of a five-year strategic plan in September 2006, Levy’s title was changed to reflect his office’s expanded responsibilities for student success, a strategic focus area.

“Bob Levy’s career has been dedicated to the University of Tennessee, and in more than 30 years here, he has been a passionate educator, earned the respect of his colleagues, and provided solid leadership to the institution,” UT President John Petersen said. “His understanding of the university, his insight and his counsel were invaluable to the strategic planning process, and to me, personally.

“I am grateful for Bob’s many years of service and commitment to the University of Tennessee.”

In addition to being an active consultant, writer, and presenter, Levy has dealt with such diverse issues as academic leadership training; library organization and automation; performance funding; intellectual property; desegregation; academic program assessment; accreditation; international education; continuing education and distance learning; development of new academic programs; Centers and Chairs of Excellence; strategic planning; and development of faculty personnel policies. He also has been a classroom teacher throughout his administrative career at UT.

“As much as I’ve enjoyed it, there’s nothing special about the work that I do,” Levy said. “Universities move ahead by little steps over long periods of time.

“Over the time I’ve been here, I’ve seen this university become much more committed to serving the state by focusing on the educational needs and the economic development needs and the lifestyle needs – through a variety of programs and outreach – of all Tennessee residents.”

Levy said he’s tried to pick up career wisdom wherever he found it, starting with his first boss.

“I learned a lot about doing this job from him, John Prados. He is a retired chemical engineering professor and the vice president for academic affairs who hired me,” Levy said. “He was a really remarkable role model. He didn’t lecture me about how things should be done, he demonstrated it day in and day out. You write, and you re-write, and you try to build consensus.”

The writings of management expert and author Peter Drucker also shed some light, particularly as Levy was in the process of developing the UT Leadership Institute.

“He wrote that successful management is to ‘accomplish predetermined objectives through others.’ I really believe that,” Levy said. “You don’t wake up one morning with a great idea and do it yourself. In higher education, you have to have some idea where you’re going, as an institution, and bunches of people have to help and work on that.”

Levy earned a master’s degree in English from Temple University in 1967 and a bachelor’s degree in English from Ohio Wesleyan University in 1965.

A search for his successor is expected to begin later this spring.

Contact: Gina Stafford, 865-974-0741 or