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KNOXVILLE — The University of Tennessee has begun developing Cherokee Farm, a state-of-the-art research site west of the Knoxville campus, by appointing a comprehensive planning committee to help the new campus reach its full potential.

Chaired by UT Executive Vice President David Millhorn, the group includes representatives from key constituencies, including the UT Knoxville campus, the UT system, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, UT Institute of Agriculture, UT Medical Center, community residents, UT Health Science Center, Knoxville Area Chamber Partnership and private business professionals.

Millhorn led the first committee meeting Monday and outlined the committee’s charge, explaining that the group will help UT take full advantage of the opportunity to grow new programs and research opportunities to help the university reach national research prominence.

“The goal is to set aside everything that has been heard, thought or said and be open to Cherokee Farm as a revolutionary and spectacular idea,” Millhorn said.

UT received $32 million in state funds this year for the first phase of building infrastructure on the 200 acres west of Alcoa Highway. The development will involve public-private partnerships to enhance the university’s research mission and impact the regional and state economy. UT announced earlier this year that the state and federally funded UT-ORNL Joint Institute for Advanced Materials building would anchor the Cherokee Farm campus.

The University’s role in the management of ORNL has greatly enhanced its research position, and this development will help UT Knoxville in its goal of achieving status as a top research university, as well as prospective membership in the Association of American Universities, officials have noted. This research campus also will be instrumental in helping economic developers recruit new companies and high-tech, high-wage jobs for Tennessee.

UT President John Petersen spoke briefly to the group, noting that many of the scientific breakthroughs in the past few years have occurred through work that extends throughout the disciplines of engineering, chemistry, biology, computing, agriculture, medicine and physics, among many others.

“It’s a signature piece of property and we have a blank canvas with a palette that will be dynamic and always changing,” Petersen said. “If we do it right, we’ll capture the attention and interest not only of Tennesseans, but of people across the country and around the world.”

Petersen said the UT-Battelle partnership provides a unique advantage for research opportunities and that the time is right for UT to further develop an interdisciplinary approach to apply both basic and translational science and engineering to breed new commercial activities.

ORNL Director Thom Mason reiterated the need for stakeholders to think big and anticipate opportunities years ahead. Mason illustrated his point by noting that in the early stages of developing the UT-Battelle partnership to manage ORNL almost 10 years ago, the basic concepts for joint research institutes were outlined.

That early plan has now matured, and the UT-ORNL Joint Institute for Computational Sciences recently was selected to receive the largest research grant in the university’s history to build one of the world’s most powerful research computers.

UT is committed to assuring this facility is a signature development that blends aesthetically with the scenic environment along the Tennessee River and creates a stunning gateway to the Knoxville campus and community. Architecture Dean John McRae, a committee member, made note of the opportunity for UT to make an aesthetic statement.

“It’s about creating a thoughtfully-planned community that is practical, well designed and engaged,” McCrae said. “It’s also about taking full advantage of the beautiful assets that already exist.”

Randy Gentry, UT Knoxville associate professor of civil and environmental engineering and director of the UT Institute for a Secure and Sustainable Environment, commended further emphasis on energy-efficient design concepts and environmentally sound planning.

“It’s a strong leadership step toward emphasizing sustainability and environmental protection through the design of this campus,” said Gentry, also a planning committee member. “This is in tune with the city of Knoxville’s sustainability task force, as well, and puts UT in a leadership position in those activities.”

Committee members will meet to participate in brainstorming and visioning sessions to provide the framework and guidelines for development. A newsletter will update the group monthly.

“It will be an open process and involve the input of neighborhoods and property owners in the area,” Millhorn said.

Information on the process, latest updates and downloadable editions of the newsletter can be found at

The committee members are as follows:

– David Millhorn, UT Executive Vice President
– John McRae, Dean, UTK College of Architecture and Design
– Way Kuo, Dean, UTK College of Engineering
– Joe DiPietro, Vice President, UT Institute of Agriculture
– Ron Nutt, Nanotechnology for Medicine Group
– Thomas Zacharia, Associate Lab Director, ORNL
– Mike Caudle, Vice Chancellor, UT Health Science Center
– Jim Neutens, Dean, UTHSC Graduate School of Medicine
– Mike Edwards, President and CEO, Knoxville Chamber
– Tom Midyett, Sequoyah Hills neighborhood representative
– Brad Fenwick, UTK Vice Chancellor for Research
– Denise Barlow, UTK Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration
– Sylvia Davis, UT Vice President for Strategic Planning and Operations
– Gary Rogers, UT Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer
– Thom Mason, Director, ORNL
– Randy Gentry, Director, UT Institute for a Secure and Sustainable Environment
– Joe Landsman, President and CEO, University Health System, Inc.
– Don Stansberry, UT Trustee
– Jim Hart, President, Sequoyah Hills neighborhood representative
– John Rader, UT student and Student Government Association president.


Gina Stafford (865-974-0741,
Karen Collins (865-974-5186,