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KNOXVILLE — With its endowment now having reached $1 billion, private support for the University of Tennessee now rivals that of the nation’s top universities.

President John Petersen announced the billion-dollar achievement Friday to members of the UT Development Council at a celebration held in honor of the volunteer fund raising and leadership group.

In 2006, only 62 private and public universities and colleges had endowments of more than $1 billion, according to the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO).

“The incredible early support for the Campaign for Tennessee has dramatically increased private and corporate gifts at all levels,” Petersen said. “Growing the endowment to this level is a testament to the commitment of the university’s alumni and friends and how much they believe in the future of the University of Tennessee.”

Petersen said he is honored to be part of the historic milestone and that private support allows the university to transform academic programs to ensure student access and success and enhance research and economic development that benefit the state of Tennessee.

The term endowment is used to describe all funds invested for the benefit of UT. It is made up of all university and related foundation endowments, the Tennessee Chairs of Excellence and university charitable remainder trusts. Annual spending from the endowments is about 5 percent with more than two-thirds going for scholarships and professorships. All UT endowments are established to support university scholarships, instruction and research with only minimal discretionary amounts for day-to-day university operations.

“Reaching the $1-billion goal shows that the university has been a good steward of the money given to it through the years,” said Bill Stokely, former chair of the university’s Investment Advisory Committee, who served as a UT trustee from 2001 to 2007.

UT ranked 81st overall among 772 universities in an endowment level survey released in 2006. The NACUBO does not reflect UT’s new growth or investments since June 2006, an extraordinary growth period associated with the Campaign for Tennessee.

“The accomplishment of a $1-billion endowment marks decades of strong private support followed by careful and strategic fiscal management by the university’s investment advisory committee,” said Henry Nemcik, vice president for development and alumni affairs.

The committee is responsible for investing endowment funds and managing a broad diversified financial portfolio for the university. Along with Nemcik and Butch Peccolo, vice president and treasurer of UT, the committee includes: Chair Bill Carroll, SmartBank; Jim Haslam, Pilot Oil Corporation; Jim Shelby, The Trust Company; Bill Sansom, H.T. Hackney Company; Waymon Hickman, First Farmers and Merchants National Bank; George Cates; Fred Decosimo, Joseph Decosimo Company; and Gary Rogers, UT’s senior vice president and chief financial officer.

Endowments often are established to fund a professorship, a scholarship or a particular program or department. The Clarence Brown Theatre, one of UT Knoxville’s most well-known and beloved programs, is the beneficiary of the campus’ largest endowment. A well-known Hollywood director and 1910 graduate of UT, Brown and his wife, Marian, donated $12 million to the theater program in 1993 to establish its endowment. The fund, which has grown to $18,530,615, provides permanent funding for the program and ensures a high level of support for professional theater and theater study at UT.

More than $584 million has been raised toward the university’s Campaign for Tennessee, a multiphase fund-raising effort, since 2005 of which about 15 percent was for permanent endowments. A formal announcement of the campaign and its goal is set for spring 2008 and the effort will extend through 2011.

Beth Gladden, media relations, (865-974-9008 or