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KNOXVILLE — Jimmy G. Cheek, the new UT Knoxville chancellor, arrives on campus today to begin his job.

Chancellor Jimmy Cheek
Chancellor Jimmy Cheek
Cheek, 62, was recommended for the chancellor’s post by UT President John Petersen and approved by the Board of Trustees in October 2008 after a nationwide search and lengthy interview process.

Although today is his official start, Cheek has visited campus periodically since his appointment in October 2008 and has been coordinating with staff and administrators while wrapping up his work as senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources at the University of Florida.

Cheek comes to UT Knoxville at a time when the university is facing significant budget cuts. But that challenge is not new to him; during the past year at Florida, he managed a 10-percent funding cut while still meeting his operating obligations and maintaining a balanced budget.

As UT Knoxville’s chancellor, Cheek said he intends to “focus on the university with an aggressive strategic agenda,” which is likely to include enhancing educational programs, faculty research and scholarship portfolios, facilities and infrastructure, and collaboration with governmental and private institutions.

Cheek said he’s excited about his move to UT Knoxville.
“This is one of the best public institutions in America and it has a bright academic future,” he said.

“I step into this role with great hope that I can continue the excellent work that many have started and quickly become the strongest advocate possible for the state’s leading public research university.”

Cheek spent the past 33 years at the University of Florida. He served as senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources since 2005. From 1999 to 2004, he was dean of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences; and from 1992 to 1999, he was assistant dean of the college. Cheek joined the Florida faculty in 1975 shortly after earning his doctorate at Texas A&M University.

A native Texan, Cheek also has a bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M and a master’s degree from Lamar University, in Beaumont, Texas.

Cheek, who was the first member of his family to attend college, said he has had a lifelong affection for learning. Much of his research — he has more than 80 publications to his name — has focused on education and learning. He has received numerous education awards, including Teacher of the Year for the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. In 2006, he endowed an award for outstanding graduate students in the college.

Cheek and his wife, Ileen, have two adult children.
Outside of work, Cheek said his interests include traveling, gardening and playing with his only grandchild, Abigail. He’s also a huge basketball and football fan.

“Shifting allegiance from the Gators to the Vols will be tough,” Cheek admits, “but my blood is already half orange.”

NOTE: Jimmy G. Cheek will meet with the media today, Monday, Feb. 2, at 2 p.m. in his office, 527 Andy Holt Tower.


Amy Blakely, (865) 974-5034,