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Communication Studies Professor Virginia Kupritz has been named the inaugural William H. Swain Professor.

The professorship was made possible by a generous gift from Martha S. “Missy” Wallen, who received her bachelor’s degree in communication studies in 1974, in honor of her father, William H. Swain, who was also a UT alumnus.

This five-year rotating professorship recognizes Kupritz for her outstanding research, teaching, and academic and professional service that have uniquely contributed to the mission of the School of Communication Studies, the College of Communication and Information, and UT.


Kupritz is associate director of the School of Communication Studies. She served as acting director from 2013 to 2015.

Kupritz is nationally and internationally known for her expertise in workplace privacy. She has been the principal investigator on multiple grants and contracts and has been honored for her research in communication and workplace aging issues and online instruction and learning. She has served as graduate coordinator for several programs and a committee chair for multiple master’s degree and doctoral students. She also has served on the board of an international research association and on the editorial boards of several leading journals.

Kupritz has completed UT’s yearlong Leadership Program and the Women’s Leadership Program at the Center for Creative Leadership. She is also a recipient of UT’s highest teaching honor, the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching.

William H. “Bill” Swain was a businessman, banker, and philanthropist who spent most of his life in Scott County, Tennessee. He served as director of the Federal Reserve Banks in Nashville and Atlanta and as director of the Tennessee Bankers Association. Together with Howard H. Baker Jr., he led the effort to create the Highland Telephone Cooperative.

Swain’s charitable service included serving as director and president of the Catholic Social Services in Knoxville and director of the Catholic Charities Board in Nashville. He established a mini-grant program to fund local educators’ innovative ideas for improving teaching.

In 2006, Swain received the first-ever Papal Honor granted to the East Tennessee Diocese. He served on the UT Development Council, the board of governors of the UT Alumni Association, the President’s Council, the Athletic Board, and several other university committees and boards.

Like her father, Wallen has provided leadership to UT as CCI Board of Visitors chair, a member of the UT Chancellor’s Associates, and as part of the UT Knoxville Alumni Association Board of Directors. She is currently chairman of Pinnacle Financial Partners in Knoxville.

“My father invested in his community by investing in education,” Wallen said. “His service for nearly a decade on the state Board of Education made him keenly aware of the need to support and encourage educators.”

“During the time I have worked closely with the College of Communication and Information, I have been privileged to see the outstanding CCI faculty in action. It was a clear choice to honor my father and his many achievements by providing this endowed professorship in his name,” she said. “Virginia Kupritz is an excellent choice as the inaugural William H. Swain Professor.”

C O N T A C T:

Donna Silvey (865-974-6727,