University of Tennessee President John Petersen and Trustee Vice Chairman Jim Murphy jointly announced Wednesday that Dr. Petersen will resign as president effective June 30 and that Dr. Jan Simek, most recently the interim chancellor for UT Knoxville, will be recommended to the board to fill the post for up to two years.
Dr. Petersen will be on administrative leave with pay beginning March 1 through June 30.
Dr. Simek will be acting president from March 1 through June 30 and will become interim on July 1. His appointment as interim is not to exceed two years.
"As I approach the end of my fifth year, I have been giving serious thought to my future plans and had determined I wanted to leave in June," Dr. Petersen said. "In discussions with Vice Chair Murphy and other board members, we agree that it serves the university’s interest best to make the change now so that the person responsible for implementing cuts in next year's budget will be the person leading the difficult budget decisions in the coming months."
"Jan Simek is the ideal choice for this role," Dr. Petersen said. "I was pleased to choose him to fill the critical UT Knoxville interim position and I know he will have full support and will do an excellent job in this new capacity."
Mr. Murphy said, "Dr. Petersen and his team have been diligent in carrying out a strategic and inclusive process to address the budget issues facing the university. They have a solid plan that is ready to be reviewed by the board at our February meeting. John feels, and I agree, that if he intends to leave in June, it makes sense for new leadership to finalize the plan and take it forward."
Dr. Simek, who has been with the university since 1984 in both academic and administrative roles, served as interim chancellor for the Knoxville campus for a year, during the search which brought Dr. Jimmy Cheek to UT Knoxville Feb. 1.
Mr. Murphy said Dr. Simek's appointment will be considered by the board at its Feb. 25-27 meeting and will be for up to two years with no set schedule for conducting a search for Petersen's replacement.
"Jan Simek has proven his loyalty to the University and has demonstrated his ability to facilitate change in the academic arena," Mr. Murphy said. "We will use this time to carefully and thoroughly study the role of the system administration while we work through the budget issues. Our goal will be to set our budget models, clarify governance and streamline system administration before we pursue hiring the next president."
Dr. Petersen took office on July 1, 2004. He said that in considering the direction and vision he brought to the university, and progress toward goals thus far, "Now is the right time to make this change."
"When I came here five years ago, we had a clear direction and a clear set of needs," Dr. Petersen said. "I feel we have met those needs and redefined the University's strategic direction for the future. As a team, we have enjoyed some extraordinary, unprecedented successes in research and economic development, we have made phenomenal progress in a $1 billion capital campaign, and our campuses have made great strides in the quality of students enrolled."
Mr. Murphy, noting achievements coinciding with Dr. Petersen serving as UT's 23rd president, said, "In slightly less than five years, Dr. Petersen has had a transformational impact on the University of Tennessee and led the statewide UT System in remarkable progress – in growth in enrollment, research and economic development, and in private giving."
"We are grateful to Dr. Petersen for his lasting and positive contributions to this great university," Mr. Murphy said. "We will work to ensure the continued successes enjoyed in recent years, and we will attract excellent leadership to share our commitment to making UT one of the top-tier universities in the country."
Dr. Petersen will receive one year of his base salary, which is $410,177, and it will be split in two payments. The payment is in exchange for releasing any rights that may have survived under his contract that expired June 30, 2008.
Dr. Simek will be paid a base salary of $400,000, and his compensation package does not include an expense allowance, use of a state vehicle nor university housing. Upon returning to the faculty as distinguished professor of anthropology, Dr. Simek will be paid at the rate of 75 percent of his base salary as interim president.
All compensation arrangements will be recommended to the Board of Trustees at their meeting Feb. 27 and are subject to their approval.
Sen. Lamar Alexander former president of the University of Tennessee, said, “In his five years at the University of Tennessee, John Petersen did an excellent job strengthening UT’s ties with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, representing the university to Congress and to the public at large, and leading an effort to raise unprecedented private dollars. All of these efforts have made the university stronger.”
Gov. Phil Bredesen said, "I appreciate Dr. Petersen's dedication and professionalism in leading the University of Tennessee system during these past five years. Dr. Petersen took over during a difficult time and, under his leadership, the UT system has grown its student enrollment, made significant progress in improving research and economic development efforts and has increased private giving.
"His efforts have positioned the UT system well for future growth and will help it address the current challenges that the system, its students and faculty face. I thank Dr. Petersen for his service and wish him well in his next endeavor."
Sen. Bob Corker said, “I have very much enjoyed working with Dr. Petersen both as mayor of Chattanooga and as U.S. senator. His vision for UT has been one that has created great strategic partnerships for the university to build upon for years to come.”