Governor Bill Haslam on Tuesday announced that Randy Boyd will join his administration as special advisor to the governor for Higher Education to focus on affordability, access and quality of state programs.
Mr. Boyd will consult with a formal working group appointed by Haslam made up of the governor, executive director of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC), chancellor of the Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR), and president of the University of Tennessee. Although Mr. Boyd’s position will be full-time, he will be working for the state on a voluntary, unpaid basis.
“Over the past six months, I’ve spent a lot of time learning from experts in our state and across the country about the challenges we face in higher education,” Governor Haslam said. “Only 32 percent of our state’s adult population has a post-secondary degree, but if we are going to a have a workforce that’s job-ready, we need to be at 55 percent by 2025. The conversation needs to be about K to J with the ‘J’ meaning jobs.
“It is clear to me that unlike K-12 education where there is general consensus about how to improve education. That isn’t the case when it comes to tackling the ‘iron triangle’ of affordability, access and quality in post-secondary education. I am grateful that Randy has agreed to join our team to head up this crucial effort. He will bring a business, workforce alignment perspective and a demonstrated passion for improving access to higher education to this issue. I believe it says a lot about the importance of this issue to the future of our state when someone of Randy’s caliber is willing to come from the private sector and serve in this way."
In 2009, Mr. Boyd helped start tnAchieves, a non-profit organization that has sent over 3,200 high school graduates to community college free of charge with mentors. Of those students, 68 percent are the first in their families to attend college, and more than 65 percent have family incomes below $50,000. The organization serves 26 counties providing universal college access to those high school graduates.
“I am passionate about improving educational opportunity for all our citizens,” Mr. Boyd said. “To achieve the governor’s mission, we will need to broaden the net and to provide greater access. I’m excited about this opportunity because Gov. Haslam is determined to make a material impact. I believe our state has a rare opportunity, and I am honored to be able to assist.”
Mr. Boyd, 53, is chairman of Radio Systems Corporation, which he started in 1991. Radio Systems is headquartered in Knoxville and has more than 600 associates worldwide with offices in seven countries. The company produces over 4,000 technology-based pet products under brand names such as Invisible Fence, PetSafe, SportDOG, and Premier. It is a private company with sales over $300 million.
Mr. Boyd received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Tennessee in industrial management in 1979 and a master’s in liberal studies from Oklahoma University in 1988.
Mr. Boyd also currently serves on the board of a number of organizations including the University of Tennessee College of Business Dean’s Advisory Council, the University of Tennessee Alumni Association, and Knox County's Great Schools Partnership. He also established the PetSafe Chair of Companion Animal Behavior within the Small Animal Clinical Sciences department of the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Tennessee.
He has received several awards including Ernst and Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year for the Southeast in 2008, Tennessee Business Magazine’s CEO of the Year in 2009, UT’s Entrepreneur of the Year in 2009, and was inducted into Junior Achievement’s East Tennessee Hall of Fame in 2008.
He and his wife, Jenny, have two sons. Mr. Boyd begins his role in Nashville Tuesday.