University of Tennessee Chancellor Jimmy Cheek plans to step aside from his role as chancellor.
Cheek said in a letter Tuesday he plans to move into a role with UT’s faculty.
“Serving as your chancellor has truly been the capstone of my career, and I thank President DiPietro and the Board of Trustees for the opportunity and their support,” Cheek said in the letter.
In a letter of his own, UT Office President Dr. Joe DiPietro said Cheek will remain chancellor until a replacement is found.
Cheek said at a news conference Tuesday he isn't sure what he'll teach, but will serve a role in higher Educational Leadership and Policy Studies in the university’s College of Education, Health and Human Sciences.
“It’s been the greatest job I’ve ever had,” Cheek said. “I’ve enjoyed it more than any job I’ve ever had.”
Cheek turns 70 in September.
“I need to spend more time with myself, my family and grandchildren,” Cheek said.
Cheek said his daughter brought it to his attention in February. He said his role as a faculty member won’t be as “time consuming.”
“Chancellor Cheek and I have had several conversations related to this decision over the past few months,” DiPietro said in his letter. “I am very appreciative of his leadership in moving our flagship campus through a seven-year period of unprecedented growth and forward momentum.”
Cheek said the closing of UT’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion had “absolutely nothing” to do with his decision to transition into a faculty role.
“Every great university faces challenges from time to time,” Cheek said. “This university is no different than any others. We’ve had challenges ever since I’ve been here.”
Cheek said his most notable accomplishment, through a collaborative effort, is making the university a better place for UT students.
“When we can improve retention rate, graduation rate, build new residence halls, hire more faculty, improve the educational experience, recruit more students to the University of Tennessee, recruit better students to the University of Tennessee, that’s the things I’m most proud of,” Cheek said.
Graphs and Charts: Click here to view UT's official enrollment numbers
Mobile Users: Click here to watch Tuesday’s news conference
UT gender discrimination lawsuit set for May 2018
Cheek said Tuesday the university must address issues that come forward as “effectively and efficiently as we can” with the trial for a sweeping gender discrimination lawsuit against UT set to start on May 22, 2018.
The trial, which would be held in U.S. District Court in Nashville, is expected to last three to four weeks.
At issue is a Title IX lawsuit filed against the college in February by eight unnamed young women. They accuse UT of failing to enforce federal laws to protect against discrimination and for fostering a culture that protects and coddles male student athletes, mainly football players and basketball players.
The lawsuit alleged that the permissiveness extends as far back as 20 years ago.
Compromise reached over Lady Vols name change
During Cheek’s tenure, UT’s women’s athletics teams removed the Lady Vol brand from all sports, except women’s basketball.
“That was a decision that was made about brand unity that I think brings us together as one,” Cheek said Tuesday.
All women's athletics teams will wear a commemorative patch on their uniforms during the 2016-2017 season to honor the "legacy of the Lady Vols."
After that season, each student-athlete will decide whether or not to wear the patch on her uniform.
Timetable to find Cheek's replacement
UT hopes to find a replacement for Cheek by spring 2017. DiPietro said he hopes the search for Cheek’s replacement can begin after the UT Board of Trustees meeting on Wednesday and Thursday.
DiPietro said Tuesday a search committee will “scour the United States of America and beyond” to find Cheek’s replacement.
“We need a very, very talented person to take this job,” DiPietro said.
Cheek became the seventh chancellor at UT on Feb. 1, 2009.
In 2015, Cheek made $434,452 as UT’s chancellor, according to a database of UT-Knoxville employees.
Prior to his service with UT, Cheek was a member of the faculty and an administrator at the University of Florida for 34 years. At Florida, Cheek last served as senior vice president of agricultural and natural resources.
This story will be updated when more information becomes available.