KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — In his first formal evaluation since becoming interim University of Tennessee System president, Randy Boyd gets high marks for his vision, hard work, relations with lawmakers and dedication to higher education.
The full UT Board of Trustees meets Wednesday in Chattanooga. Their agenda includes discussing Boyd's time as the fill-in chief.
There's no indication on the agenda whether trustees will talk about removing the "interim" from the Knoxville entrepreneur's name and giving him a more permanent title.
Documents suggest trustees want to him stay on in 2020. Boyd has indicated to WBIR he'd be willing to commit to the presidency on more than an interim basis.
Trustee Board Chair John Compton couldn't be reached for comment.
In a memo to fellow trustees, Compton said Boyd has had an "excellent" first year as interim president.
"He addressed key stakeholder issues immediately upon taking the role," Compton's memo states. "He worked tirelessly with the Legislature to listen to concerns and take action. Consistently across all stakeholder feedback was the recurring theme that our relationships with the Tennessee Legislature and state and federal governmental officials have never been better."
Boyd gets $10,000 a year for the job to cover medical insurance expenses. He has deferred taking a presidential salary and deferred collecting travel expenses while keeping a full travel schedule as president around the Volunteer State.
During his time, he's used some of his own money to help UT out, such as last spring when he put together a bonus package to keep UT Knoxville basketball coach Rick Barnes from leaving for a job with UCLA, records show.
Documents show Boyd pledged up to $300,000 of his own money to create a bonus pool and found nine other supporters to join him. Together they created a pool of up to $3 million for Barnes, and spared UT from having to come up with the money itself.
Boyd took over as UT System president in November 2018. He replaced the retiring Joe DiPietro.
Boyd was a GOP candidate for governor in 2018. He founded and chairs Radio Systems Corp.,and served as commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Community and Economic Development under Gov. Bill Haslam.
The South Knoxvillian delivered his State of the University speech Friday.
When he took the job of interim president it was widely expected he'd stay a year or two until the position was filled. He's embraced the role.
During his time, he's tapped Donde Plowman to be UT chancellor, ensured the sale of the long vacant Eugenia Williams mansion on Lyons View Pike and announced the reunification of the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture with UT Knoxville.
His review process for 2019 included an electronic survey taken by 103 UT staff members and related stakeholders. The results show three people disagreed or strongly disagreed that he'd exceeded expectations. Ninety-seven agreed or strongly agreed that he had. Three people indicated they couldn't say.
Compton also checked with legislative leaders including state Sen. Randy Boyd and Rep. Cameron Sexton. Reviews were "positive," records state. In the past, some state lawmakers appeared determined to rein in what they saw as loose leadership at UT Knoxville.
Among the standout moments of 2019 for Boyd was announcement of the UT Promise program that ensures lower-income students can get free tuition if necessary. It starts in the fall.
"Importantly, it has been undertaken by all four campuses and recognizes the University's full commitment to all Tennesseans," Compton's report states.
In his own self-assessment, Boyd ticks off numerous achievements during his time as interim president. He's tried to make the system more transparent to the public and wants to combine operations in Knoxville to improve efficiency, championing consolidation of offices by leasing six floors of the TVA East Tower from Knox County.
He wants to unify the system's four campuses, which include Chattanooga and Martin, with the idea they all share one culture.
"The biggest weakness in the UT System in my view has been how separate and unaligned campuses have been across the state, including lack of integration with (Oak Ridge National Laboratory)," his self-assessment states. "It has been my overriding objective to create a One UT culture."
Last spring, UT fans were startled to hear UCLA was working to entice coach Rick Barnes to come to Los Angeles.
Boyd helped work out a deal to keep Barnes. In his self-evaluation, he sheds more light on what happened.
"We created a bonus package based on performance of up to $3 million per year. I then found 10 investors, private citizens and UT supporters, who were willing to commit to 10 percent of that pool, or up to $300,000 per year," his self-evaluation states.
"I was the first commitment, which made it easier for me to ask the others just to match me. This eliminated the need for the university to offer a bonus."
Boyd's goals for 2020 include boosting enrollment and retention and raising graduation rates within a shorter period of time. He also wants to create a pool of mentors who will work with students who get the UT Promise scholarship.
He's also raising money for an endowment to fund UT Promise. More than $20 million has been raised so far, with the goal being to reach $50 million this year. Longer term, he wants to reach the $100 million level.
Boyd also is pushing to boost UT's success rate with online academics.
He's calling it UT Online.
There's a good bit of work to be done, according to Boyd, addressing problems like filling online courses, improving access at other UT campuses and "seamlessly" sharing online courses across system campuses.
"We will explore efforts to expand online offerings through a UT consortium model, which could help to incentivize and grow online enrollment, provide greater flexibility in course scheduling; decrease time to degree; further enrich available course offerings in current degree programs; promote the creation of a new joint UT degree programs; and provide great flexibility for degree completion."