Knoxville — Randy Boyd, the Knoxville entrepreneur who made improving education a key plank in his failed bid this summer to be Tennessee's governor, is in line to be interim University of Tennessee system president.
The University of Tennessee Board of Trustees met Sept. 25 to consider appointing Boyd as interim chief and voted unanimously for Boyd.
Last week, Boyd tweeted that he was looking forward to serving his alma mater.
Boyd will serve as interim president for up to 24 months or until the effective date of appointment of a new president following an external search.
The system is at a key moment in its history. A new, smaller board is taking over, Haslam is in the final months of his second term and UT Knoxville needs a new chancellor, with UT System President Joe DiPietro's dismissal of Beverly Davenport in the spring.
The news follows the announcement that DiPietro would formally retire in February and informally leave in November.
Gov. Bill Haslam is a longtime champion and friend of Boyd, who served as the governor's commissioner of economic development for two years. Before that Boyd was Haslam's special adviser on higher education, helping to boost development of state initiatives to increase the number of Tennesseans with advanced job skills and training.
The South Knoxville native and his wife Jenny are longtime supporters of education in Tennessee. The Boyds have given money to support local secondary schools are well as the University of Tennessee.
Their monetary gifts support the Boyd Center for Business and Economic Research and the Boyd Venture Challenge, which is a seed grant program for student entrepreneurs.
Boyd founded Radio Systems Corp. in the early 1990s. The privately held Knoxville company makes pet produces that include PetSafe and Invisible Fence.
He spent millions of his own money this year during the Republican primary to become governor. He came in second last month to Bill Lee, who now is running against Democrat Karl Dean in the Nov. 6 election for governor.
Boyd is a University of Tennessee graduate.
The system president oversees several campuses including UT Knoxville, UT Chattanooga and UT Martin.
According to last week's announcement, Boyd's appointment gives the new board of trustees time to think more completely about where UT goes now. DiPietro has been system president since 2011.
Board of Trustees Chairman John Compton, in the announcement, said trustees want to take a step back and "evaluate the strategic needs of each campus and institute and support required from the UT System Administration in order to raise the bar on our overall success."