Formal oversight of Middle Tennessee State University shifted from the Tennessee Board of Regents to a local Board of Trustees after its new governance board convened its inaugural session Monday.
MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee, joined by Gov. Bill Haslam and witnessed by faculty, staff and community members, convened the group inside the Student Union Ballroom and called “this historic first meeting” of the new board to order.
McPhee said the state’s creation of individual governing boards “was a logical step” in making sure Tennessee reached its “Drive to 55,” a goal to have 55 percent of residents with a postsecondary degree or credential by 2025.
The 10-member board stems from the FOCUS Act that was championed by Haslam and signed into law last year. The law established local governing boards for MTSU and the other five former TBR universities.
“The act better aligns our post-secondary education system toward meeting the Drive to 55 by providing a sharpened focus on governance of our four-year, state public universities with additional oversight by local governing boards,” McPhee said.
Haslam, during brief remarks to the new board, reminded the members that MTSU still remains a vital part of the larger state higher education system, yet the new local structure will allow greater latitude in setting its own strategic priorities and is “a way to let each institution play to its strengths,” he said.
“I do want you to focus … on how you can help Middle to continue to achieve its potential,” Haslam told the board, adding that the state’s increased focus on higher education “is a necessity as a state if we’re going to compete for the jobs of the future.”
Once formally convened, the board first adopted a set of bylaws and policies, then elected MTSU alumnus Stephen B. Smith as its chairman.
Smith is chairman of the board of Haury and Smith Contractors and served on the board of the Metropolitan Nashville Planning Commission. A former Blue Raider athlete, he was instrumental in the construction in 2009 of MTSU’s Reese Smith Jr. Field, named for his father.
The board then elected Darrell Freeman, former executive chairman of Zycron Inc. and also an MTSU alumnus, as vice chairman.
“We’re all honored to be appointed to this board,” Smith said, “but this is not just an honorary position. We have a tremendous moral and financial responsibility to our student customers and our fellow Tennessee taxpayers. … Now let’s get to work.”
The board also reaffirmed McPhee as president; adopted a code of ethics and conflict of interest policy; and confirmed matters related to the university’s accreditation process.
MTSU’s board is made of eight members nominated by Haslam, one faculty member selected by the faculty, and one non-voting student member, who was appointed by the board Monday.
Lindsey Pierce Weaver, who served as MTSU’s student body president in 2015-16, was approved by the board as its student member. Weaver received her bachelor’s degree last May in child development and family studies and is now pursuing a master’s degree at MTSU in higher education administration and supervision.
The Tennessee General Assembly recently confirmed Haslam’s eight board nominees, who are:
W. Andrew Adams, chairman, National Health Investors (three-year term)
J.B. Baker, owner and CEO of Sprint Logistics (three-year term)
Pete Delay, executive in Forterra Building Products’ Nashville office (four-year term)
Darrell Freeman, former executive chairman of Zycron Inc. (six-year term)
Joey Jacobs, chairman and CEO of Acadia Healthcare Co. (four-year term)
Chris Karbowiak, executive vice president, chief administrative officer and chief risk officer of Bridgestone Americas Inc. (four-year term)
Stephen Smith, board chairman of Haury & Smith Contractors (four-year term)
Pamela Wright, founder, retired owner and CEO of Wright Travel (three-year term)
Tony Johnston, a professor in the Department of Agribusiness and Agriscience in the College of Basic and Applied Sciences, was selected by the University Faculty Senate as the first faculty representative of the Board. He will serve a two-year term.