VOL. 132 | NO. 35 | Friday, February 17, 2017
Rudd Praises Board as ‘Historic’ Step for U of M
By Sam Stockard
NASHVILLE – Calling the appointment of a board of trustees a “historic” and “essential” step for the University of Memphis, president M. David Rudd says the autonomous board will enable the university to control its own destiny.
Rudd, who took the helm at the university in May 2014, lauded the Shelby County Legislative Delegation during a lunch gathering on Capitol Hill Wednesday, Feb. 15, for its support of Gov. Haslam’s FOCUS Act, the lynchpin of which called for the creation of independent boards to oversee Tennessee’s six state universities.
The General Assembly this week approved Haslam’s board of trustee appointments, setting the stage for the University of Memphis and other schools such as Middle Tennessee State and East Tennessee State to have more local control.
“This will have a profound impact on what we’re able to do as an institution” in terms of workforce development and economic impact, Rudd says, noting the university will be a “primary driver” for growth.
Rather than report to the Tennessee Board of Regents, whose primary responsibility is being shifted to community colleges and colleges of applied technology, the University of Memphis board of trustees will have authority over matters such as appointing the university president, determining the university’s mission and goals, and approving finances. Its decisions will be sent to the Tennessee Higher Education Commission.
“It gives us not only control over tuition … but also over capital projects and how we move capital projects through,” Rudd says. “Both of those are essential for the future of the university.”
In-state tuition and fees for the University of Memphis – which has an enrollment of roughly 20,500 – are $9,497, with room and board at $9,153 and books and supplies at $1,415, for a total yearly cost of $20,065.
In addition to budgeting, the new arrangement will allow the university to be more “innovative” in terms of forming partnerships with independent, private groups for building development and for scientific programs, Rudd notes.
Already, the university is working on private partnerships for the construction of dorm space, he says, because it doesn’t have the bond capacity to borrow funds for those types of projects.
“That’s going to have an immediate impact not only on our growth trajectory but also on the surrounding community and the economy,” Rudd says. “That is a critical thing, for us to grow and to grow as a residential university.”
Rudd says it makes sense for the university to work with a real estate development business to fund and manage those types of projects, since it isn’t in that type of business.
He notes the university has “limitations” for funding capital projects, and even though he commends the Tennessee Board of Regents for its work, he points out because the board has been managing 45 institutions, that type of arrangement can spread the TBR thin.
“That adds not only to the duration of the building process, but it adds to some of the complexity of the building process,” Rudd says. “So being one institution working directly with the (State) Building Commission certainly clarifies – not only makes it easier to move through the process, but if we have changes we need to make during the process, it facilitates the ease of those.”
State Rep. Ron Lollar, chairman of the Shelby County Legislative Delegation, also calls the creation of a separate board of trustees a “historic achievement” for the university, one that gives it the opportunity “to keep things at home” as it plays a “pivotal role” in Memphis, Shelby County and Tennessee.
The University of Memphis board of trustees includes:
• G. Douglas Edwards, president of Edwin M. Jones Oil Co. of San Antonio, Texas.
• Marvin R. Ellison, chairman and CEO of J.C. Penney Co.
• Alan B. Graf Jr., executive vice president and CFO of FedEx Corp.
• Cato Johnson, senior vice president of public policy and regulatory affairs at Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare.
• R. Brad Martin, former interim president of the University of Memphis (July 2013-July 2014) and chairman of Chesapeake Energy.
• David North, president and CEO of Sedgwick.
• Carol Roberts, who is retiring in March as senior vice president and CFO of International Paper.
• Susan Springfield, executive vice president and chief credit officer for First Horizon National Corp.
• Faculty representative Katharine Traylor Schaffzin, professor in the Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law.
Sam Stockard is a Nashville-based reporter covering the Legislature for the Memphis Daily News. He can be reached at email@example.com.