Saturday, October 25, 2008

Leadership: the Texan, the Farm and R&D

In a move possibly signalling increased emphasis on biotech through state institutions, Texan and Aggie Jimmy Cheek, 62, has been named chancellor of the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. He'll begin work in February. Particularly given Cheek's extensive ag background, one of his goals is likely to be the leveraging of the UT system's Cherokee Farm. In 2007, UT President John Petersen led a move to transfer Cherokee (and the UT-Battelle relationship) from UT-Knoxville to his control, then successfully pressed his board to approve spending $32 million relocate the Cherokee dairy operation to Blount County, freeing the 200-acre farm for redevelopment as a high-tech and life sciences-oriented research and development center, with emphasis on technology transfer. The original Farm had been cultivated since 1869, and was organized into the Tennessee Agricultural Experiment Station in 1882, 126 years ago. The reconstituted Cherokee Farm is now touted as "a hub of scientific research and innovation." Cheek will doubtless need to deal with some UT-K faculty wounds regarding access to Cherokee resources and related matters. Rancor over Cherokee was one reason former UT-K Chancellor Loren Crabtree was forced out, setting into motion Petersen's executive search. Cheek has worked 33 years at the University of Florida, now serving as SVP-Agriculture and Natural Resources, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS). As IFAS' chief, Cheek oversees Florida's College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, the School of Natural Resources and the Environment, the School of Forest Resources and Conservation, elements of the College of Veterinary Medicine, the Florida Agricultural Experiment Station, and the Florida Cooperative Extension Service, which has offices in each of the state’s 67 counties. Noteworthy, too, if the fact that two years ago the UT system hired one of Cheek's former UF colleagues, Joseph DiPietro, as vice president for agriculture. Til Cheek reports, Interim Chancellor Jan Simek, a Distinguished Professor in anthropology, continues to serve.

No comments: