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UT Connects with Oak Ridge

The University of Tennessee (in conjunction with its new partner, Battelle Institute) joined the prestigious ranks of research universities such as the University of Chicago and California-Berkeley in taking the helm as prime contractor at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in February. The move followed the announcement in December '99 that UT-Battelle had won the bidding war over former prime contractor Lockheed Martin (whose contract expired last year) and its ally, Universities Research Association.

UT-Battelle are now responsible for oversight of the 4,000-plus personnel facility, and for apportioning its $500 million per year (give or take a mil or two) budget across a broad spectrum of cutting-edge scientific programs.

University officials hope the ORNL contract will augment the college's research profile and draw top-drawer students and faculty while providing the existing university population with access to the lab's abundant scientific resources.

Excellence, Dude

New UT president J. Wade Gilley says he's serious about boosting the university into the ranks of the nation's top research institutions. To prove it, he announced this summer plans to found a series of "Centers of Excellence," hubs of research that will draw on the expertise already present at the various UT campuses across the state. Part of Gilley's Plan for Academic Excellence, the Centers initiative was approved to the tune of $30 million over four years by the state Legislature in May.

After a rigorous evaluation process that saw 111 "centers" proposals submitted to a selection committee, and another 22 chosen from that pool, the committee announced in December a total of five centers rooted at the UT-Knoxville campus, and four more at the Memphis outpost. The largest UT centers will include Dr. Gary Sayler's Center for Environmental Biotechnology, and Dr. Jack Dongarra's Information Technology Research Center.

New School Players

Knox County school board races this year led to the somewhat surprising defeat of two incumbents—Vice Chair Tommy Prince lost his West Knox seat to challenger Brian Hornback, and East Knox County rep Steve Hunley was beaten by former Carter High School Prinicpal Jim Williams. The changes did little to enrich the board; Prince was one of its least political and most independent members (not necessarily saying a lot, but still...), and Hunley, despite a well-deserved reputation for grandstanding, was willing to prod, challenge, and chide the Central Office administration in ways few of his colleagues are inclined to. For the record, Williams' election brings the total number of retired principals on the nine-member board to four (the other three are Paul Kelley, D.M. Miller, and board Chairman Jim McClain).

December 21, 2000 * Vol. 10, No. 51
© 2000 Metro Pulse