John Morgan, chancellor of the Tennessee Board of Regents, today announced his plan to retire at the end of the month.
Morgan, who has served as chancellor of the state’s university and community college system since October 2010 and led the system’s transformation to become more comprehensive and student-focused, called the announcement bittersweet and said it was timed to acknowledge the accomplishments achieved by the system’s institutions over the past five years.
“I have been honored to serve the state for many years, but my role with the Tennessee Board of Regents and this opportunity to work with the people who shape the next generation of our citizens and leaders has been the most rewarding of my life,” Morgan said.
“Never before has higher education been more important to our state and our economy. The TBR institutions and the faculty and staff who serve them have embraced our efforts to focus everything we do through the lens of its impact on student success, and their work is recognized around the country.
“We have scaled many innovations and practices to move the needle on success and completion across the system to efficiently and effectively meet the challenges of Drive to 55, and I am proud and honored to have led the army of individuals who have eagerly initiated and enacted those efforts.”
His departure, he said, will allow Governor Haslam to actively engage in the selection of a new chancellor and to spend meaningful time with the new system leader while focused on new initiatives during his final term in office.
Morgan has successfully guided the TBR system’s plans to address the demands of the Complete College Tennessee Act enacted by the General Assembly in early 2010. The law became the boldest attempt by any state in the country to focus the energies and resources of its public higher education enterprise on meeting the state’s economic development needs.
One of the architects of the law, Morgan played a key role in crafting a clear vision of higher education improvement during his term as deputy to then-Governor Phil Bredesen, his role before being selected to lead the TBR.
Over the past five years, Morgan’s primary focus has been on increasing post-secondary degree and certificate production and ultimately producing a better, more highly educated workforce. He created the system’s Completion Delivery Unit to help the system and its institutions focus their attention on those efforts.
Since Morgan has been chancellor, the number of degrees awarded from the TBR’s six universities has risen about 3.6 percent, and the number of associate degrees and certificates awarded by community colleges has increased more than 40 percent. Together, credentials awarded rose almost 18 percent, placing TBR institutions well above the targeted goals for the state’s Drive to 55 campaign to increase the number of Tennesseans with a post-secondary credential.
The TBR has also become nationally recognized for its ability to achieve collaboration to focus institution goals on meeting the state’s needs.
Most recently, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation awarded the system a $2 million grant to support implementing system-wide efforts among all institutions to increase graduation rates. The TBR has also received more than $1 million from the Lumina Foundation to boost college degree completions.
“With the Complete College Act and the Drive to 55 initiative, the state has been asking more of its higher education system than ever before, and John has guided the Tennessee Board of Regents system admirably since becoming chancellor in 2010,” said Governor Bill Haslam. “He’s served the state in a number of roles since 1976, including serving as deputy governor to Gov. Bredesen and 10 years as the state’s comptroller, and I am grateful to John for his service to Tennessee and wish him all the best.”
Morgan was invited to participate in both of President Obama’s White House Summits on expanding college opportunity and has been asked to serve in leadership roles with a number of national higher education organizations.
Morgan serves as vice chairman of the National Association of [Higher Education] System Heads, as an officer on the board of directors for Complete College America, and holds strategic roles with the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, including membership on the President’s Council. He helped launch the national initiative Higher Education for Higher Standards, a multi-state coalition of higher education leaders in support of the common core state standards in K-12 education.
He also serves on the boards of directors for the Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation and the Nashville Chamber of Commerce and holds membership in the American Society of Public Administration.
During his tenure, Morgan has led the successful searches for new presidents at five of the TBR universities and seven community colleges across the state. He has also recommended new leaders for 14 Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology.
At 64, Morgan has spent nearly 40 years of service with the state in various roles. He was deputy to the Governor from January 2009 until he joined the TBR. Prior to that, he had served as Comptroller of the Treasury for the State of Tennessee. His public service career dates back to 1976 except for a brief stint in the late 1980s with Third National Bank.
“We are deeply grateful for Chancellor Morgan’s leadership and distinguished service,” said TBR Vice Chair Emily Reynolds. “We will continue to encourage and make progress toward the system’s completion goals in support of Governor Haslam’s Drive to 55. The Board will meet to consider an interim chancellor appointment very soon.”
The College System of Tennessee is the state’s largest public higher education system, with 13 community colleges, 27 colleges of applied technology and the online TN eCampus serving approximately 140,000 students. The system is governed by the Tennessee Board of Regents.