I had the honor to meet Shimon Peres, former prime minister of Israel, many years ago — he was 92 at the time. Peres had a very fulfilling career, both in politics and as a public servant. I asked him to describe his greatest accomplishment. He answered, “What I do tomorrow.”  Conversely, I asked what he considered to be his biggest failure. He said, “That I didn’t dream big enough.”

Peres’ words inspire me today as much as when I first met him. As we look to make this the greatest decade in University of Tennessee history, we must dream bold and big. Our greatest accomplishment will be what we will do tomorrow... and the next day... and the next day...

Our dream of providing greater access to a UT degree took a major step forward when Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee included $5.1 million recurring and $1 million nonrecurring in his proposed budget to go toward UT’s successful acquisition of Martin Methodist College, the 150-year old private college located in Giles County. The budget proposal must be passed by the Tennessee General Assembly, and the measure must still be approved by the regional accreditor Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, the United Methodist Church of Tennessee and the Tennessee Building Commission. Additionally, the UT Board of Trustees must give its final approval.

If the acquisition receives all necessary approvals, Martin Methodist will become the fourth undergraduate campus in the UT System and the first new campus since UT Chattanooga joined 50 years ago. It would be the only public four-year institution of higher education between Chattanooga and Memphis along Tennessee’s southern border, an area we currently view as a public four-year higher education desert.

I applaud Gov. Lee’s commitment to helping ensure our rural counties have affordable access to education. This acquisition will give us an opportunity to provide additional higher-education opportunities to the region in critical areas such as nursing, education and business. It will also help ensure the long-term economic success of southern middle Tennessee and allow us to keep some of our brightest students in the area for their education.

I also want to thank Martin Methodist President Mark LaBranche and the leadership of the college, who have been excellent stewards of the school’s educational legacy and who share our vision for what this campus can become as part of the UT System.

The acquisition of Martin Methodist College would provide additional opportunities for southern Middle Tennessee families for generations to come, giving them affordable access to undergraduate and graduate programs.

This is big. This is bold. This is the opportunity that will go down in history as one of our hallmark accomplishments in building the greatest decade in UT history.

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