MEMPHIS, Tenn. ― Gov. Bill Haslam named former University of Memphis interim president Brad Martin and Democratic fundraiser Bill Freeman to newly independent university boards on Wednesday.
The new boards at the University of Memphis and Tennessee State University in Nashville are part of the Republican governor’s initiative to spin six four-year public universities out of the Tennessee Board of Regents system. Each board will control budgets, tuition and the selection of university presidents.
Haslam argues that this change enables the regents to focus on guiding the state’s 40 two-year schools. The University of Tennessee system remains unchanged.
Tennessee State, a historically Black university, had been the least enthusiastic among the four-year schools about being pulled from under the regents’ umbrella, fearing that its fundraising would suffer without their help.
Freeman, a wealthy real estate investor who spent $3.6 million of his own money on his failed bid for Nashville mayor last year, is among a group of community and corporate leaders named to the TSU board. He is joined by Bishop Joseph Walker III of Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Nashville; Obie McKenzie, managing director of BlackRock, Inc.; Citizens Savings Bank President and CEO Deborah Cole; Lewis & Wright Funeral Home owner Richard Allen Lewis; Pam Martin, a member of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission; Edith Peterson Mitchell, president of the National Medical Association; and Stephen Corbeil, president of the TriStar Division of Hospital Corp. of America.
Brad Martin, a retired chairman and CEO of Saks Inc., served as interim president of the University of Memphis for one year, ending in 2014. He also once hired Haslam to work as an executive at Saks.
Joining Martin on the University of Memphis board are Douglas Edwards, senior adviser at BBH Capital Partners and former CEO of Morgan Keegan & Co. Inc.; Marvin Ellison, board chairman of J.C. Penney Co. Inc.; Alan Graf, executive vice president and chief financial officer for FedEx Corp.; Cato Johnson, senior vice president of public policy and regulatory affairs for Methodist Healthcare; David North, president and CEO for Sedgwick Claims Management Services; Carol Roberts, senior vice president and chief financial officer for International Paper Co.; and Susan Springfield, executive vice president and chief credit officer for First Horizon National Corp.
Haslam announced his appointments to East Tennessee State University in Johnson City and Austin Peay State University in Clarksville on Tuesday, and is expected to announce the boards of Tennessee Tech in Cookeville and Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro later this week.