MEMPHIS—After several months of conversations, meetings, measures and proceedings, the University of Tennessee Board of Trustees voted to acquire the assets of Martin Methodist College and establish a new UT campus in Pulaski, Tennessee: UT Southern. Martin Methodist College’s Board of Trustees will vote on the measure following UT’s morning board session.
Effective July 1, the addition of UT Southern will represent the fourth undergraduate college within the UT System, and the first new campus since UT Chattanooga joined more than 50 years ago. Additionally, UT Southern will be the only four-year and graduate institution of higher education between Sewanee in the east and Freed-Hardeman in the west, serving a southern Middle Tennessee region of 13 counties near the Alabama border.
“I appreciate the healthy discussion and thoughtfulness the board exhibited throughout this process,” UT Board of Trustees Chair John Compton said. “As we begin to see an overall decline in the college-going rate across the nation, providing more choices for a post-secondary education will be critically important in achieving our state’s Drive to 55. It fits into our mission and will have a lasting impact on the southern Middle Tennessee region.”
“UT Southern is more than our newest campus,” UT System President Randy Boyd said. “It represents opportunity, revival, long-term economic success and forward momentum in the southern Middle Tennessee region. Sincere gratitude goes to Gov. Bill Lee, the Tennessee General Assembly, the Tennessee Higher Education Commission and so many other regional and state stakeholders who helped support this effort.”
The Board also voted to appoint Mark La Branche, who has served as president of Martin Methodist College since July 1, 2017, as the inaugural chancellor of UT Southern. Prior to joining Martin Methodist College, La Branche served as the president of Louisburg College in North Carolina where he oversaw the school’s 22 percent increase in enrollment, 58 percent increase in graduates and a five-year, $18 million fund-raising campaign that exceeded its goals by 20 percent. La Branche has also previously served at senior vice president of external affairs at Huntingdon College in Montgomery, Alabama.
“Chancellor La Branche has a unique understanding of the opportunities that exist in the southern Middle Tennessee region,” Boyd said. “His exceptional leadership at the helm of Martin Methodist will be an asset in providing even more access to higher education in the region as he leads UT Southern.”
The University of Tennessee is a statewide system of higher education with campuses in Knoxville, Chattanooga, Martin, Memphis and Pulaski; the UT Space Institute in Tullahoma; the UT Institute of Agriculture with a presence in every Tennessee county; and the statewide Institute for Public Service. The UT system manages Oak Ridge National Laboratory through its UT-Battelle partnership; enrolls about 50,000 students statewide; produces about 11,000 new graduates every year; and represents more than 400,000 alumni around the world.