Investiture ceremony honors Chancellor Freeman

The University of Tennessee of Martin welcomed its 12th chancellor, Dr. Yancy Freeman, with its first-ever investiture ceremony, held March 15 in the Kathleen and Tom Elam Center.

The investiture serves as a platform to celebrate the university’s commitment to academic excellence and its mission. The event underscores the importance of recognizing and supporting the new chancellor’s role in guiding the university community toward its collective goals.

The theme of the investiture was “Ready, Set, Soar!”

The day of firsts was doubly appropriate, as Freeman is the first African-American chancellor at an undergraduate University of Tennessee campus.

Freeman was confirmed as UT Martin’s chancellor in July 2023, with his appointment effective Aug. 9, 2023.

The ceremony contained the pomp and ceremony usually seen in graduation ceremonies and other formal events.

Five former UT Martin chancellors were in attendance, including Dr. Margaret Perry (1985-97), Dr. Philip W. Conn (1998-2000), Dr. Nick Dunagan (2001-07), Dr. Robert M. Smith (2015-16) and Dr. Keith Carver (2017-23).

Dignitaries from throughout the University of Tennessee System and from across the state attended the ceremony, and Freeman’s family was also in attendance. Representatives from 57 UTM student organizations attended the ceremony as well as members of the Chancellor’s Cabinet, UT Martin academic leaders and UT System administrators.

State, city and county officials attended the ceremony, and delegates representing 12 colleges and universities from Tennessee, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana and Mississippi were also in attendance.

“Many of these are UTM alums who are representing their current institutions,” said Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Dr. Philip Acree Cavalier.

Finally, several representatives from UT Chattnooga, where Freeman served as a vice chancellor before coming to UT Martin, attended the ceremony.

Randy Boyd, the president of the UT System, gave introductory remarks.

“I was standing in the back a few moments ago, and one of my colleagues from UT Chattanooga said, ‘The energy in this room is palpable,’” he said. “What she doesn’t know is that it’s been that way ever since Yancy Freeman set foot on this campus.

“I’ve been here multiple times since Chancellor Freeman took this position, and the energy across the campus – the enthusiasm – has been great to behold.”

Freeman addressed the former chancellors at the start of his address.

“I am grateful to be standing on your shoulders and the legacy that you built for this campus,” he said. “Thank you for your presence here today.”

Freeman said he has learned a lot about the faculty and the experience they offer with the education.

“I have learned many things over the last eight months on this campus,” he said. “I did not fully understand when I started, but I know now about the ethic of care of our faculty to teach and balance it with practical experience in the field. Many of them have shared that our students learn by doing, and the evidence is clear in almost every discipline.

“So, whether it is the sport management students at the Super Bowl or our accounting students handling an investment portfolio using (the Tennessee Valley Authority’s) money or our political science students working as legislative interns, they are gaining invaluable experience.”

Freeman said the purpose of the investiture ceremony not what many people thought it was.

“When I first started talking about an investiture, I worried that folks would believe that this program was, somehow, to celebrate me,” he said. “I hope anyone who spends 30 seconds with me can feel my energy and passion for others and their success.

“This program is a celebration of the things that are happening at UTM and the wonderful things to come in the near future.”

Freeman noted that Boyd said this would be the greatest decade in the history of the UT System.

“I would propose to you that this cannot be the greatest decade of UT history without a strong contribution from the University of Tennessee at Martin,” Freeman said.

Freeman took the program’s theme of “Ready, Set, Soar” and listed how the university will “soar” in the near future:

• Reach an enrollment of 10,000 students by making investments and recruiting new students, through bold marketing emphasizing the value of a UTM experience and implementing proven strategies to ensure the success of students,

• Increasing the number of international students to 5% of the student population,

• Continuing to focus on affordability and access for families who might otherwise believe that a UT education is somehow out of reach,

• Increasing graduate enrollment by investing in the most desired disciplines “to fill jobs that have not even been created yet,” and

• Focusing on capital projects and working to ensure state-of-the-art facilities with cutting-edge technology.

Freeman closed by talking about the role of the university.

“The University of Tennessee at Martin is a major player in Tennessee,” he said. “We will play a significant role in the sustainability of Martin, Tennessee, and this region. We will emphasize the need for affordable housing, affordable child care and public transportation.

“When UTM grows, West Tennessee prospers. … I stand here and suggest to you that in order for UTM to experience the best decade in the history of the University of Tennessee, we must do things we have never done before.”

Information and resources regarding the investiture can be found at

Photo: Chancellor Yancy Freeman speaks during his investiture ceremony March 15 at the Kathleen and Tom Elam Center. Freeman is the 12th chancellor for UT Martin and the first African-American chancellor at an undergraduate University of Tennessee campus. Sitting in the background are Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Dr. Philip Acree Cavalier (left) and UT System President Randy Boyd.

Previous Story

Weakley County mayor accepts UT Martin chief of staff position

Next Story

UTM to see second near-total solar eclipse in seven years