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Jimmy G. Cheek

Chancellor Emeritus and Distinguished Professor Emeritus


Jimmy G. Cheek is Chancellor Emeritus and Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Higher Education in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at The University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK) and Former Director of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville Postsecondary Education Research Center

Dr. Cheek became the seventh chancellor of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, on February 1, 2009 and stepped down from that position on February 15, 2017.

Within a year of taking office, he accepted the Governor’s challenge for UT to become a Top 25 public-research university in the United States. This aggressive initiative sparked exciting momentum around improving undergraduate education, graduate education, research, campus infrastructure, and securing additional financial resources which included approval by the Board of Trustees of differential tuition for 4 colleges and the 15-4 tuition model. In 2012 the campus launched a private fund-raising campaign, Join the Journey, with a goal to raise $1.1 billion by 2020.

Several new academic, research and student service buildings have been built or significantly renovated and an unprecedented $1 billion in campus construction was completed. A new student union, classroom, laboratory and research facilities were constructed, and 4 new residence halls were opened with more on the way.

Numerous changes in the university’s delivery of core services including advising, tutoring, mentoring, admissions, and other support to help students graduate on time and achieve their academic goals. These changes have dramatically improved enrollment, retention and graduation rates and brought UT's metrics closer to aspirant peers.

The increased commitment to faculty and staff salaries aided recruitment and retention of world-class faculty and staff. Cheek also has led an effort to enhance relationships with existing partners, such as Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Eastman Chemical, and to create new relationships.  These partnerships broaden research and provide opportunities for collaboration with faculty and students.

A first-generation college student, Cheek set in motion several initiatives to increase diversity and student access to the university. A vice chancellor for diversity and engagement was created. The university’s work on improving access led to Cheek’s participation in two White House Summits on increasing college opportunity for low-income students.

Prior to his appointment at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Cheek was the Senior Vice President for Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Florida.  As senior vice president, Cheek was head of the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS), which includes the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, the School of Natural Resources and the Environment, the School of Forest Resources and Conservation, the College of Veterinary Medicine, the Florida Agricultural Experiment Station, 13 research and education centers, and the Florida Cooperative Extension Service, with offices in each of the state's 67 countries.

During his tenure, grant and contract expenditures increased 30%, private fund raising increased by 76%, and county funding for Extension increased 34%.  Significant new funding was allocated by the Legislature and approved by the Governor including $20 million for a cellulosic ethanol research plant to utilize and further develop technology patented by IFAS faculty.  The faculty and student body became more diverse.  IFAS faculty and administrators slayed pivotal roles in developing several university interdisciplinary strategic initiatives including creating the Water Institute, the Genetics Institute and building, and the Emerging Pathogens Institute (EPI) and building.  The EPI received special funding from the legislature of over $100 million and is unique in that it focuses on human, animal, and plant pathogens.

Cheek served as Dean of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) at the University of Florida, the fourth largest college at the university, from 1999 to 2005.  As dean, Cheek oversaw the development of four new degree programs and eleven undergraduate minors.  CALS received $6.1 million of new resources based on graduate enrollment growth using a competitive, performance-based model.  Student credit hours increased 43% at the graduate level and 19% at the undergraduate level.   The Annual Teaching Enhancement Symposium and IFAS Graduate Student Research Symposium were implemented, and funding was secured for off-campus Research and Education Centers and a regional Community College.  In 2005, IFAS received $3.5 million in new resources for graduate education support and 6 million in endowments for the College.  IFAS was successful under the leadership of Cheek in receiving $5.7 million in recurring funds and $16.4 million in non-recurring funds in 2006 and approximately $24 million in 2007. 

Cheek became Assistant Dean of the College in 1992 and served in the role for seven years prior to becoming Dean.  During his tenure as the assistant dean, enrollment increased 120%, the number of degrees conferred doubled, early admission programs with the College of Dentistry and the College of Veterinary Medicine were launched, and an off-campus program was initiated at Milton. Under his leadership, the College core academic requirements were revised along with the curriculum of each major in the College, three majors and interdisciplinary minor were established, and an upper-division honors program was developed and implemented.  Cheek was hired at the University of Florida in 1975 as an Assistant Professor of Agricultural Education and Communication and became Professor in 1985.  In 1981, he was appointed Assistant Department Chair and served in that role until 1992.

Full Profile  


Cheek Has authored more than 80 journal articles and reports.  His research focuses on the influence of experimental learning on student achievement and educational accountability.  Prior to his service with UT, Cheek was a member of the faculty and an administrator at the University of Florida for thirty-four years , last serving as Senior Vice President of Agriculture and Natural Resources.  


Cheek earned his bachelor’s degree with high honors and his doctorate from Texas A&M University. He received his master’s degree from Lamar University. Cheek is a member of Sigma Xi, Phi Kappa Phi, Gamma Sigma Delta, Alpha Zeta, and Phi Delta Kappa honor societies.

Professional Service

Cheek currently serves on the United Way Tocqueville Cabinet and the Board of Directors. He was Campaign Chair in 2018.  He is a member of the Delaware Valley University Board of Trustees and he is the Chair of the Board of Directors for the International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC), whose mission is to enable smallholder farmers in developing countries to increase agricultural productivity, generate economic growth and practice environmental stewardship. He is a Commissioner (Board Member) of the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities Food Systems Leadership Institute.

While Chancellor, Cheek served on the UT-Battelle Board of Governors for Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the Board of Directors for United Health System, the Pat Summit Foundation, the Southeastern Conference Board of Directors, and the Executive Committee.  In addition, Cheek chaired the Leadership Knoxville Board of Directors.

Awards and Recognitions

The Board of Trustees of the University of Tennessee System honored him for his work as Chancellor with a resolution commending him for this outstanding service to the Board, University, and State.  He received the Leadership and Service Award from the Alumni Board of Directors, a Faculty Senate Resolution honoring his significant and lasting contributions, a Thomas Jefferson Cup for his support and dedication from the Chancellor’s Associates, and the Student Government Association created the Jimmy G. Cheek Visionary Award to annually recognize a visionary student leader. 

Dr. Cheek has received Outstanding Alumni Awards from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the College of Education and Human Development from Texas A&M University.  Tarleton State University awarded him the President’s Legacy Award for Excellence Through Leadership.

While at Florida, Cheek received the President's Medallion and Student Body Resolution 2009-104 for dedicated and loyal service to the university and outstanding service to students, respectively, and the Morton Wolfson Faculty Award for outstanding contributions to the quality of student life.  He was named to the Academy of Teaching Excellence in 2008, a Fellow of the American Association for Agricultural Education in 2005, and a Fellow of the North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture in 1998.


Cheek has authored more than 80 journal articles and reports and is the senior author of a textbook. View his Curriculum Vitae for more information. 

Contact Information

  • 305 Bailey Education Complex Knoxville, TN 37996-3430
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