Raines' Reign Ends
(She’ll Shirley Be Missed)
President Shirley Raines dedicated her 12-year tenure to improving the U of M campus and presided over the centennial anniversary celebrations. Photo by Casey Hilder
University of Memphis President Shirley Raines announced her plans to retire at the end of this fiscal year on Monday.
Raines is the 11th president of the U of M and has served the University for 12 years.
The Bells, Tenn., native was appointed to office in 2001 after serving as the vice chancellor for academic affairs and dean of the College of Education at the University of Kentucky. She said the fondest memory of her presidency is the day she was appointed.
"Lots of things happen in twelve years," Raines said. "What was very interesting to me was when I realized that a child that was in first grade when I started is now in college."
During Raines' time as president, she worked on many special initiatives including moving the law school downtown, building the FedEx Institute of Technology and building the new University Center.
"When I took this position, this was the pinnacle of my career, and finishing it, and hopefully finishing it having raised $250 million, and celebrating our 100th anniversary are the pinnacles of my career, so I am saying 'no' to [other] opportunities," she said.
Her plans after retirement include moving to be closer to her son and two grandchildren who live in Oak Ridge, Tenn. She also has a small farm she owns with her two brothers that will bring her back to the West Tennessee area. She plans to return to Memphis often.
"My primary interests will be retirement and getting close to my family," she said.
One of her top three accomplishments as president, she said, has been having the largest honors program in the state of Tennessee.
"In every college, in every discipline, when I go to the awards ceremonies for those colleges, I am proud of our students and what they've accomplished," she said. "To be in the top ten in the country in quality and quantity of internships is incredible, too."
Raines believes the people of the University come first. She feels best about different parts of the school, including the Honors Program and the Emerging Leaders Program.
"I think those things are icons, emblems, of a greater good that this University has accomplished and I've been fortunate to be its leader, but it's all in this together," Raines said. "It sounds clichÃ©, but it's true."
The most difficult part of her presidency has been getting resources for all of the things students, faculty and the community wants, according to Raines.
"Whether its money resources or people resources or influence resources, it's really about trying to get the resources we need to do the jobs and to continue the positive trajectory upward," she said.
Raines said her choice to retire was not a quick decision.
"Part was waiting long enough in the semester to make sure things were in good shape," she said. "I was determined that we were going to get this communication health and nursing building."
Raines did not want to jeopardize the budgeted decision for the new community health building, which will be the new Nursing and Communications Sciences building on the Park Avenue campus, by announcing her retirement too soon. The budget is to be passed April 18.
"Knowing that that stayed in the budget was very important to me," she said. "Plus, I wanted to be fairly certain that we were going to meet the $250 million fundraising goal."
Raines said the University is at approximately 97 percent of the fundraising goal.
Raines hopes the new president will continue building and growing the University. She also hopes the number of scholarships available for nontraditional students will increase.
"We have to take a look at what has happened and think about the future," she said. "Someone else will take up those tasks and keep on going."
The next president of the University has not yet been chosen. An interim president will be selected to serve while a new president is decided. Today at 3:45 p.m., Tennessee Board of Regents Chancellor John Morgan will discuss the selection process of Raines' successor in the River Room of the UC.
Raines will not be involved in the selection process.
"If they do this presidency the way they have done other presidents that they selected, they involve the whole campus in getting nominations," Raines said.
Raines remembers conquering obstacles when her tenure began. She served as the first female president of the University.
"I think there are misperceptions of women in leadership roles and you just have to go take care of business," she said.
Raines said she thinks there are always obstacles of perception that will be present for whoever, male or female, will assume the responsibilities of president. She hopes the person appointed will find the University to be as cooperative as she has found it to be.
She does not believe there will be a wholesale dismissal of the staff newly appointed under her leadership.
"People look at the job that is required and how well that person is doing," Raines said. "The people here are accomplished people, so the assumption is that they will stay on and continue to be accomplished people, but that will be up to the new president depending on her or his determination."
Senior Andrea Cranford said she, her older sister and mother will all have photos shaking Raines' hand at their commencement ceremony after she graduates in May.
"It's the end of an era," Cranford said.
Raines will give parting words to graduates at the commencement ceremony May 11.
"The sad part for me," Raines said, "is that I've gotten to know a lot of students, so I'll miss that."
Raines' last day as the president of the University of Memphis will be June 30.
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