UT board of trustees renames dorms for African American educators, outlines new mission

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The University of Tennessee System Board of Trustees have approved the renaming of Orange and White Halls at its meeting Thursday.

The dorms built in 2016 will be renamed in honor of Theotis Robinson and Rita Sanders Geier. The two African American pioneers fought for equality and social justice through the state’s high education system and the university.

Robinson was the first African American undergraduate student admitted to the University of Tennessee and was later elected to Knoxville City Council from 1970 to 1977. He returned to UT as a political science lecturer in 1989 and rose to the position of vice president of the UT system before retiring in 2014.

Rita Sanders Geier, Vanderbilt Law School graduate and former instructor at Tennessee State University in Nashville, fought for equal pay at the historically Black college in the 1970s. The ensuing court cases led to the Nashville campus of the University of Tennessee being merged with Tennessee State University.

The board also reflected on 2020 and looked ahead to 2021 with a new mission statement and acronym “BE ONE UT.”

The acryom stands for:

  • Bold and impactful
  • Embrace diversity
  • Optimistic and visionary
  • Nimble and innovative
  • Excell in all we do
  • United and connected
  • Transparent and trusted

Randy Boyd, UT System president, said he took to heart feedback given to him during a meeting with student leaders at University of Tennessee, Chattanooga.

“He said, ‘These aren’t values I just want to live up to at the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga, but values I want to live up to for the rest of my life’,” Boyd said of the student. “When he said that I couldn’t be happier. But this entire effort is totally wasted if this is a document we put in a drawer.”

Boyd says the university is going to use this set of values in performance reviews for staff aswll as a guide for the university’s overall impact.

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