1850 – 1853
William Reese Presidency
A native Tennessean, William Reese was a prominent Knoxville lawyer and jurist who had attended Blount and Greeneville Colleges and, after reading law, was admitted to the bar in 1817. He served as chancellor of the eastern division of Tennessee and had finished a 12-year term on Tennessee’s Supreme Court before becoming president of East Tennessee University (UT’s sixth president) in 1850. Financial difficulties continued to plague the university during Reese’s brief administration. The trustees had adopted a plan under which the president and faculty would not receive fixed salaries: the president would earn $350 per year and each professor $250 yearly, and both would receive a percentage of the tuition receipts, providing that their salaries did not exceed $1,500 and $1,000, respectively. Five professors were invited to join the faculty; two immediately rejected their appointments. A third professor accepted on the conditions that his salary “certainly not be less than before” and that there be no “sectarian wrangling” about his selection. His terms were apparently not met, because he did not join the faculty. Eventually, five professors were hired, but enrollment declined and the institution remained in poor fiscal shape. Reese remained only three years as president, resigning in frustration in 1853.