University of Tennessee President Dr. John Petersen and Chancellor Loren Crabtree announced Tuesday that head football coach Phillip Fulmer and his wife, Vicky, have committed $1 million to the University of Tennessee.
The donation to The Campaign for Tennessee represents one of the largest gifts by a coach and family to their university. The gift, to be split equally between academics and athletics, will be used to support scholarships, athletics facilities and programming.
Phillip Fulmer has been affiliated with the university for more than 30 years – as a student-athlete, a coach and a parent of four UT students.
The announcement was made as Fulmer begins his 15th full season at the helm of the Tennessee Volunteers.
“Phillip and Vicky always have been great supporters of the University,” Petersen said. “They approached us about making this donation several years ago, and we have been working over the summer to finalize their commitment. With the upcoming season and the anticipated announcement of our campaign in the spring, this is a great time for us to share the news of this commitment with alumni and friends.”
“Our family originally chose to make this donation anonymously,” Vicky Fulmer said. “After several discussions with the university, we were convinced that by making this announcement publicly and taking this leadership role, the university would benefit positively and others would be encouraged to make their own contributions.”
The Fulmers hope their gift sets an example for others.
“The fact that this gift goes to academics as well as athletics shows the Fulmers’ commitment to the important role of this great public institution,” said Crabtree, chancellor of the Knoxville campus. “We are very fortunate to have them as part of the University family.”
Funds raised through the Campaign for Tennessee – the most ambitious in its 200 year history – will support the objectives of strategic initiatives for student access and success, research and economic development, and outreach and globalization. The multi-year effort began its silent phase in 2005 and has brought record setting gifts for all campuses and units of the university.
As with most gifts of this size, the Fulmers will fulfill their commitment with a combination of current and planned gifts.
“Vicky and I have been trying to find a way to demonstrate our affinity for the university for several years,” Phillip Fulmer said. “After talking with Jimmy and Dee (Haslam) and Dr. (Joe) Johnson, we decided we wanted our donation to impact academics just as much as athletics. We hope this gift will allow the university to continue to excel in both areas.”
He continued, “Everyone knows about the sacrifice and commitment of all who have worn the orange and white as players or coaches that have represented our wonderful university on the playing field. This donation will in part be to honor the sacrifices of the wives and families who have stood by these coaches.
“My wife, who has stood by me as I have worked incredible hours, been away from home for long periods of time, often put other peoples’ children first, and sacrificed her own wants and needs, all the while never missing an opportunity to hug a player’s neck or provide an encouraging word to a player or coach when one was needed, has been my confidant for years. She has been strong for me when I needed her most, a loyal wife, and a wonderful mother to our children.”
Fulmer added, “In honor of her dedication and loyalty to me and the university, a fund will be started in her name to support work with obese children, an area she has a long and heartfelt commitment for.”
Vicky Fulmer added, “The University of Tennessee has been Phillip’s heart and soul for most of his life. We’re blessed to be in a position that allows us to do this.”
Phillip and Vicky have one son and three daughters: Phillip Jr., 37; Courtney, 24 who graduated from UT with a bachelor’s degree in communications studies; Brittany, 22, a senior on the Lady Vols diving team who will receive her degree in communications studies in December; and Allison, 20, a junior on the Lady Vols softball team majoring in business.
A native of Winchester, Fulmer was an offensive lineman at UT from 1968-71. He graduated from UT with a degree in history in 1972.
During his coaching career, Fulmer spent five years at Wichita State and one year at Vanderbilt before rejoining the Tennessee staff in 1980 as an assistant coach. He became Tennessee’s 20th head football coach in 1992.
The dean of Southeastern Conference coaches, Fulmer has claimed a national championship, two conference titles and six divisional crowns while winning better than three-quarters of his games. He also retains his rank atop the winning percentage list for coaches with at least 10 years experience in the top division of college football.
The Campaign for Tennessee is a multiphase fundraising effort that will extend through 2011. This seven-year campaign, which launched its silent phase in 2005, will secure private gifts that, in turn, will contribute substantially to the distinct, but linked, campuses comprised by the University of Tennessee system. Funds raised through the campaign will directly support the objectives of UT’s strategic plan, as outlined by Dr. Petersen. Among those objectives are improved student access and success, research and economic development, outreach and globalization.
The campaign goal is the most ambitious in UT’s 200-plus-year history, and the university is calling on alumni and friends to support the institution through outright annual and major gifts as well as estate-planning gifts.
Highlights of Fulmer’s Coaching Career at Tennessee:
-UT has been in the national polls at game time for 157 of Fulmer's 177 games as head coach.
-Selection as National and SEC coach of the year in 1998.
-The first Tennessee team to post 13 victories in a single season, a record in 1998 that included an SEC championship and Tostitos Fiesta Bowl win for the national title.
-Fifteen Tennessee players have earned first-team All-America honors, including offensive tackle Arron Sears and wide receiver Robert Meachem in 2006.
-Fifteen first-round NFL selections since 1993 and a total of 90 players selected overall. The Vols have had the most players on opening-day NFL rosters each of the last two seasons and the team’s five first-day 2007 NFL Draft picks were the most of any school.
-Back-to-back SEC titles in 1997-98 and five Eastern Division crowns in the last 10 years. The Vols have won or tied for the division title six times under Fulmer.
-A record of 45-5 from 1995-98, the most victories over a four-year span in school history.
-The Vols have ended the season ranked in the top 10 six times under Fulmer.
-Each of the last two seasons, Tennessee has led the SEC in Fall Academic Honor Roll recipients