The Commercial Appeal
Raines’ reign ends on a high note
Fundraising success wraps up U of M president’s 12-year term
Shirley Raines closed out her history-making stint as University of Memphis president on a high note Saturday night, celebrating a major fundraising campaign that exceeded its goal by $6.6 million.
Appearing at her last official event as president, Raines hailed the success of the “Empowering the Dream Centennial Campaign,” the goal for which had been set at $250 million.
“It’s astonishing and another example of the sup- port that this community and alumni, wherever they are throughout the country, give to the university,” Raines said.
Charles Burkett, cochairman of the campaign, said the fundraising effort, which will use 73 percent of proceeds for students, wouldn’t have succeeded without Raines.
“She’s the best spokesperson for the university and all the programs here,” he said. “When she walks into a room, she is not bashful and she makes a very good case for why people’s dollars should go to the university.”
Raines, 68, takes on a new role beginning Monday — full-time grand- mother.
“I’m going from my job as president to my job as Mimi,” Raines said.
Raines, who announced her retirement from her $339,610 a year position April 15, will move to Oak Ridge in East Tennessee to be closer to a son and two grandchildren.
She said she had known for months before she made an announcement that she would retire, but she had unfinished business. She said she needed to finish her fundraising campaign for the students and fill three open positions.
Raines made history when she became the university’s first female president in 2001, beating out two men in the final round of the school’s search for a new president. At the end
of her career 12 years later, the Tennessee Board of Regents named her President Emeritus.
“It’s a big deal for them to recognize the work I have done,” she said. “It’s a (title) that’s given to those who have served well. That means a lot to me.”
She said she won’t spend all her time making lemonade and baking cookies. She plans to engage in volunteer work, serve on nonprofit boards and come back to the U of M for ceremonies.
The Raines era led to expansions, such as the addition of the Lambuth campus in Jackson, Tenn., and changes such as the move of the law school to Downtown Memphis and the new University Center.
“We want students to feel a great sense of pride and know that we built this for them,” said the U of M’s 11th president. “It’s not the building, but what people do in the buildings that define my legacy.”
Many members of the university’s Board of Visitors, including Rita Sparks and Carolyn Hardy, gave to Raines’ campaign to continue her vision.
“She had a goal to take the university to a new level,” Hardy said. “Dr. Raines has done great things. I wanted to be a part of that.”
Raines already has cleared out her office and will leave her home on Monday.
“I’ve had laughs and I’ve cried,” Raines said. “It’s hard to leave people you’ve worked so closely with for 12 years.”
Burkett’s wife, Judy Burkett, said Raines left the university in a great position. “She saw what the needs were and fought,” she said. “She stood her ground and did what was important for the university. She had a vision, and she carried it out.”
Businessman Brad Martin, who chaired the University of Memphis Foundation Board and the school’s Board of Visitors, will take the reins Monday as interim president of the university.