The Commercial Appeal
Raines’ reign as U of M president ends on a high note
Shirley Raines closed out her history-making stint as University of Memphis president on a high note Saturday night, celebrating a major fund-raising 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 support 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 grandmother.
“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.