TWU President Harley Knowles Departing in June 2022

This week, Dr. Harley Knowles announced his plans to step down as president of Tennessee Wesleyan University. He will continue serving in his role through June 30, 2022. President Knowles has faithfully served in this role for the past 11 years. The announcement was shared with faculty and staff on Tuesday morning in an email from Dr. Knowles.


Knowles and Wesley“I am proud of the progress we have made on a number of fronts, but I also believe now is a good time to transition to a new president, given the overall positive trajectory of the institution,” the president shared. “The University is well-positioned for the next phase of growth thanks to strong Board leadership, an effective executive team, deeply committed faculty and staff, and a growing positive reputation in Tennessee and beyond.”


Dr. Knowles shared his decision with Board Chairman, Dr. Robert Goodfriend, on Monday night followed with a message to the entire Board of Trustees on Tuesday morning.


“On behalf of the entire Tennessee Wesleyan Board of Trustees, we extend our gratitude to Dr. Knowles for his 11 years of outstanding dedication and leadership,” Goodfriend shared. “Along with a strong team of staff and faculty, Dr. Knowles has strengthened the University and helped position us to thrive in the upcoming years. It has been a pleasure working alongside him as a donor, a trustee, and now as the chairman of the board. Dr. Knowles’ student-first mindset has been the catalyst for much of the growth we’ve experienced during his tenure. His vision to bring new academic programs and facility upgrades has benefited the campus and community greatly. His presence will be missed, but we all wish him well in his next venture.”


Many across campus have shared excitement for Dr. Knowles, though are still sad to see him leave. His genuine care for the students, faculty and staff has been on display since he arrived.


inauguration “Dr. Knowles was absolutely the right person at the right time in his life and the life of our beloved Tennessee Wesleyan University to be President,” said Dr. Larry Wallace, who served as the Senior Vice President at the University when Dr. Knowles was hired.  


Throughout his tenure, Knowles has kept students first by establishing new programs, improving facilities, and strengthening the identity and mission of the University. He is quick to recognize the effort of the team around him in being able to accomplish these initiatives.


“I’ve been blessed to work with a fantastic leadership team who work tirelessly with the staff to ensure our students receive a transformational college experience.”


Under his leadership, the University has experienced several successes, including:

•creation of graduate level programs in business, education and allied health;

•transition from college to Tennessee Wesleyan University

•establishment of undergraduate programs in communication studies, social work, degree completion programs in business, nursing, and criminal justice, religion and philosophy, and engineering science;

•facility upgrades to Elliott Hall, Old College, Blakeslee Hall, and the baseball stadium

•refurbishments to the residence halls;

•technology upgrades across campus;

•library conversion to a learning commons;

•building of Colloms Campus Center, home to the new Mosher Success Center;

•record fundraising campaign with gifts and pledges of $22 million; and

•two years of record enrollment and a significant increase in the retention rate.


“It has been the honor of my life to serve the students, faculty, staff and thisknowles and wife, cindy community,” Knowles shared in his email. Thanks to many talented and hardworking colleagues, we have developed a sustainable future for TWU and improved nearly every aspect of the University over the last 10 years. I am proud of you and the many generous supporters who work tirelessly and who care deeply about the University and its bright future.”


President Knowles and his wife, Cindy, have invested themselves in the community through work with the Arts Center, Keith United Methodist Church, Main Street Athens, and the Humane Society. Former Board Chairman and architect of Wesley Commons and the Colloms Campus Center, Jim Winer, shared additional comments on the news of the transition.


“Everyone in the Tennessee Wesleyan University community had hoped to keep President Knowles indefinitely. Harley has been a model of what a university president should be. He assembled a great team and provided the visionary and innovative leadership required to strengthen the university and position it for a bright future. Harley and Cindy have become cherished members of the community and have the unqualified respect and devotion of those that have been privileged to get to know them. We could not have wished for a better president. Like so many, I have enjoyed every interaction with him and remain completely impressed with what he’s done and how he’s done it. Harley and Cindy will forever remain dear to our hearts and connected to the future of Tennessee Wesleyan.”


Next steps for the University include the Board of Trustees commencing a search for the next president. The timing of the announcement will allow the Board to establish a proper search and allow for a seamless transition to the University’s next chapter.


“I feel very blessed to have had the opportunity to be a part of the TWU team with Dr. Knowles for the last 11 years,” said longtime colleague and friend, Gail Harris, Vice President for Financial Affairs. “His vision, enthusiasm, and integrity are always front and center in everything he does. For many of us, Dr. Knowles’ genuine care for our students, faculty and staff are a legacy that goes beyond all the programs, facility upgrades and other tremendous achievements that have occurred during his tenure.”


commencementPresident Knowles’ spirit, dedication and care will be hard to match by his successor. His legacy will be marked by the way he has deeply cared for the success of Tennessee Wesleyan through creation of transformational educational experiences; by providing incredible support and encouragement to each faculty and staff member; and his passion for giving back to the greater-Athens community.