In each issue of the Circle Park News, we will feature a member of CCI’s Board of Visitors through a Q&A session. Our first spotlight features current BOV chair Mark McNeely.
Mark earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Journalism from UT in 1970. He is senior partner at McNeely Pigott & Fox Public Relations in Nashville, which he started 22 years ago. He is a member of the PRSA Counselors Academy, the Downtown Rotary Club in Nashville, and Our Kids Advisory Board. He and his wife, Janis, have five children. Mark has been a member of the CCI Board of Visitors since 2001.
CCI – Why did you first get involved (on a volunteer basis) with CCI?
Mark – I am a native of Knoxville, a 1967 graduate of Fulton High School, and a big collegiate athletics fan, so the opportunity to visit a couple of times a year, learn more about the changes and challenges of CCI, and try to do some things to assist were appealing and have continued to be attractive to me.
CCI – In your view, what is the most important or impactful role you’ve played as a volunteer?
Mark – I don’t know that I have made an impact other than supporting the college, being available to meet with students and prospective students, etc., but hopefully my real world experience in the communications business has been helpful. Boards of visitors can serve as great counterbalances between academia and the outside work environment. On a personal note, since we don’t encounter too many minority communications graduates as job applicants, I am proud that my wife, Janis, and I have established a scholarship fund targeted toward Tennessee high schools with large numbers of financially disadvantaged youth. Also, my company has underwritten PR scholarships at the college for the past several years. We know it is in our industry’s best interest to support the best and brightest college students that need financial help to keep the talent pool at its best.
CCI – Why have you chosen to support the college? Why do you see this as important?
Mark – I credit the college and the professors I had as a student as having a lot to do with my knowledge base and professional successes. I think it is incumbent on alumni to support their alma maters, especially in times of tight budgets and economic downturn. Too often, higher education “forgets” their graduates, which makes it all that much harder to have their alumni “remember” them. I have tried to help broaden the circle of supporters. I also think the CCI leadership under Dean Mike Wirth is very deserving of support – financial and otherwise.
CCI – What do you hope to accomplish as chair of the BOV?
Mark – As mentioned before, try to widen the alumni support for the college and make the board of advisors experience relevant to all participants.
CCI – Is there anything exciting or interesting going on “behind the scenes” in CCI of which the average alum might not be aware?
Mark – I think the underwriting campaign to rebuild the auditorium by allowing sponsors to have naming rights for the seats is exciting, as are the technological enhancements in classrooms and the Scripps Convergence Lab.
CCI – If someone is considering volunteerism as a way to “give back” to the University, what advice would you have for them? Why should they do it?
Mark – There are a million reasons to give back, not the least of which is the self satisfaction one has in being able to help a person, institution or cause. If the idea is that there is an appreciation for what former students gleaned in their education, then the “sale” to have them contribute time or money is really not hard.
CCI – What from your UT and CCI experience has stuck with you during life since graduating?
Mark – Dr. Kelly Leiter telling his classes that you really didn’t need eight hours of sleep per night – four was plenty.
CCI – What is your favorite memory from your time at UT?
Mark – Balancing school with work – I had to pay my way, even though the tuition was extremely low – by working the entire time I was in college. (I earned my degree in 2 years and 11 months). I was very incented to finish as soon as possible, but the experience was positive and helped set the stage to my approach to life and work since then – i.e., work hard, try hard, and good things usually follow.