News from The Foundation

2024 UTFI President’s Award Recipients

2024 President's Awards Winners

The UTFI President’s Award is a highly prestigious award which recognizes outstanding achievements by advancement staff in applying creative concepts to improving performance, advancing fundraising and alumni engagement efforts, and promoting a better understanding of the systemwide advancement activities and asset management services of UT Foundation. Recipients are nominated by their peers, and a committee of previous year recipients select up to six employees to receive the honor.

Nominees are selected using the following criteria:

  • Promotes a better understanding of the systemwide major gift fundraising activities and alumni engagement initiatives.
  • Continually strives to improve the overall performance of the Foundation by meeting or exceeding individual, departmental and system goals.
  • Provides innovative and creative approaches for the solution of problems and meeting special needs in assigned areas of responsibility.
  • Demonstrates commitment to personal and professional growth and organizational development.
  • Supports teamwork and continuous improvement efforts of the advancement division through collaborative efforts.
  • Fosters employee and customer loyalty.
  • Serves as a mentor to other employees.
  • Provides vision through leadership efforts.
  • Adheres to core values and possesses integrity.


Congratulations to the 2024 recipients!

Amanda Cook
Senior Gift Records Specialist
Central Services

Amanda Cook has significantly impacted the UT System through her role in handling and processing all planned gifts, requiring complex cross-departmental collaboration. Her innovative contributions have been pivotal in the recent implementation of ACE, where her expertise in constituent records and contributions played a critical role in needs assessment, configuration, data conversion, testing, training and implementation.

Her problem-solving abilities make her a trusted resource across the Foundation, fostering strong work relationships and loyalty. As a senior staff member, Amanda mentors and sets high standards for her colleagues, providing excellent customer service and guiding the team towards success. Amanda exemplifies core values of honesty, respect and professionalism, consistently striving for excellence and encouraging others to do the same. Her vision and leadership have made her an integral part of the Constituent Management team, significantly contributing to UTFI’s ongoing success.

Ryan Jones
Senior Associate Athletics Director
UT Chattanooga

Ryan Jones promotes a systemwide approach to major gift fundraising and alumni engagement, ensuring strategic and coordinated efforts across multiple UT campuses. His donor-centric approach leverages athletics to enhance alumni pride, exemplified by engaging donors through football and basketball events.

Ryan’s dedication is reflected in rising athletics fundraising totals, and his innovative “All Aboard Initiative,” launched in 2024, surpassed its $100,000 goal by raising $260,000 for women’s athletics, engaging first-time donors and student-athletes alike.

Committed to personal and professional growth, Ryan fosters teamwork and collaboration, playing a lead role in articulating shared values within the development team. His integrity and adherence to core values have built strong donor relationships and a high-performing team. Ryan’s vision, leadership, and mentorship have left a lasting impact on UTC’s advancement division.

Josh Leavitt
Business Intelligence Programmer
Central Services

Over the past decade, Josh Leavitt has been instrumental in transforming UT’s data infrastructure, particularly during the transition from the legacy ANDI system to the modern Salesforce-powered ACE system. His work involved transferring 65 million rows of data, building interfaces with UT’s financial systems, redesigning the donor receipting process and creating a comprehensive data warehouse.

Josh’s dedication to improving organizational processes is evident through his innovative solutions, and his commitment to personal growth is demonstrated by his completion of the Microsoft Azure Data Factory certification and mastery of new tools essential for ACE’s success. His colleagues and stakeholders praise his dependability, accuracy and mentorship, and his tireless efforts and unwavering commitment to excellence have made a lasting impact on UTFI and the UT System.

Phyllis Moore
Senior Director of Alumni Affairs
UT Knoxville

Over her 30-year career with the UT Foundation and UT Knoxville, Phyllis Moore has successfully planned and executed numerous programs and events that enhance major gift fundraising and alumni engagement. Notable initiatives include the Alumni Summer College program and raising more than $35,000 over the last two years in support of Black Philanthropy Month in partnership with the annual giving team.

Phyllis’ innovative approaches and resourcefulness have enabled her to host events despite budget constraints and foster strong alumni connections. She is a valued mentor, providing guidance and support to her colleagues and emerging leaders, and her commitment to teamwork, integrity and continuous improvement has made her a trusted and respected figure within the UT and UTFI communities. 

Jennifer Schlicht
Senior Executive Assistant
UT Martin

With over 20 years of service at the Martin campus and two and a half years with UTFI, Jennifer Schlicht is known for her dedication, hard work and exceptional organizational skills. She is highly effective in managing tasks and collaborating with Central Services staff, always going the extra mile, whether organizing meetings or giving campus tours in adverse conditions.

Jennifer’s positive energy and professional attributes enhance the Foundation’s performance, and she consistently exceeds goals. Her innovative problem-solving and budget expertise are invaluable to the Executive Leadership Team. Jennifer fosters a positive culture, loyalty and teamwork within the advancement division. Her servant leadership style, integrity and ability to handle sensitive information with utmost confidentiality make her a trusted and respected mentor and colleague.

Laura Zimbrick
Director of Development
Institute of Agriculture

Initially joining as the assistant director of alumni affairs for the College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM), Laura Zimbrick adeptly navigated  multiple leadership transitions. Her dedication and collaborative spirit significantly improved trust and cooperation between the Foundation and faculty at CVM and the Institute of Agriculture (UTIA). Laura’s innovative problem-solving and relentless work ethic led UTIA to raise nearly $12 million, despite staffing challenges. Her mentoring skills and commitment to professional growth have benefited her colleagues and the organization, and she excels in fostering donor relationships, ensuring each interaction is meaningful and impactful. Laura’s leadership helps faculty and program leaders visualize and communicate opportunities to donors effectively, and her dedication to providing an inclusive approach have profoundly impacted the Foundation and the university community.