Knoxville Area Urban League seeking new CEO and UTK is recognized by Forbes in the latest business roundup

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a roundup of business news from throughout the Knoxville region. If you have some business news that you would like to be included in Teknovation Weekend, please email us at

Knoxville Area Urban League announces retirement, search for new CEO

The Knoxville Area Urban League announced the retirement of Phyllis Y. Nichols, who first joined the organization in 1994 as a Curriculum and Education Specialist before becoming President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) in 2000. She will retire in September as the longest-serving CEO of the Knoxville Area Urban League in its 54-year history, according to a news release.

“Leading the Knoxville Area Urban League has been challenging but also the most fulfilling work one can imagine,” Nichols said in her retirement letter to the nonprofit’s board of directors. “The people I have been privileged to work with, the engagement with our national organization, our board and the community we serve have all contributed to the accomplishments we have achieved.”

The National Urban League and Jan Brown, Board Chair for the Knoxville Area Urban League, are leading the search for a new CEO. Applications are due July 26. Email a resume and cover letter to with the subject line Knoxville Area Urban League CEO Position.

Learn more about Nichols’ career and the CEO search here. And, you can read about one of the Urban League’s multi-faceted initiatives in this recent article.

UTK recognized by Forbes as a best employer for new graduates

In its 2022 list for “America’s Best Employers for New Grads,” Forbes ranked the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK) third for businesses headquartered in Tennessee, as well as third in the Southeastern Conference and 10th for higher education institutions.

“I am so proud of the regional and national recognition UT has earned in the past years by Forbes,” said Mary Lucal, Associate Vice Chancellor for Human Resources, in a news release. “Our competitive benefits, emphasis on flexibility, and commitment to principles of diversity and inclusion make us a great work home for recent grads, and we are thrilled that so many have made the conscious decision to work at UT Knoxville!”

The release noted the UTK has also been recognized by Forbes as one the best employers in both the country and the State of Tennessee.

New Interim Chancellor named for UT Southern

In more news from the UT, President Randy Boyd recently announced that Linda C. Martin will serve as an Interim Chancellor for UT Southern, starting July 1. She is currently the Vice President for Academic Affairs and Student Success and has been the Interim Senior Vice Chancellor/Senior Vice President for the UT Institute of Agriculture since September 2021. That role is ending with the expected confirmation of her successor when the UT Board of Trustees meets this week.

“Linda Martin is a respected university leader with a proven track record in student success,” Boyd said. “I greatly appreciate her stepping up to fill this critical role while we search for UT Southern’s new leader.”

The university will launch a search to fill the role permanently in January.

Wild Laurel Golf Course in Townsend receives Audubon certification

Wild Laurel Golf Course was designated a “Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary” by Audubon International for its dedication to environmental excellence. The 18-hole course is located in Townsend in the heart of the Smokies. It is one of 900 courses to receive this certification nationwide and the 10th in Tennessee.

“We are located in the middle of the beautiful Great Smoky Mountains, and we felt an obligation to make sure our footprint was as environmentally sound and sustainable as possible,” Wild Laurel President John Trotter said. “We are immensely proud of all the hard work we have accomplished in order to receive this designation.”

Several steps need to be taken in order to receive the Audubon designation, including environmental planning, wildlife and habitat management, outreach and education, chemical use reduction and safety, water conservation and water quality management.

Exceptional Difference and Alan Willett Consulting to merge

Exceptional Difference, a software executive coaching and training company, will merge with software engineering consultancy Alan Willett Consulting. The combined company will operate under the Exceptional Difference brand, according to a news release. Alan Willett will become the Chief Engineer of the merged companies, overseeing the development of new programs and client offerings, while Julia Mullaney will remain the CEO, focusing on global reach. The company will be headquartered in Knoxville.

“Alan and I have worked together and mentored each other for decades so this was a very natural evolution of our business interests,” said Mullaney. “We have such complementary skills but overlap in just the right spots that we felt we could do much bigger things together.”

Learn more here.

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