Tusculum College’s new Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, Stephen J. Gehret, began his tenure at the college in December.
Gehret (pronounced like “Garrett”) oversees the college’s Business and Finance, Human Resources, Information Systems, Facilities, Bookstore, Campus Post Office and Food Services operations. His office is located on the third floor of McCormick Hall, the main administrative building of the College.
President Dr. Dolphus E. Henry said, “The addition of Stephen Gehret to our leadership team bodes great promise for Tusculum College. We could not have found a more qualified individual to manage financial affairs.”
Gehret was since 1992 Associate Vice President for finance and Chief Budget Officer at Florida’s Barry University, managing a budget exceeding $165 million.
Earlier, he was Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer at St. Thomas University in Miami, which he joined in 1986 as Controller and Secretary. He was promoted in 1990 to CFO and Treasurer.
At St. Thomas, Gehret managed an operating budget exceeding $20 million and directed operational planning as a member of the President’s Cabinet. He also directed business office operations, financial reporting, purchasing and accounts receivable, cash flow and banking relationships, and preparation and control of operating and capital budgets.
While at Barry and St. Thomas, Gehret assisted in the provisional approval process by the American Bar Association for their Schools of Law.
He identified and initiated control measures and cost reductions in 1986 at St. Thomas that amounted to 40 percent of the budget and led to an operational turn-around the next year. He executed a $10.5 million tax-exempt bond placement in 1990 that resulted in budget relief and a simplified debt structure for St. Thomas.
From 1985 through 1986, Gehret was controller of the Cigarette Racing Team, Inc., in Miami, Cigarette being the well-known manufacturer of luxury boats.
He has worked at the vice presidential level in finance and administration for the Magee-Poole Drilling Company in Alice, Tex., an oil-drilling company. In the first part of the 1980s he worked with two other drilling firms, Dixilyn-Field Drilling Company and Bawden Drilling, Inc., both in Houston, as area administrator and division controller, respectively.
From 1979-1980 he worked in an accounting management position with Dolphin International, Inc. in Houston, and in the latter half of the 1970s was a staff accountant with Chicago-based Arthur Andersen & Company’s Houston division. He was recruited by Andersen, at that time one of the “Big Eight” accounting firms, to perform basic functions on audit engagements for oil and gas clients.
He was licensed as a Certified Public Accountant in 1980 in Florida, three years after earning his BBA in accounting at St. Edwards University. He earned an MBA in finance from Barry University in 1999.
Gehret co-authored an article entitled “The Institute for Liberal Arts – A Case Study” in Business Case Journal in 1998.
Gehret said he was attracted to Tusculum College during the interview and familiarization process in August 2006, wherein he met several members of the Tusculum College Board of Trustees, whom he found knowledgeable and “receptive to new and creative ideas.”
Gehret said he also was impressed by the management team in place at the college, noting that he had already met Vice President for Admission and Financial Aid Jacquelyn Elliott while she was working for another institution.
His initial conversation with President Henry began as a “15-minute phone call” that stretched into an hour-and-a-half conversation, Gehret said.
Gehret said he can envision “where Tusculum College can be and should be in the next three to five years” and plans to provide the tools to enhance the College’s “fiscal position” during that period. “I am confident I can do this with the help of the team here,” he said.
He particularly wants to use his expertise in financial management to support the efforts of the Provost, Student Affairs and Development divisions of the College. At present it is important that the college focus strongly on recruiting and retention of students, Gehret said.
Gehret has worked as a member of both on-site visit and off-sight evaluation teams for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, which accredits Tusculum College and many other institutions of higher learning.
Gehret’s initial visits to Greeneville and Greene County left him impressed by the beauty of the area and by the strength and scope of the local business, governmental and social infrastructure. Discussing that with some personal friends, he said they were surprised by what he told them, and noted that the local infrastructure could support a town “three times the size” of Greeneville.
A devotee of golf, Gehret has bought a house that gives him easy access to the Link Hills Country Club course, where he can often be found during his off hours.