Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen will deliver the commencement address to more than 560 graduates on Sunday, December 16, at 2 p.m. in the McKenzie Arena.
Bredesen took office as Tennessee’s 48th governor on January 18, 2003, delivering on a promise to leave stale political debates behind and focus on achieving real results for families. In November 2006, he was re-elected in a landslide victory—reportedly becoming the first governor in over a century to win all 95 counties in Tennessee.
Bredesen set clear priorities for the state, beginning with Tennessee’s number one priority—education. He raised teacher pay above the Southeastern average and expanded the state’s pilot Pre-K initiative into a program for four-year-olds across the state. He also created the Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation, a statewide expansion of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library that offers children free books monthly in all 95 counties. In his fourth year, Bredesen worked with the General Assembly to increase education funding by a record $366.5 million.
To recruit new industry and jobs, Bredesen led reform of Tennessee’s workers’ compensation system and invested in retraining programs to help laid-off employees develop new skills. Since he took office, 2,889 companies – including Nissan and International Paper- have expanded in or moved to Tennessee, bringing more than 104,000 jobs and $12.8 billion in new business investment to the state.
Additionally, Bredesen took control of TennCare, the state’s once- financially troubled Medicaid-expansion program, by preserving full enrollment for children and pursuing innovative care and disease management initiatives. Even after necessary reductions in adult enrollment, TennCare remains one of the most generous and comprehensive state health care plans in the nation.
Now in his second term, Bredesen is focusing on raising high school and college graduation rates, boosting the economies of Tennessee’s smaller and mid-sized communities, strengthening public education at every level and promoting access to health care and healthier lifestyles for all citizens, especially young Tennesseans.
Before serving as Tennessee’s governor, Bredesen served as mayor of Nashville from 1991 to 1999, working with community leaders to chart a course that made Music City U.S.A. one of the best places in America to live, work and raise a family. Before entering public service, Bredesen worked in the health care industry.
Bredesen and his wife, First Lady Andrea Conte, are active members in the community, locally and statewide. He is a founding member of Nashville’s Table, a nonprofit group that collects discarded food from local restaurants and distributes it to the city’s homeless population. He also founded the Land Trust for Tennessee, a nonprofit organization that works statewide to preserve open space and traditional family farms.
Bredesen earned a bachelor’s degree in physics from Harvard University. Bredesen is an avid hunter and outdoorsman, a licensed pilot, and enjoys painting as a hobby. Bredesen and Conte have one son, Ben.