Associate Professor Kellie Toon, most recently the director of the Pellissippi Academic Center for Excellence, has been chosen to serve as Pellissippi State Community College’s new vice president for Academic Affairs.
Toon was one of five finalists for the position, which was last held by interim Vice President Kathy Byrd, who retired in June after 29 years with Pellissippi State.
“This wasn’t about a career change for me; it was about Pellissippi State,” Toon said. “This community has been good to me: the people, the relationships I’ve formed, the friendships, the way we come together. I have been able to grow so much – not just professionally, but personally.”
A native of Tyler, Texas, Toon earned her bachelor’s degree in Political Science with a minor in Spanish at the University of Texas at Austin.
“I never wanted to be an educator,” Toon explained, laughing. “I come from a long family line of teachers, and all through undergrad, I wanted to go to law school.”
Toon immersed herself in the legal field until the last semester of her senior year, when she started substitute teaching high school Spanish.
“My favorite quote is, ‘A person often meets his destiny on the road he took to avoid it,’” Toon said. “It didn’t take me long to find my calling once I was in the classroom.”
Toon discovered her affinity for higher education while teaching classes as a graduate student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and learned about Pellissippi State after moving to Knoxville with her family in 2007. Although she had owned a tutoring franchise for two years in Amarillo, she missed the classroom.
“Everyone kept telling me, ‘You’ve got to look into Pellissippi State,’” Toon remembered.
Armed with a strong teaching background, Toon came on board in 2008 as an adjunct instructor of Communication Studies and joined the college’s full-time faculty in 2010. At the time, Pellissippi State President L. Anthony Wise Jr. was serving as vice president for Academic Affairs, she noted.
“Dr. Wise was the VP that hired me, and now it feels like it’s come full circle,” Toon said. “It’s an honor to serve as his vice president.”
Toon moved into administrative roles with Pellissippi State in 2014, first as the director of the college’s Quality Enhancement Plan and later as director of the Department of Education Title III Strengthening Institutions Program Grant. She earned her Ph.D. in higher education administration from the University of Tennessee in August 2019.
Pellissippi State’s vice president for Academic Affairs is responsible for “the academic side of the house,” Toon explained – working with faculty, deans and academic support staff. It’s a role Toon relishes, having ushered in 125 new faculty through the New Faculty Academy since 2014, first with the Quality Enhancement Plan and then with the Pellissippi Academic Center for Excellence, which provides support for Pellissippi State faculty through training and professional development.
“At PACE, it was my vision to create something somewhere on campus so that faculty had a space just for them,” she said. “I am so proud of what the PACE team has done. They are extraordinary, and even though I’m not leaving, I’m going to miss working with them. I know I’ve just moved down the hall, but it feels like a long hall!”
Toon already is hard at work in her new position, and she is excited about what the future holds, as is Pellissippi State’s president.
“We have important work to do over the course of the next several years at Pellissippi State as we strive towards greater equity in our outcomes,” Wise said. “Dr. Toon’s experience as a faculty member and a leader at the college give her insight into what we have done and what we need to do. I am excited to see where leadership takes our students, faculty and staff in the days ahead.”