For Brigitte Grant, the new vice chancellor for Advancement at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, moving to Memphis has been in some ways a homecoming.
Her grandmother, Fanny Higgins grew up in Memphis, where she met and married her grandfather, Jack Oetzel, who was in the Navy in Millington. They moved to Central Illinois after her father was born, but Grant remembers many visits to Memphis to see relatives while she was growing up.
“Personally, growing up, Memphis was one of our places as a family,” she said. Later, when she worked in Little Rock at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences from 2013-2019, she and her daughter, Alexa, would come to Memphis for shopping. “So once again, Memphis was one of our places.”
Grant’s first day at UTHSC was Monday. She is one of two new vice chancellors being welcomed this week at UTHSC. Paul Wesolowski, the inaugural vice chancellor for Strategic Partnerships, also started work Monday. A welcome reception to introduce them to the campus is set for today, from 9:30 to 11 a.m., in the Mooney/Nash courtyard.
Wesolowski drove into Memphis Saturday from Richmond, Virginia, where he formerly served as the senior vice president and chief operating officer for the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Health System. He said coming to Memphis and Tennessee represents a new adventure in a part of the country that he and his wife, Stephanie, have not had the opportunity to explore. Enthusiastic travelers who enjoy adapting to life in new cities, the couple has lived in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Illinois, and Virginia. They have two adult daughters, Lauren and Rachael.
“Memphis is rich in history,” Wesolowski said. “It has a lot of things to explore. And so, we’re excited to be here. It’s a different phase of life for us. We both have a lot of energy and a lot of enthusiasm to learn and experience new things.”
Wesolowski, who said he has “worked from a young age,” got into health care administration by way of food services. As a teenager in Haddonfield, New Jersey, he rode his bike to a nearby country club in search of a job. He was hired as a dishwasher, worked in the kitchen, and eventually he assisted the banquet manager. As an undergraduate at Penn State University, he majored in hotel and restaurant management, and upon graduating, his first job was as the kitchen supervisor at Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia. From there, he has made his career in health care administration and management.
“Health care is pivotal to the growth and quality of life of any area,” Wesolowski said. “There’s a great opportunity to continue leveraging the environmental assets, history, culture, and infrastructure, not only in Memphis, but across the state.”
“Teamwork and collaboration have many benefits and have proven to be powerful in the ability to create positive change throughout my career in every location I’ve had the privilege to work,” he said. “My Number 1 goal at UTHSC is to facilitate the ability to become one team, where each component adds value to the overall goal of improved health and well-being of each Tennessean.”
Grant, who comes to UTHSC from the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston, describes herself as a servant leader. “This isn’t just a job,” she said. “This isn’t just a leadership role. It truly is an opportunity to serve and that means a great deal to me.”
“My entire career has been in service, and I feel very passionate about that,” she continued. “The work that the university does in research, education, clinical care is critical. The health of the people in this region and in the state is very much dependent on the university, and with Chancellor Buckley’s leadership, this is a pivotal time for the future of health, and Advancement is critical to providing funds that create a margin of excellence.”
She said she and her husband, Darrell, look forward to being active in the community. Interestingly, he has experience serving as a standardized patient and patient educator at two universities. The couple also has a son, Conner, who graduates from college this month.
“The program has been steady over the last few years,” she said, referring to the university’s Advancement efforts. “Thanks to our donors we’re seeing a strong year financially for Advancement, it is just outstanding. That is a trajectory that we have to maintain to be able to actualize the chancellor’s vision.”
“While Memphis is our home, with our expanded team, we will reach all across the great state of Tennessee,” Chancellor Peter Buckley said. “As talented, hugely experienced, and engaging new servant leaders, Brigitte and Paul will help us advance our noble mission in partnership as we serve our communities.
With pride and enthusiasm, the chancellor said, “Please welcome aboard Brigitte and Paul!”