Former UT president, Milan native Eli Fly dies at 82

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Former President of the University of Tennessee Emerson “Eli” Fly died Tuesday in Knoxville at age 82.

Eli Fly

Fly served as UT president from 2001 until 2002, capping a 40-year career at the university, according to a release from UT Martin.

Fly was born in Milan on Feb. 5, 1935, in what he described as “pretty humble circumstances” during an interview with the UT Martin “Campus Scene” magazine in 2002, the release states. His father died when he was two years old, and his mother worked in a factory.

Fly and UT President Andy Holt were both from Milan, and Milan notes both on the city’s welcome sign, according to the release.

Fly attended the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, earning a degree in accounting in 1961.

He worked as an accountant until he came back to the university in 1962 as an auditor and continued to work under various titles until he became Vice Chancellor for UT Chattanooga.

Fly went on to be named acting President in 2001, which the UT Board of Trustees later designated for the historical record as permanent, according to the release.

Fly retired for the last time in 2004.

He is survived by his wife, four children and nine grandchildren.

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