About President M. David Rudd

MDRuddM. David Rudd is in his seventh year as President of the University of Memphis, a position he has held since May 2014. As a Distinguished University Professor of Psychology, he also continues funded research, along with his affiliation with the National Center for Veterans Studies at the University of Utah as co-founder and scientific director. Before transitioning to President, he served as University of Memphis Provost. Prior to moving to Memphis, he was dean of the College of Social & Behavioral Science at the University of Utah and previously held positions at Texas A&M University College of Medicine, Baylor University and Texas Tech.

University Impact

Student success and research growth have been critical goals during his tenure in Memphis, with record-breaking improvements in student retention and graduation rates, coupled with significant growth in research expenditures. He spearheaded efforts to create a new division of Student Success, developed the University’s first integrated recruitment, enrollment, retention and graduation plan, created a one-stop admissions center, developed targeted degree pathways for all majors, implemented an Academic Coaching for Excellence initiative, offered need-based funding for the first time in UofM history, expanded the availability of scholarship opportunities for students, made major advances in research infrastructure and related productivity, and lead the effort to contain the growing costs of higher education. These efforts resulted in the University of Memphis being ranked as a top-tier public university by U.S. News & World Report for the first time in its history. The University of Memphis became the first institution of higher learning nationally to partner with Folds of Honor to support higher education for spouses and children of America’s fallen and disabled service members. In May 2019, he testified before the U.S. House Committee on Education and Finance on several of the UofM initiatives targeting vulnerable students.

He has made a strong commitment to containing higher education costs and lowering student debt, holding tuition flat during his first year, the first such move in more than three decades at the UofM. For the fourth time in seven years, the UofM had no tuition increase. The University of Memphis has led the State of Tennessee in higher education cost-containment over the past seven years, with an average tuition increase of only 1.5%.

Among the steps taken to keep tuition and fees as low as possible and improve graduation rates for students include:

  • Implementation of a guaranteed tuition plan
  • Setting a tuition cap for Tennessee residents
    • for undergraduates who take more than 12 hours, additional credits are free
    • for graduate students who take more than 10 hours, additional credits are free
  • Establishment of uniform tuition rates for online and on-campus courses
  • Simplification of the student fee structure to reduce and then eliminate the online course fee over the next couple of years, and move to a standard per credit hour structure applicable to all courses
  • Adjusting rates for non-resident and international students to enhance our enrollment

In the first year since implementing a tuition cap, UofM students received almost $18M in free credit hours.

Among the core values at the University of Memphis are student success and access, along with diversity and inclusion. More than 50% of first-time freshmen at the University of Memphis are eligible for Pell grants (families with household incomes under $50,000). For Fall 2019, approximately 699 students came from households with an income threshold of $50,000 or less and were eligible for Hope scholarships. These 699 students represent 27 percent of the incoming first-time freshman cohort. Last year, 92% of these students had their tuition and fees fully covered by Pell, Hope and UofM institutional aid. Under President Rudd’s leadership, the University of Memphis is committed to continuing to expand these numbers each year and aims to be covering all tuition/fees for these qualifying students by the Fall 2021.

The University of Memphis' commitment has always been, and continues to be, one of delivering high-quality educational programs to all students at the lowest possible cost. Toward this end, the UofM began implementing the following in Fall 2019 as part of our Access Memphis initiative:

Guaranteed Tuition Plan – All incoming first-time, full-time freshmen will be eligible to enroll in our guaranteed tuition plan, which assures that they will lock in the Fall 2019 tuition rate for eight consecutive regular semesters if they take at least 12 student credit hours per semester.

Tuition Cap – Resident undergraduate students will only pay for 12 credit hours. All credit hours above 12 are free of charge. Resident graduate students will only pay for 10 student credit hours. Graduate credit hours over 10 are free of charge for resident students.

Uniform Tuition Rates – Students, regardless of whether they are taking traditional on-ground/in-person or online classes, will pay the same tuition rate.

In 2020, Shelby County Schools Superintendent Dr. Joris M. Ray and University of Memphis President M. David Rudd have committed to the creation of the George Floyd Memorial Scholarship fund, with the goal of providing college scholarship support to as many African American Male Academy members as possible. 

Not only have the past six years witnessed historically low tuition increases, but it has been coupled with significant growth in summer and fall enrollments of more than 22,000. Given dramatic changes in higher education funding, President Rudd also initiated efforts to improve efficiency across all University divisions, including the development and implementation of a new budget model that allows for greater local control and direction and reinforces entrepreneurial creativity.

In 2017, President Rudd helped the UofM Research Foundation (UMRF) launch a private, innovative company, UMRF Ventures, providing a unique and effective alternative to employ students in high-paying jobs that allow them to focus more time and energy on completing their education. In its first year, UMRF Ventures successfully launched three partnership centers, all fully staffed by students. It employed 300 students with gross revenue approaching $4M in only its second year. UMRF Ventures expanded its current Level 1 student-operated call center as well as the launch of a new Level 2 Call Center for FedEx IT Support at the UofM. One hundred thirty students are working at the Park Avenue Campus, receiving calls from 7 am to 9 pm Monday through Saturday. Now in year three, UMRF Ventures has started seven different ventures with three different companies with over 450 students employed who have worked over 300,000 hours earning more than $5.3M.

Most out-of-state students at the University of Memphis have received a sizable cut in tuition under a simplified four-tier tuition structure. The restructuring sets tuition for Tennessee residents, out-of-state residents, international students and UofM Global online students. Students from outside a 250-mile radius of the UofM will see a considerable decrease in costs.

Efforts to grow community partnerships and engagement have been very successful during President Rudd’s first six years, with creative partnerships with the Memphis Symphony Orchestra, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Shelby County Schools, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare and UT Health Science Center. His first year saw a record $37.9M raised and broke that record in 2018 with more than $41M, only to be broken in 2019 with a total more than $44M. The last two years have seen consecutive records for academic fundraising at $23M and $26M. Over the first six years of his tenure, $207M has been raised.

$1 billion in economic output. $500 million in labor income. Nearly 10,000 jobs. These are just some of the impressive statistics to come from the latest economic impact analysis conducted by Applied Analysis for the University of Memphis in 2020. The primary objective of the analysis was to quantify the economic contributions of the UofM to the Mid-South community as well as the State of Tennessee.

More than $500M is being invested on campus and in the University Neighborhood District, with over $140M of private funds. In 2017, the UofM launched a unique partnership with Shelby County Schools, the River City Partnership, targeting teacher recruitment and retention. Sedgwick Claims Management Services Inc. and International Paper each made $1M commitments to support the River City Partnership while the Crews Family Foundation invested $500,000.

President Rudd launched a national visibility campaign in his first year in partnership with FedEx Corp., an effort that is already garnering attention. More UofM academic programs are currently ranked than at any time during the University’s 108-year history. President Rudd has been a strong advocate for growing the University’s research and innovation mission. During his first year, the UofM was successful in landing a National Institute of Health Center of Excellence in mobile health technology, with 10 nationally ranked university partners. The Center’s first seven years have been a great success, with the University receiving its largest grant in history at $15M in year three and recently becoming a national biomedical technology resource center for mobile health with $5.9M in follow-up funding by the NIH. President Rudd is spearheading efforts to create an Emerging Research University Fund in Tennessee, targeting research expansion in universities across the state.

His leadership has also seen the University taking on an aggressive plan to becoming a top-tier Carnegie R1 research institution by 2021. This has led to great progress being made in relation to the creation of a strong post-doc research culture on campus, strengthening doctoral program enrollments (especially in the STEM areas) and boosting research partnerships with the Department of Defense and private industry. He also successfully led the University’s launch of its inaugural research park for emerging technology companies on campus in 2018. Research expenditures at the University have increased by a third to $66M recently, and its patent portfolio has more than doubled during his tenure. His leadership saw the American Association for State Colleges & Universities (AASCU) awarding the University its 2018 Excellence and Innovation Award for Regional & Economic Development, and it is also now one of two national finalists for the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU) Innovation Award for 2020.     

FedEx Express and the University of Memphis established the Learning Inspired by FedEx LiFE program, a new initiative that allows employees of both the FedEx World Hub the opportunity to earn a tuition-free, fully-online degree from UofM Global. LiFE: Learning inspired by FedEx is a unique initiative that provides FedEx Hub employees in Memphis, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Oakland and Newark as well as FedEx Logistics Inc. employees the opportunity to earn a bachelor’s degree through the University of Memphis online program, UofM Global, at potentially no cost to the employees. A partnership with Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare has also been established, along with Methodist Healthcare and the City of Memphis.

The Focus on College and University Success (FOCUS) Act, passed in 2016, allowed for an independent governing board to be established at the UofM, which increases autonomy and local control of the University's strategic direction. The UofM Board of Trustees assumed responsibility for the University with approval from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) during the inaugural meeting held in March 2017.

Under President Rudd's leadership, the UofM footprint has continued to expand. The $21 million state-of-the-art Laurie-Walton Family Basketball Center opened on the Park Avenue Campus along with the $11.2 million indoor football practice facility. The $18.5M Alumni Mall Amphitheater and Hunter Harrison Memorial Bridge, which includes an iconic cable-stayed pedestrian bridge that soars over the Southern Avenue railroad tracks and adjacent to an $18.5M five-story, 1,140-space parking garage, has been constructed.

Work has begun on the Rudi E. Scheidt School of Music $40-million, 40,000-square-foot music center while the $30 million R. Brad Martin Student Wellness Center and Plaza project will be completed in early 2021. The 74,000-square-foot Center will be combined with the current Student Recreation and Fitness Center and Larry O. Finch Recreation Facility to give the University nearly 200,000 square feet of indoor recreation facilities. The Mike Rose Natatorium is slated to begin construction during the 2020-2021 academic year and will be one of only a few competitive swimming facilities in the southeast.  The University of Memphis has partnered with the City of Memphis in building the new Leftwich Tennis Center, with construction to begin in the fall of 2020. 

Approval has also been granted to construct a $41-million, 65,000-square foot STEM building to be a part of the Herff College of Engineering.

The University of Memphis is once again named the safest large campus in the State of Tennessee, according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation’s 2019 Crime on Campus Report. This marks the sixth time in eight years the UofM has been ranked the safest of the state’s 10 universities with a student population of more than 5,000.

The University of Memphis became the first institution in the U.S. to enter into a Research Collaboration Agreement with the Czech Academy of Sciences. Comprised of 54 research institutions, the CAS is responsible for leading research in the Czech Republic across a range of natural, technical, social sciences and humanities topics.

Research and Service

President Rudd’s undergraduate degree is from Princeton University. He completed his doctoral training at the University of Texas at Austin and completed a post-doctoral fellowship in cognitive therapy at the Beck Institute in Philadelphia under the direction of Aaron T. Beck. He is a Diplomate of the American Board of Professional Psychology and a Fellow of three professional societies. In addition to his clinical work, President Rudd is an active researcher with more than 200 publications and more than 10,000 citations.

President Rudd has garnered more than $19M in grant funding as a principal or co-principal investigator and served on the Institute of Medicine/National Academies of Science Committee on Assessment of Resiliency and Prevention Programs for Mental and Behavioral Health in Service Members and Their Families. Last year, he chaired a workshop on suicide and serious mental illness for the National Academies.

President Rudd serves on several editorial boards, is past Chair of the Texas State Board of Examiners of Psychologists, past President of the Texas Psychological Association, past President of Division 12 Section VII of the American Psychological Association, past Past-President of the American Association of Suicidology, a previous members of the APA Council of Representatives and currently serves on the board of the PDV Foundation. President Rudd has testified eight times before the U.S. Congress, both House and Senate, on issues related to veterans and suicide.


Dr. Loretta Rudd is a clinical associate professor in child development at the UofM. Dr. Rudd earned her PhD in educational psychology from Baylor University. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in communication disorders/deaf education from The University of Texas at Austin. She also received a Master of Education in educational administration from Tarleton State University.

Previously, Dr. Rudd was an assistant professor at the University of Utah. For 12 years, she taught in public education in Texas and California.

Dr. Rudd teaches several classes at the UofM and serves on several boards, such as the Urban Child Institute, Girl Scouts of the Mid-South and Libertas School of Memphis. She is chair of the UofM Women in Leadership and Philanthropy and a member of the Shelby County Early Childhood Education Consortium Committee (birth-third grade).

They have two children — Nicholas, who graduated from Vanderbilt University, completed his MPP at the LBJ School for Public Affairs at the University of Texas-Austin and is in law school at the University of Texas. Emma graduated from NYU with honors and is starting graduate school at the University of Chicago in the fall of 2020.