University of Tennessee

Libby Magill

Magill, who is retiring from Haslam after a successful 40-year career in event operations, will return during Graduate and Executive Education's busiest seasons to lend a hand.

- Staff

Libby Magill’s love of operations began during the 1982 World’s Fair. While working at Carson-Newman College (now Carson-Newman University), she was responsible for 10,000 guests during a two-and-a-half-month period, managing everything from the front desk to laundry and luggage handling.

“I absolutely fell in love with making sure everything happened as it was supposed to,” Magill says.

She translated this passion into a successful 40-year career in event operations. After Carson-Newman, she worked with several universities, including Vanderbilt University and University of Massachusetts Amherst, and with a resort in Georgia before returning to East Tennessee and joining the University of Tennessee and the Haslam College of Business. As manager of operations and event services for Graduate and Executive Education (GEE), Magill coordinates the event details for all degree and nondegree programs.

With a small but industrious team of five staff members, Magill takes care of the comfort and needs of students with a precision that matches the programs’ top national and international rankings. In her 10 years with Haslam, she has worked to hone the event operations of GEE, creating a smooth experience for students and faculty.

“My goal is for everything to be ready so that students can just walk in and sit down, and the faculty can come in and everything is in its place ready to go,” Magill says.

During a typical event day, of which there are 341 in a year, Magill puts in long hours to ensure that GEE programs progress smoothly. Each day is different, and the details of that day begin weeks prior, as Magill and her team begin planning transportation, lodging, dining, classroom requirements, technology and other issues tailored to a program’s specific needs.

“The day of, we respond to needs as they arise, but the goal is for everything to be ready for the group,” Magill says. “Hiccups will come, but if you are prepared, then a hiccup is just a hiccup.”

Days often begin before breakfast and end after the evening meal, once the details for the following day have been double checked.

“We’re proud of what we call the ‘high touch’ for our students,” Magill says. “We are known for our faculty and education, and we want all parts of the experience to reach that high level of expectation. You put all of that together, and you have an extremely dynamic, ‘wow,’ that people will carry home, share and remember.”

With six graduate business degree programs, six executive education degree programs and multiple nondegree programs, Magill often manages several events simultaneously, creating some busy footwork. Magill amasses 12,000-15,0000 footsteps on a typical event day.

“An 8,000-step day is a slow day,” Magill says. “Sometimes there will be three breakfasts on three different floors with three different caterers. If it goes flawlessly, no one will notice the amount of running we do to make it work.”

Magill does all this work with an incredible work ethic, grateful heart, determined attitude and a dose of good humor. Beginning with her first team at Carson-Newman, she introduced her “five Ls”—listen, learn, lead, love and laugh – principles her current team still follows.

“If you listen, there’s a lot you can find out, and you’ll be able to learn, growing as you are doing, which will then help you become a positive, professional leader,” Magill says. “Sometimes you have to love the unlovable because when someone has a bad day, that’s when they need love the most. And some days you just have to laugh and throw your hands up and say, ‘What else?’”

Magill says that working with her team is one of the most gratifying parts of her job.

“I hope I empower them and train them, and they can take that and can be successful,” she says. “I always tell them that while we weren’t in the classroom, we were definitely part of the success of the program and to be proud.”

Magill will fulfill a personal goal this year when she retires from UT.

“The dream has always been to work here and retire from UT,” she says. “I’m very blessed to have been here and be part of the astounding work Haslam does.”

Students will still have a chance to see Magill during GEE’s busiest seasons when she plans to return and lend a hand.

“I still have the energy and the passion,” Magill says. “If you can have passion for your work, you will find a reward in what you do.”