At the request of Dr. Robert Aden, Dean of the Graduate School at Middle Tennessee State University, graduate officers of several public and private universities convened in Murfreesboro in 1973 to discuss common problems and interests. The group met again in 1975 and in 1976, with the decision made at the latter meeting to organize officially as the Tennessee Conference of Graduate Schools.
On April 22, 1977, representatives from eight institutions met at East Tennessee State University to transact business as the Tennessee Conference of Graduate Schools. Present at the inaugural meeting were:
- Dr. Calvin Baird (Memphis Theological Seminary)
- Dr. W. E. Knickerbocker (Memphis Theological Seminary)
- Ms. Diana Lopez (University of Tennessee, Knoxville)
- Dr. Elizabeth McMahan (East Tennessee State University)
- Dr. Martin Peters (Tennessee Technological University)
- Dr. James Reeves (Tennessee State University)
- Dr. Ronald Satz (University of Tennessee at Martin)
- Dr. Hilton Smith (University of Tennessee, Knoxville)
- Dr. Wayne Stamper (Austin Peay State University)
- Dr. Alicia Tilley (Memphis State University)
Dean Elizabeth McMahan of East Tennessee State University was elected President for the 1977-78 term. The newly-formed TCGS had authorized the writing of a set of bylaws, which was accomplished primarily by Secretary-Treasurer Ronald Satz of UT Martin and were approved at the April 1977 meeting.
Among its accomplishments and activities, TCGS formally affiliated with the Conference of Southern Graduate Schools (CSGS) and the Council of Graduate Schools in the U.S. (CGS) during the period 1979-81. Dr. James H. Reeves (TSU) served as president of CSGS in 1978-79; Dr. C. W. Minkel (UT Knoxville) served in that position in 1988-89. Dr. Margaret N. Perry (UT Knoxville), Dr. Elizabeth McMahan (ETSU), and Dr. C. W. Minkel (UT Knoxville) have served on the CGS Executive Committee, and several TCGS representatives have served on the CSGS Executive Committee as well as on numerous CGS and CSGS committees and task forces. At the 1991 CSGS meeting, Dr. C. W. Minkel was presented the award for Outstanding Contributions to Graduate Education. The CSGS held its annual meeting in Memphis in 1980 and in Knoxville in 1986.
The first TCGS publication, Measures of Quality in Graduate Education, was released in 1981 with Dr. Mary Richards (UT Knoxville) serving as general editor; twelve additional publications followed. TCGS established a working relationship with the Tennessee Higher Education Commission in 1984, and subsequently the TCGS publication Components of Quality in Master's Degree Programs was authorized by THEC as the guide for the evaluation of Master's programs in state-supported schools. In 1992, TCGS published the first in a series of special publications, the TCGS Guide to the Preparation of Theses and Dissertations. These publications guided graduate programs in the state for several years.
Dr. Charles Hyder, Associate Provost and Dean for Graduate Studies at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, served continuously as secretary-treasurer of the Tennessee Conference of Graduate Schools from 1979 until 1986. The position has since been held by other representatives from various institutions.
A joint meeting of the Tennessee Conference of Graduate Schools and the Alabama Council of Graduate Deans was held as part of the Spring 1991 meeting of TCGS on the campus of The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Subsequent joint meetings were held at Austin Peay State University in Spring 1992 with graduate deans from institutions in Kentucky and at East Tennessee State University in Spring 1993 with a graduate dean from North Carolina.
At the request of TCGS members, Dr. Roy Joseph, UTSI, created the first Web site for the Conference in summer 1996. Dr. Don Curry was the impetus for site reconstruction in 2002. The site was redesigned by Dr. Maria A. Smith, MTSU. The complete TCGS Directory, including information on Graduate and Professional Degree Programs at public and private institutions in Tennessee, was placed on the Website.
The Spring 1997 TCGS meeting marked the twentieth anniversary of the Conference. In recognition of the special occasion, former members were invited to the meeting hosted by The University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
The following persons have served as TCGS presidents:
- 1977 - 78 Dr. Elizabeth McMahan (ETSU)
- 1978 - 79 Dr. James H. Reeves (TSU)
- 1979 - 80 Dr. Alicia Tilley (MSU)
- 1980 - 81 Dr. Martin Peters (TTU)
- 1981 - 82 Dr. Ronald Satz (UT Martin)
- 1982 - 83 Dr. Don Welch (Scarritt College)
- 1983 - 84 Dr. C. W. Minkel (UT Knoxville)
- 1984 - 85 Dr. Dorothy Arata (MSU)
- 1985 - 86 Dr. Mary Martin (MTSU)
- 1986 - 87 Dr. Richard Crofts (ETSU)
- 1987 - 88 Dr. William Ellis (APSU)
- 1988 - 89 Dr. Ira Weinstein (UT Memphis)
- 1989 - 90 Dr. Richard Roberds (UTSI)
- 1990 - 91 Dr. Linda Painter (UT Knoxville)
- 1991 - 92 Dr. Marvin Ernst (UT Chattanooga)
- 1992 - 93 Dr. Rebecca Quattlebaum (TTU)
- 1993 - 94 Dr. K. Paul Jones (UT Martin)
- 1994 - 95 Dr. K. C. Reddy (UTSI)
- 1995 - 96 Dr. Gary E. Weedman (Milligan College)
- 1996 - 97 Dr. Daniel J. Poje (University of Memphis)
- 1997 - 98 Dr. McCurdy Lipsey (TSU)
- 1998 - 99 Dr. Peggy Hypes (Carson-Newman College)
- 1999 - 00 Dr. James L. Murphy (Freed-Hardeman University)
- 2000 - 01 Dr. Deborah Arfken (UT Chattanooga)
- 2001 - 02 Dr. Don Curry (Middle Tennessee State University)
- 2002 - 03
- 2003 - 04 Dr. Wesley Brown (East Tennessee State University)
- 2004 - 05 Dr. Francis Otuonye (Tennessee Technological University)
- 2005 - 06 Dr. Denise Wood (Tusculum College)
- 2006 - 07 Dr. Karen Weddle-West (The University of Memphis)
- 2007 - 08 Dr. Cecelia McIntosh (East Tennessee State University)
- 2008 - 09 Dr. Stephanie Bellar (UT Chattanooga)
- 2009 - 10 Dr. Michael D. Allen (Middle Tennessee State University)
- 2010 - 11 Dr. Carolyn Hodges (University of Tennessee)
- 2011 - 12 Dr. Gary Riggins (Lee University)
- 2012 - 13 Dr. Francis Otounye (Tennessee Technological University)