FROM BACKUP CATCHER TO FIRST-STRING BUDGETER

Dale Sims uses lessons learned on the WCU baseball field in his career in Tennessee government

By RANDALL HOLCOMBE

At first glance, there might not seem to be much of a connection between filling the role of a backup catcher on a college baseball team and the job of overseeing the finances for the sixth largest higher education system in the nation. But for Dale Sims ’78, there is a tie that extends all the way from the WCU baseball diamond to his current position as vice chancellor for business and finance at the Tennessee Board of Regents.

A native of Charlotte, Sims enrolled at WCU in 1974 after visiting campus and finding out that the university’s location “just seemed to fit,” and with hopes of continuing his baseball career by joining the Catamounts as a walk-on. “I made the team as a freshman during fall tryouts,” Sims said. “I started a few games as a junior and senior, but mainly was an insurance policy in case the first-team catcher got hurt.”



Sims said he particularly enjoyed classes taught by his academic adviser, the late Charles Stevens of WCU’s political science department, and Tyler Blethen, professor emeritus of history, as he worked toward his bachelor’s degree in political science. Other lessons came from outside the classroom. “Our baseball coach, Bill Haywood, taught the value of teamwork and effort, and that everyone plays a part in the success of a team, from the bullpen catcher to the star pitcher,” Sims said. “It’s a matter of getting each player in a position where they can be successful and contribute to team success – a principle I’ve tried to use throughout my career.”

Dale Sims ’78 traded his catcher’s mitt for a finance officer’s pen as he oversees the budget of the sixth-largest higher education system in the nation.

After receiving his diploma from WCU, Sims enrolled in the public administration graduate program at Murray State University in Kentucky. A one-year internship in the office of the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury turned into a fulltime job as a program auditor. Sims worked his way through the ranks in the Tennessee treasury department until members of the Tennessee General Assembly elected him state treasurer in 2003. He remained in that position until 2009, when he was named the top finance officer for the Board of Regents, which oversees a state education system that includes six universities, 13 community colleges and 27 technology centers. The last few years have been challenging, Sims said, as state funding for the system has been cut by 25 percent because of the recession, but there is satisfaction in hearing graduates, many of whom are first-generation college students, speak about the positive effects that receiving a college degree or certificate has had on their lives. “That’s when you know what you’re doing is important,” he said.

Sims has been the recipient of numerous honors during his three decades of public service in Tennessee, including the President’s Award from the National Association of State Auditors. Returning to Cullowhee in October to accept the Professional Achievement Award from the WCU Alumni Association, Sims said he was glad the award from his alma mater provided an opportunity to reconnect with acquaintances from his days as an undergraduate at WCU – particularly with Haywood, whose influence has extended beyond the baseball field. “My career has been based on a solid foundation that this community provided for me,” he said. Alumni President Betty Allen ’68 congratulated Sims for his public service as she presented the honor. “Dale, the work that you do and have done is indeed important and touches more people than we will ever fully realize,” Allen said.