Edward Joseph Boling was born to Samuel Riley Boling and Nerissa Clark Boling on February 19, 1922, in Sevier County. By 1930, his family moved to Knoxville, and as a high schooler, he worked as an usher at a local theater. After high school, he worked as a night shift accountant for ALCOA (Aluminum Corporation of America). Edward enrolled at the University of Tennessee (UT) in 1942, before being called up to active duty in the United States Army on April 3, 1943. He was initially stationed at the University of Alabama, where he trained for an engineer commission and sneakily led the USO (United Service Organizations) center in a rendition of “The Spirit of the Hill,” one of Tennessee’s football fight songs. Boling served as a clerk in the Headquarters Detachment, Oise Intermediate Section, attaining the rank of sergeant.
Following World War II, Sergeant Boling returned to UT and graduated with a degree in accounting and a master’s degree in statistics (he subsequently taught statistics at the school). He married Carolyn Pierce in 1950 and later moved to Nashville to work in state government, first as budget director, then as commissioner of finance and administration. While in Middle Tennessee, he received a doctorate in education at Vanderbilt University.
In 1961, UT President Andy Holt hired Boling as vice president for development and administration; Boling ultimately succeeded him. Boling served as the state’s flagship university president from 1970 until his retirement in 1988. After retirement he remained active in UT events, including basketball games at Thompson-Boling Arena, named partially in his honor. Edward Boling died on June 18, 2015.