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KNOXVILLE — Community leaders Jim and Natalie Haslam and the Haslam Family Foundation have given the University of Tennessee $32.5 million, the largest gift ever to the university from individuals.

UT President John Petersen and Chancellor Loren Crabtree made the announcement Thursday.

The Haslams, both 1952 UT graduates, are widely known for their civic and philanthropic work. Jim Haslam is chairman of the board of Pilot Travel Centers LLC and chairman of the board and president of Pilot Corp., both headquartered in Knoxville. A member of the UT Board of Trustees since 1980, he has announced plans to step down when his term expires next year.

The gift will support the College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Business Administration, the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy, the Athletic Department and the Haslam Endowment.

“If Tennessee is going to be a leader in the knowledge economy of the 21st century, it must have a great flagship university,” Jim Haslam said. “We cannot go from good to great without increasing fundraising, and my hope would be that this gift would put the spotlight on philanthropy and the University of Tennessee’s tremendous potential to become a great university.”

The Haslams also hope their gift will set an example for other donors.

“We hope our gift will encourage others to participate in the campaign for Tennessee, the major fundraising campaign UT is planning,” Haslam said.

“The University of Tennessee could not have better friends than Jim and Natalie,” Petersen said. “They are interested, involved and generous with both their time and resources. Their reputation as philanthropists spreads far beyond UT.”

The Haslams designated approximately 70 percent of the gift to academics and 30 percent to athletics. The largest single allotment of $10 million will go to the School of Music in the College of Arts and Sciences. Natalie Haslam is an arts and sciences graduate who majored in French.

Jim Haslam is a business graduate, and the business college will receive $7.5 million. The couple also designated $2.5 million to help build the new Baker Center, named for former U.S. Sen. Howard Baker Jr., who is a personal friend of the Haslams. Five million dollars will support the renovation of Neyland Stadium, $2.5 million goes toward a basketball practice facility and $2.5 million supports other programs of the athletic department. Another $2.5 million goes to the Haslam Endowment, a new fund that will provide for strategic institutional priorities.

Jim Haslam was a tackle on UT’s 1951 national championship football team and team captain in 1952.

He said his education in the College of Business Administration plus his experience as a football player under Coach Robert Neyland did much to prepare him as an entrepreneur.

“You learn, you earn, and you give,” he said. “Entrepreneurs learn to take risks, and the risks they take produce profits. They then have an obligation to give back.

“We hope this gift will encourage other entrepreneurs to meet their obligation to give back as well.”

Haslam started Pilot Corp. in 1958 with one gas station in Gate City, Va. Today Pilot Travel Centers LLC owns and operates 265 travel centers in 40 states. Pilot Corp. owns and operates 40 convenience stores in Tennessee. Pilot was recently cited as the No. 1 privately held business in Tennessee and No. 68 in the Forbes list of the top 500 privately held companies in America.

“You give to things that lead to your success,” Jim Haslam said. “What I learned both in Ayres Hall and Neyland Stadium helped me succeed.”

Natalie Haslam said a gift to UT is an investment in tomorrow.

“Education is the hope of the world,” she said. “Our children are our resources. We feel very blessed to be able to make this gift.”

Crabtree said the Haslams’ gift gives UT resources to propel its programs in the arts and in business administration to greatness.

“Thanks to the Haslams, these programs will have the resources to compete with the very best in the nation. Since state support isn’t increasing, the university is extremely fortunate to have such generous friends.”

Dean Bruce Bursten of the College of Arts and Sciences said the Haslams’ gift to the School of Music would be “transformational.”

“A gift of this magnitude is critical to our efforts to enhance the national standing of our music program. We are grateful beyond words to Natalie and Jim Haslam.”

Jan Williams, dean of the College of Business Administration, said the gift from the Haslams is the largest ever to his college. “It will allow us to create a dynamic, state-of-the-art learning environment in our new building and to offer enrichment activities that will prepare students to take on leadership roles in the 21st century.”

“Jim and Natalie Haslam are models of what ideal alumni should be. Jim’s long-term involvement with the College of Business Administration and the Haslam family’s generosity to both our college and to the entire university set examples for others to follow.”

Athletic Director Mike Hamilton expressed his department’s gratitude and respect for the Haslams’ lifetime of support.

“Jim came to UT as a student-athlete, but the impact he and Natalie have had on the university goes far beyond athletics. They have been incredibly generous in sharing their time and resources with the entire university community.”

Jim Haslam is chairman of the executive committee of the UT Athletics Board and serves on the boards of University Health System, the Trust Company, Pilot Corp. and Pilot Travel Centers LLC.

Natalie Haslam serves on the boards of the Knoxville Symphony Society, the East Tennessee Foundation, East Tennessee President’s Trust, East Tennessee Historical Society and Friends of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. She served on the UT College of Arts and Sciences Board of Advisors.

The Haslams have been generous UT supporters for years, having made previous gifts to the athletic department, the College of Business Administration, minority scholarships and the Don Williams horticulture professorship.

Photos and video clips of the Haslams are available at