KNOXVILLE—The College of Business Administration at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, has honored three alumni and one organization for their extraordinary commitment to the college, their professions, and their community.
The awards were given Friday, October 28, at the college’s third annual alumni gala at the James A. Haslam II Business Building.
James A. Haslam III (“Jimmy”), president and CEO of Pilot Flying J, was honored as the Distinguished Alumnus of the Year. He is the twenty-second person recognized with this award, which was given for the first time in 1982.
Bob Baron, founder, president and CEO of Baron Services Inc., received the Entrepreneur of the Year award. Ali Safavi, executive director of international business for the Walt Disney Company, was honored as the Outstanding Young Alumnus. BB&T was named the Outstanding Corporate Partner.
Distinguished Alumnus: James A. Haslam III
Ardent UT supporters, Haslam and his wife, Susan “Dee” Bagwell Haslam, also an alumnus, have given $10 million to fund several endowed professorships and to create the Haslam Scholars Program.
Haslam credited the leadership opportunities he enjoyed at UT for opening his eyes to vast-ranging possibilities and introducing him to people who would shape his career and become friends for life.
“My family and I have the highest respect for the University of Tennessee, and the College of Business Administration is particularly dear to our hearts,” he said. “We have received so much from UT—we feel an obligation to stay involved and do what we can to make it even better than it was when we were here.”
Entrepreneur of the Year: Bob Baron
Baron is a 1968 graduate of the College of Business. He spent twenty-two years in the radio and television industries before launching Baron Services Inc. Today, the Huntsville, Alabama-based company is a worldwide leader in weather systems. The company holds more than thirty patents for innovations in storm tracking, radar, and weather-alerting technology.
An avid supporter of the College of Business, Baron regularly speaks to classes and financially supports the MBA Entrepreneur Fellows program.
“I’m very appreciative of the benefits I’ve received from the college and enjoy supporting a program that recognizes the critical importance of the growth and development of entrepreneurial businesses,” Baron said.
Outstanding Corporate Partner: BB&T
BB&T, headquartered in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, currently is the eleventh largest financial holding company in the nation, with more than 30,000 employees operating approximately 1,800 financial centers in twelve states and Washington, DC.
“One of our core missions at BB&T is to make the communities in which we work better places to be, and our partnership with UT’s College of Business Administration helps us fulfill that mission,” said BB&T East Tennessee regional president Martha S. Wallen, a 1974 UT graduate.
BB&T officers are active on campus, serving as adjunct professors, speakers, competition judges, panelists, mentors, and advisers. The company also funds an ethics faculty position at UT and an ethics lecture series that was launched in 2010 with an address by former BB&T chairman and CEO John Allison.
Outstanding Young Alumnus: Ali Safavi
Safavi earned his JD/MBA at UT in 2002. He joined Procter & Gamble and served in brand management for three years before taking a position in international management with the Walt Disney Company. He is now the company’s executive director of international business.
Safavi comes to Knoxville several times a year to speak to UT business students and to serve on the MBA Advisory Board. He is also a contributor to an MBA scholarship endowment.
“I have made a commitment to spend my entire professional career giving back to the university that invested in me and played such a key role in helping me get to where I am today,” he said.
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