The Haslam family has donated $40 million to the University of Tennessee to hire new faculty, underwrite faculty research and create a pipeline of opportunity for business students from high school through graduate school.
The donation to the Haslam College of Business on the flagship Knoxville campus will also support diversity initiatives and create opportunities for matching donations to double other gifts to the school.
“This isn’t a gift, it’s an investment,” Jim Haslam told Knox News in an exclusive interview Monday. “If you look at things from an investment standpoint, you invest money where you get the greatest return.
“We think that with the potential we have in the university as a whole and the business school, this is an investment that will give great returns for our students, our faculty, our community and our state.”
The donation was made by Natalie and Jim Haslam, Dee and Jimmy Haslam, and former Tennessee first lady Crissy Haslam and former Gov. Bill Haslam.
Steve Mangrum, dean of the Haslam College of Business, said the donation will allow the school to recruit high-quality faculty and expand important programming for students, and raises the profile of the school.
“It is a very competitive labor market in which we are vying with the very best schools in the country,” Mangrum said. “If you look at what we require, ask of our faculty, it is not an easy thing to find.”
Adding faculty members means UT will be able to make sections of honors courses smaller, giving students more interaction with faculty, Mangrum said.
The donation also allows the business school to expand the Business Education for Talented Students program at UT. The program, called BETS for short, is a 12-day residential experience for rising high school students who are minorities, first-generation students, or students on free or reduced lunch. It introduces those students to various fields of business and encourages them to pursue a business education.
“That’s just going to open the doors to a whole generation of students,” Mangrum said.
The Haslam family made a landmark gift in 2014 that made the business school, founded in 1914, the first named college at the university. The gift announced today brings the Haslams’ total donations to the university to over $100 million.
Chancellor Donde Plowman, who also is a faculty member in the Haslam College of Business, said the donation will improve the business school, which in turn, improves the whole university.
“The higher the quality of students that the business school attracts, they are a substantial portion of the student body as a whole,” Plowman said. “Students in the college of business take half their credit hours in other colleges. A rising tide lifts all boats, so the quality of students in all those general (education) courses rises. … As the business school achieves recognition, the whole campus does.”
The Haslam College of Business enrolls approximately 6,000 students throughout its seven departments. The business school emphasizes applied research, and has created tight connections with the for-profit, nonprofit and public sectors.
Plowman said the Haslams’ support for the university creates a lifelong model for students to emulate.
“We are not only training the next set of business and community leaders, educational leaders, in the business school, but we are also training the next set of givers,” Plowman said. “We want to turn out of this university generous students.”
Jim Haslam, a first-generation college graduate and former captain of the Vols football team, said he hopes this donation enables more students to pursue their goals.
“I’m excited about the opportunity we can give these young men and women to come to a great university and a great business school and prepare them for the future so they can be leaders in business or whatever field they go into,” Jim Haslam said. “They can be involved in the community and they can give back.”
The Haslams have deep connections to the university and education beyond their ties to the College of Business.
- Natalie Haslam is a longtime supporter of UT’s School of Music, and the Natalie L. Haslam Music Center bears her name. Jim Haslam, the founder of Pilot Company, is a former vice chair of the UT Board of Trustees and distinguished alumnus.
- Dee Haslam, CEO of Haslam Sports, and Jimmy Haslam, CEO of Pilot Company, own the Cleveland Browns. They support education reform targeted to underserved communities, including programs promoting attendance, school choice and youth sports.
- Crissy and Bill Haslam, who is former Knoxville mayor and Tennessee governor, are active supporters of education and literacy, including establishing this year the Tennessee Tutoring Corps that connected college students with schoolchildren to mitigate the loss of learning opportunities during the COVID-19 pandemic.