For the first time in history, the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, has named a college in recognition of an alumnus and donor. On Oct. 3, 2014, the UT Board of Trustees voted to name our college the James A. Haslam II College of Business.
Jim Haslam, founder and chairman of Knoxville-based Pilot Flying J, personifies the successful business entrepreneur with the strongest of philanthropic instincts. Haslam and his wife, Natalie, have generously supported the University of Tennessee, local civic groups, the arts and human services, and their efforts to encourage others to give to the university and nonprofit organizations have reached legendary proportions. In this case, the legend is not an exaggeration.
Drawn to the University of Tennessee by his love of football, Haslam was team captain of the Volunteers in 1952 under the coaching of Gen. Robert Neyland. After graduating from UT, he served as a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army during the Korean conflict. Once he completed active duty, he put his finance degree to good use when he opened his first gas station in Gate City, Virginia, in 1958. He proceeded to build that one station into Pilot Flying J, the largest operator of travel centers and travel plazas in North America and one of the nation’s largest privately held companies.
Over the years, Haslam has served the university in numerous capacities, epitomizing what it means to be a Tennessee Volunteer. He is the former vice chair of the UT Board of Trustees, a founding member of the UT Foundation Board of Directors, co-chair for the statewide Campaign for Tennessee, a member of the board of the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy and a lifetime member of the Haslam College of Business Dean’s Advisory Council. In 2009, Haslam was named a UT Distinguished Alumnus.
He, Natalie and their entire family have set the standard for philanthropic support at the university by giving generously for decades to Athletics, the College of Arts and Sciences, the Haslam College of Business, the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy, the Natalie L. Haslam Music Center and the Haslam Scholars program. Their support is seen and felt all over campus and in countless opportunities and experiences for our students.
The naming of the James A. Haslam II College of Business communicates to students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends the principles he embodies that we seek to impart: leadership, integrity, devotion to community and family, a commitment to success and a desire to make a positive difference.
He and Natalie have six children and 18 grandchildren.
“It is both a great honor and a great responsibility to have this gift made in our name,” he says. “We must try to live up to it.”
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