“Without the broad, multi-disciplined education I received at the Haslam College of Business, I could not have had such a successful, rewarding career.”
Management & Entrepreneurship - Alumni
William R. “Rick” Turner (’81) was born and raised in Paris, Tennessee, where he played basketball and ran track. Turner always knew UT was the college he wanted to attend, so he worked from grade school through high school and saved as much as possible to make it happen, even selling his beloved restored 1938 Oldsmobile.
When he got to campus, finances and a lack of focus on his studies led Turner to question if college was the correct path. He took an extended break after sophomore year to work in a Holley carburetor plant in his hometown.
After six months of shift work in a manufacturing plant, he realized he enjoyed the manufacturing process of putting raw materials in and getting finished products out. The efficient flow of labor, materials and equipment fascinated him, and he knew he needed a degree to achieve the career he wanted.
He returned to UT, transferred to the College of Business and made the dean’s list for the remainder of his UT career.
During his senior year, the career services center helped Turner find a job with the Missouri Pacific Railroad, and he participated in its management development program. The decision turned out lucrative. Starting as a management trainee, he worked his way up to multiple VP positions in operations and marketing and, 33 years later, retired as VP of labor relations for Union Pacific Railroad reporting to the CEO.
“Without the broad, multi-disciplined education I received at the Haslam College of Business, I could not have had such a successful, rewarding career,” Turner says. “The ability to evaluate complex processes and identify and implement improvements provided me the skills needed to move up in the organization.”
Turner adds that, most importantly, he would not have met his wife, Toni, of 37 years if not for the University of Tennessee. The couple’s two sons and their families are his most important success story, he says.
After decades of railroad service and with four grandchildren under the age of six to spend time with, the Turners decided it was time for him to retire. They moved from Omaha, Nebraska, back to Tennessee in May 2015 to build their dream home on Tellico Lake.
On top of traveling the world, spending time with family, gardening, boating, and attending UT football games, the Turners are now working with the Haslam College of Business to determine the best structure for legacy giving that will allow him to provide current and future Haslam students with the skill sets that the college provided to him.