13th Annual Gala Alumni Awards
THE 13TH ANNUAL Alumni Awards Gala brought together students, staff, faculty, and alumni at the Knoxville Convention Center on Friday, November 11th. The evening recognized three alumni and one company for outstanding contributions to the college and to business in the state.
THE EVENT, benefitting the College Fund for the Haslam College of Business, honored Dave Clark (Distinguished Alum), Danielle Casson (Outstanding Young Alum), JTV (Outstanding Corporate Partner), and Don Bruce (Outstanding Entrepreneur).
Danielle Casson – Outstanding Young Alum
Knoxville native Danielle Casson (HCB ’07) has lived and worked in three states since graduating with high honors from the Haslam College of Business, but she’s managed to maintain close connections with her alma mater. “I’ve enjoyed giving back each year, hosting and attending alumni events, and keeping up with changes at the college,” Casson says. “It’s amazing to return to campus and see the growth.”
After earning a BSBA in finance, Casson moved to Charlotte, N.C., to work at a law firm. From there, she moved to the Washington, D.C., area to work for Lockheed Martin in a finance leadership development program. She then earned an MBA with distinction from the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School, spending her summer internship at Barclays Investment Bank in New York and then joining the bank full-time after graduation as an associate in the financial sponsors group.
In 2014, Casson and her husband decided to move back to Charlotte, where she joined Jefferies, a global investment banking firm. Today, she is a managing director in the firm’s consumer and retail group and is the proud mother of two young children.
Recently, Casson spent two years serving the Haslam Young Alumni Board, which is comprised of alumni who are 40 years old or younger and exists to support alumni programming and establish a shared sense of community among graduates. “That was a wonderful way to reconnect,” Casson says. “I loved being able to meet other alumni on the board, hear what was going on, and see how our monetary donations are impacting students and providing opportunities for internships and studying abroad.”
Jewelry Television (JTV) – Outstanding Corporate Partner
Co-founded in 1993 by University of Tennessee, Knoxville, graduates Jerry Sisk and Bob Kouns and Haslam graduate Bob Hall (HCB ’75, MBA Accounting ’79), Jewelry Television (JTV) has grown from a small television broadcast to a live channel that broadcasts 24 hours a day through cable, satellite, streaming services, mobile apps, and social media platforms.
Based in Knoxville, JTV has a long history of investing in the community. The company has supported a variety of local and national nonprofit organizations and has also maintained strong ties to the Haslam College of Business, particularly to the Department of Business Analytics and Statistics. For the past two decades, the company has consulted with experts at Haslam, seeking applied analytics strategies that helped to streamline processes and offering opportunities for students to gain hands-on experience. As the relationship deepened, JTV realized they could help Haslam students by providing a capstone experience. JTV’s vice chairman, Charlie Wagner (HCB ’66), says, “We’re a data-driven company and analytics is fundamental to how we operate. Capstone experiences allow students to work with a real business, solving real-life problems.”
To that end, the JTV Center for Applied Business Analytics was created at Haslam in 2021 through a transformative gift. The center will focus on collaboration between businesses with issues requiring data analytics and teams of undergraduates in the Department of Business Analytics to enhance skill development in real-life situations. JTV’s gift will provide the center with funding for scholarships and fellowships, student travel to conferences and competitions, technological equipment, and administrative and faculty support.
“We think this new center will be very significant for the future of business, and we wanted to be part of something bigger than ourselves, or even our company,” Wagner says. “JTV’s founders are all UT graduates, and we felt this was an opportunity to endow some-thing important that will last long into the future.”
Don Bruce – Outstanding Entrepreneur
Don Bruce (HCB, ’73) is recognized as a local and national leader in the home improvement industry. Bruce is the founder and CEO of American Home Design, a Nashville-based home improvement company he started in 1977. Built on a commitment to excellent customer service, American Home Design has completed renovations on more than 75,000 homes in Middle and East Tennessee over the years and has been listed in the top 50 home improvement companies nationally by Remodeling Magazine and Qualified Remodeler.
Bruce’s entrepreneurship reaches in other directions, including real estate development and aviation. After getting his pilot’s license in the 1980s, he has enjoyed using the skill for business ventures and to serve others. Bruce has flown dozens of missions for Lifeline Pilots and Angel Flight, two volunteer organizations that allow owners of private aircraft to fly seriously ill patients to treatment facilities around the country. He’s also helped transport coaches and team members from the UT Athletics program to recruiting events.
While a student at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Bruce was a catcher on the baseball team. His love for UT sports continues, and he regularly supports the athletics program along with the Haslam College of Business. “A lot of the things I learned as a student helped me move forward in my career,” says Bruce. “I had great support from my professors and fellow students.”
Bruce’s dedication to giving back has led him to speak to classes at Haslam, serve on the board of many nonprofit organizations, and volunteer as a teacher in the Sumner County judicial system’s recovery court program for men who have been incarcerated. His dedication to serving others in varied ways links back to his passion for entrepreneurship. “I always say if you love what you do and are passionate about it, you will never work another day—because it won’t feel like work.”
Dave Clark – Distinguished Alum
Dave Clark (HCB, ’99) started his career at Amazon in 1999, just three days after graduating with an MBA from the Haslam College of Business. He quickly rose through the ranks at the then-fledgling company, managing their operations launch in Japan and then overseeing the creation of several fulfillment centers in the US.
Eventually, Clark became Amazon’s senior VP of worldwide operations, building out their logistics systems and bringing robotics into fulfillment center operations. He also worked to create and expand Amazon’s delivery network, now one of the largest package delivery companies in the world. In 2021, Clark became Amazon’s CEO of consumer business.
After more than two decades at the company, Clark left Amazon in 2022 to take a CEO position at Flexport, a San Francisco-based supply chain technology company focused on freight forwarding and customs brokerage.
Much of the work Clark did in his early days at Amazon mirrored the projects he had tackled as an MBA student at Haslam. “I had some phenomenal professors such as Mary Holcomb and Missie Bowers who did a lot of work around transportation optimization,” says Clark. “They had us working on real-world problems with real companies, and that experience trained me to see what’s important when you’re running a business.”
Over the years, Clark has returned to Knoxville several times to teach classroom sessions and speak at the Global Supply Chain Institute’s forum. He’s also hired many Haslam graduates. “The college’s early relationship with Amazon is what connected me with the company, so I’ve tried to repay that by making sure we’re recruiting some of the incredible students coming out of Haslam’s programs.”