CHARLEY DUGGAN’S GENEALOGICAL ROOTS run deep at University of Tennessee, Knoxville. His great-grandfather, Charles Albert Perkins, was a university administrator in the early 20th century and became the namesake of Perkins Hall at the Tickle College of Engineering in 1949. Duggan grew up hearing stories of his father sneaking into football games at Neyland Stadium in the 1930s, hidden under Perkins’s topcoat.
Surrounded by numerous family members who were alumni, Duggan (HCB, ’81) grew up immersed in the university and says it was a natural decision to enter the Haslam College of Business after graduating from South Doyle High School in Knoxville. “Business has always been my passion,” he says. “I love the challenge of going out and trying to make a living.”
As an undergraduate student, Duggan pursued a degree in real estate and urban development, working on the side as a janitor and spending his free time building community with his fraternity brothers at Kappa Sigma. “Even then, he was thinking more about the future than many of us,” says Duggan’s friend Mark Carver, a longtime friend and colleague. “He was intent on finding a career path, and had a mature, big-picture viewpoint that stood out to me.”
Duggan started his career with a year at the State of Tennessee’s highway department, appraising right of ways for highways and bridges in east Tennessee. Then he moved to Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, to work with a real estate firm. “They needed someone to help out with all sorts of development and real estate aspects of their company,” he says. “I ended up staying for 12 years, working with a sharp group of people and using the valuable lessons I learned at the Haslam College of Business.”
In the mid-1990s, Charley met and married his wife, Sarah, and moved to her hometown of Birmingham. The couple raised two daughters while Charley built a new business from scratch. His company, Duggan Property Services, negotiates tax assessments for commercial property owners. “We work with property tax assessors around the country to correct subjective, flawed assessments,” he says. “It’s a huge piece of an operating statement for a company, because their property taxes can make or break their success.”
After starting from the ground up in 1995, Charley has grown his company to its current size, with clients in 32 states and a $5 billion book of business. “Folks generally liked what we were doing and would tell their associates and friends,” he says. “It grew over time by word of mouth to where it is today.”
Longtime friend and colleague Michael St. Charles says Charley’s diplomatic communications skills have a lot to do with his success. “He really tries to understand everyone’s views, come to his own conclusion, and communicate it in a respectful way,” says St. Charles. “He has a quiet sense of integrity about him.”
Generosity is one of Charley’s values, and among other gifts to the university, he created an endowed scholarship in his parents’ names for Haslam faculty. “The college wants to be in a position to attract the sharpest minds, and I want to help them do that,” he says. “Ultimately, you want other folks to have the same wonderful experience you did. That’s why I try to stay involved. It’s very fulfilling to me.”