2019 Alumni Gala

The eleventh annual alumni awards gala brought together almost 400 students, staff, faculty, and alumni in the University of Tennessee, Knoxville Student Union, Pilot Flying J Ballroom Friday, November 1st. The evening recognized three alumni and one corporation for outstanding contributions to the college and to business in the state. 

The gala, benefitting the College Fund for the Haslam College of Business, began with a cocktail reception. Larry Carroll was honored as the college’s 2019 Distinguished Alum. Jerry Bostelman received the Entrepreneur of the Year award. FedEx was recognized as Outstanding Corporate Partner, and Dena vonWerssowetz was named Outstanding Young Alum. 

 

OUTSTANDING YOUNG ALUMNI AWARD 

Two threads interweave through Dena vonWerssowetz’s (HCB, ’07, ’09) academic and professional careers: Pursuing her passions and paying it forward for others to do likewise. Growing up in Tennessee, she was a fan of University of Tennessee sports, especially Lady Vols basketball. Although other colleges offered her sports scholarships, she followed her passion to UT. 

“When I was growing up, I always knew I wanted to come here,” she says. 

Meriting the King Rogers Jr. Scholarship helped pay her way at UT. The scholarship was the kind of gesture that vonWerssowetz knew, when it was within her means, she would one day pay forward. 

vonWerssowetz obtained a bachelor’s in finance, but she was keen to do more: “I went back to school knowing that I wanted to do marketing and get closer to the consumer,” she explains. 

As an undergrad, she met John Compton (HCB, ’83), then president of PepsiCo (currently UT Board of Trustees chairman). When vonWerssowetz got her MBA, Compton, familiar with her zest for consumer products, offered her a job. 

“He’s why I came to PepsiCo,” she says. “I pinch myself sometimes, because now I have a career where I love coming to work, and I have the opportunity to work on the best brands in CPG.” 

In her job, vonWerssowetz also pays it forward for others by helping Haslam students prepare for life after college. She enjoys coming back to campus to speak to students, and she looks at UT as a source of talent for PepsiCo. 

“Talented UT students have come into our marketing and sales organization and have been very successful,” she says. 

vonWerssowetz has held many high-profile roles since joining Frito- Lay (a member of PepsiCo’s family of companies), including leading the Doritos “Crash the Super Bowl” campaign and innovation for Lay’s “Do Us A Flavor” and Lay’s Poppables. 

In her current role as senior director of marketing for PepsiCo Foodservice, she leads marketing and innovation for key channels like restaurants, cinemas, theme parks and stadiums. In the summer of 2019, she was instrumental in developing the Cheetos Chicken Sandwich for KFC. 

PepsiCo recently appointed vonWerssowetz to run all innovation for beverages launched outside of the United States. This allows her to fulfill another passion point: doing international business. For her new role, she and her family have relocated to Dublin, Ireland, site of PepsiCo’s new global office.

With her recent successes at work, vonWerssowetz seized the opportunity to pay it forward again: She and her husband, Arthur “Von,” endowed a scholarship in 2019.

“We are fortunate to be able to fund the scholarship,” she says. “But there are other ways you can help the university—with mentorship, with recruiting.”

For Dena vonWerssowetz’s professional achievements and for her many contributions to the college, the Haslam College of Business is honored to name her its Outstanding Young Alum of 2019. 

 

OUTSTANDING CORPORATE PARTNER AWARD 

Frederick W. Smith started what was Federal Express in 1973 with 14 jets and delivery service to 25 cities. Today, FedEx operations span the globe and drive commerce worldwide. Today as FedEx Corporation, it connects more than 99 percent of global GDP and billions of people across six continents— enabling economic growth and social progress for individuals, communities and businesses. 

The demand for FedEx services is growing, and the supply chain of the future will need to grow with it. That is one reason the company partners with the Haslam College of Business and its top-ranked Department of Supply Chain Management. Through endowments like the FedEx Corporation Supply Chain Professorship, FedEx supports Haslam in attracting forward-thinking educators to teach students the capabilities required to excel and succeed in business. Innovators from Haslam and elsewhere will help FedEx fine-tune the next generation of supply chain and logistics to make it accessible, reliable and sustainable. 

Chad Autry, who holds Haslam’s FedEx Professorship, says the company’s innovations enable people worldwide to achieve their objectives faster and more effectively than ever before, transforming the concept of creating value for customers. 

“I am honored to be the FedEx Corporation Endowed Professor of Supply Chain Management,” Autry says. “FedEx has become a key partner of ours because it serves as a shining example to our faculty and students of what supply chain excellence is about.” 

As one of Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For,” FedEx takes pride in being a company built on connecting people and possibilities. That means recruiting and matching top talent to high-quality jobs, which is why it has made developing employment pathways a priority as an employer and as a corporate citizen. The company wants every young person to have access to opportunities that help them gain skills and education, launch meaningful careers and thrive in today’s workforce. Collaborating with the Haslam College of Business is one of many ways FedEx pursues this commitment. Through its work with the college, FedEx has helped Haslam develop a pool of highly qualified candidates in the backyard of its global headquarters in Memphis. 

More than 450,000 FedEx team members worldwide are dedicated to delivering change for the better every day. Many of the company’s projects are identified and driven by employees who are passionate about making the world a better place. 

They do so by volunteering their time, talents and resources to solving local challenges. That passion inspired their most recent global community engagement initiative: FedEx Cares 50 by 50—a commitment to impact 50 million people directly by its 50th anniversary in 2023. 

For their dedication to being a good corporate citizen in the state of Tennessee and beyond; and to bettering its employees’ communities; for its devotion to seeing that young people have world-class educational opportunities; and for its numerous contributions to the University of Tennessee, the Haslam College of Business is proud to recognize FedEx as its Outstanding Corporate Partner of 2019. 

 

OUTSTANDING ENTREPRENEUR AWARD 

Vaco is a unique talent solutions and placement firm, connecting job seekers to dream jobs, headquartered in Nashville. The brainchild of CEO Jerry Bostelman (HCB, ’94) and his partners Brian Waller (HCB, ’96) and Jay Hollomon (HCB, ’90), the company sprang from the trio’s experiences at Arthur Andersen and a rival firm. 

“We wanted to combine the camaraderie that we loved so much at Arthur Andersen,” Bostelman says, “with the pace, intensity and service-orientation of the other to create a consultative, engaged, voice-driven environment” in a niche service for which they all had a passion. 

To put it another way, Vaco’s business is relationships— identifying the perfect match between stellar job seekers and outstanding employers. Finding ideal job fits within the organization for talented misfits is also Vaco’s business. “Outlaws Welcome” is its core business tenet, in which every associate’s inner outlaw should enhance all others’ outlaws. It’s the ultimate expression of a relationship-oriented culture. 

It only makes sense that Bostelman would found a business focused on relationships. Relationships transformed his life. Without the benefit of higher education, but with a fierce drive, his mother and adoptive father raised him and his siblings. From their example of tirelessly striving, providing for their children while earning college degrees, he learned the value of what he calls “entrepreneurial scrappiness.” 

At the University of Tennessee, one relationship in particular influenced him. Accounting Professor Richard “Dick” Townsend took the time to get to know Bostelman out of a class of more than 100 students. 

“Dr. Townsend was a pivotal figure in my life,” Bostelman says. He notes that Townsend convinced him to switch to an accounting major, which, he says, “taught me the language of business and built the foundation for a large portion of my success.” 

As relationships have been transformational for Bostelman, in turn, he and his partners have grown Vaco by establishing transformational relationships between professionals with exceptional qualifications and organizations with specific needs to fill. 

In 2018, Vaco ranked #4 on Forbes’ list of America’s Best Professional Recruiting Firms. It has more than $450M in revenues, offices in over 40 locations around the globe, 4,300 consultants and more than 800 employees—many of them Haslam alumni. 

For his continuing engagement with the college and for his entrepreneurial success, Jerry Bostelman is richly deserving of being named the Haslam College of Business’ 2019 Outstanding Entrepreneur.

 

DISTINGUISHED ALUM AWARD 

Larry Carroll (HCB, ’78), founder and CEO of Carroll Financial Associates, was the first person from his family to graduate from college, but he credits his parents with his talent for crunching numbers. 

“Both of my parents were very intelligent, just not highly educated, and both have good mathematical and analytical skills, which I was fortunate enough to inherit,” he says. 

Those inherited aptitudes for mathematics and analysis served Carroll in good stead, as he became a CPA while still in the MBA program in UT’s Haslam College of Business. His goal was to work for one of the Big Eight accounting firms, but inspired by renowned financial advisor Kemp Fain, whom he met in Knoxville, he soon changed direction. 

“I really liked the discussion of investments and, importantly, had a knack for the subject matter,” he says. “After graduation, I went to work for one of the big eight firms, but within two years founded the wealth management firm.” 

Today, Carroll Financial is one of the oldest, biggest, and most prominent financial planning and wealth management firms in the Southeast, managing over $3.4 billion in client assets. For Carroll, however, money is not the driver. As he says in his company’s trademark statement, “The best interest of the client is the only interest that matters.”© 

Consequently, Carroll lists curiosity, attentive listening, and interpersonal skills as essential attributes of an excellent financial planner. 

“A great financial planner has a balance between analytical skills and people skills,” he says. “It doesn’t do you any good to understand the math if you can’t communicate it.” 

Also critical to being an extraordinary financial planner is a high-quality education in finance, which is why Larry and his wife, Vivian, give back to the college. Vivian is also the first person in her family to graduate college, so the couple recognizes the importance of educational opportunities. 

Among the opportunities they have funded at Haslam is the Carroll Torch Fund, managed through Haslam’s Masters Investment Learning Center. This fund offers junior and senior undergraduate students majoring in finance the opportunity to manage a portfolio of securities worth over half a million dollars. 

Alex Dooley (HCB, ’19), a Carroll Torch Fund Manager in 2017–2018, is thankful for the learning opportunity the fund provided. 

“Whether it be learning through independent research or listening to Larry’s wise advice at our lunches, the Torch Fund allowed me to grow as a student and expand my understanding on an arduous topic,” Dooley says. 

Carroll is encouraging the financial advising field’s next generation in another way, too. He is in the process of passing the torch of Carroll Financial Associates to his son, Kris Carroll, CFA®, CFP®, the firm’s chief investment officer. 

“I am proud to make the transition, as any father would be,” he says. “I think it’s a pretty significant thing to happen, and it’s worked great to this point.” 

For Larry Carroll’s example of success in financial planning, his generous, continuing contributions to the college, and his inspiration to Haslam finance students, the Haslam College of Business is proud to name him its 2019 Distinguished Alum. 

 

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