University of Tennessee

Commencement Speaker Scott Niswonger to Receive Honorary Degree

March 19, 2018

Scott Niswonger, who turned his passion for aviation into several thriving businesses with annual sales of more than $1 billion, will be recognized on May 10, 2018, with an honorary degree from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Haslam College of Business. He also will deliver the college’s commencement address on that day.

Niswonger began his career as a corporate pilot for the president of the Magnavox Company before establishing a cargo airline, General Aviation, Inc., in 1973. Later, he sold that company to become a vice president at Flying Tiger Lines, a military contractor and global cargo airline. Niswonger also founded Landair Services and Forward Air Corporation.

“In addition to providing an exemplary story of success in business, Scott has been extraordinarily generous in giving back to society,” said Stephen L. Mangum, dean and Stokely Foundation Leadership Chair of the Haslam College of Business. “Our graduates can learn a great deal from what Scott has accomplished and what he has to say. It’s a privilege to have him speak at our college.”

Niswonger’s philanthropic efforts are particularly visible in the East Tennessee region, where he is the lead benefactor of the Niswonger Children’s Hospital in Johnson City. The hospital is home to one of only eight St. Jude Affiliate Clinics in the world. Additionally, the Niswonger Educational Foundation currently has 20 scholars in universities across the United States, 67 alumni and an annual program budget of more than $3 million. Niswonger also is Chairman of the Governing Board at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center in Greeneville, Tennessee.

Niswonger’s corporate and higher education contributions are widespread. He is a member of the executive committee and board of directors of First Horizon National Corporation and is chairman of the board of trustees of East Tennessee State University and a long-time member of the board of trustees of Tusculum College. At Purdue University, he is a member of the President’s Executive Council and the Deans Council for Purdue University Polytechnic Institute and serves as a board member of the Purdue Research Foundation. He is chairman of Purdue Aviation, LLC.

Niswonger holds a degree in Aviation Technology and a doctorate of technology from Purdue. He also is a 1986 graduate of Tusculum College with a BSBA and was awarded an honorary doctorate of human letters in 2006. He received a doctorate of human letters from East Tennessee State University in 2016.

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