University of Tennessee

Frederick W. Smith and Tim Williams to Speak at Haslam’s 2016 Graduations

May 9, 2016

Frederick W. Smith, founder of FedEx, and Tim Williams, co-founder of 21st Century Mortgage, will deliver the Haslam College of Business’s 2016 commencement addresses.

Smith will speak during the undergraduate graduation ceremony on May 13 and also will receive an honorary doctorate in business. Williams will address Haslam’s graduate students during their hooding ceremony May 11.

Smith first outlined the business model for an overnight delivery service in a term paper while studying at Yale University and received only an average grade. After graduating and serving a stint in the U.S. Marine Corps, he pursued his business idea and founded FedEx in 1971.

Today, FedEx is a $45-billion-a-year global transportation, business services and logistics company. It is the largest overnight shipper in the world, with customers in more than 220 countries and territories. FedEx is also the largest publicly traded company headquartered in Tennessee.

Williams worked from 1974 until 1995 at Clayton Homes, Inc. While there he served on the executive committee and was the president of Vanderbilt Mortgage and Finance. Tim was a key member of the management team that saw Clayton Homes grow from a fifteen-store chain in 1974 to a publicly-traded company in 1983, and go on to become the largest retailer in the manufactured housing industry. Tim left Clayton Homes in 1995 to start 21st Mortgage Company.

Williams holds a degree in accounting and an MBA from Haslam and received its entrepreneur of the year award in November 2014. He is also a past recipient of the Totaro Award, the manufactured housing finance industry’s highest award for lifetime achievement, and a recipient of the Junior Achievement’s Knoxville Business Hall of Fame.

For more information on the commencement ceremonies, or to watch a live stream, visit