“It’s all about helping students realize their dreams.”
After 33 years of living and working around the world for Caterpillar Inc., in various management positions, Senior Lecturer Tom Graves took early retirement from management positions, opting to make a big impact in the Haslam College of Business. Tennessee was a homecoming home since Graves was born in Johnson City.
Much of his industry career was spent outside the United States working with Caterpillar dealers and customers in developing areas of the world. Graves also owned and managed an art and antique business in Hong Kong, and partnered in a similar business in Singapore. His interest in entrepreneurial and intrapreneurial business planning and implementation stems from having developed two internal ventures for Caterpillar and managing in two others. He also worked with dealers in developing strategic plans for establishing new rental operations. “My years overseas have given me a keen interest in the challenges faced by managers living and working outside their home base,” says Graves, who earned his MBA at East Tennessee State University and bachelor’s degree in business from Virginia Tech.
Since joining UT in 2007, Graves developed a best-in-class analysis of entrepreneurship centers at peer institutions and established the Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, assisted in creating the entrepreneurship collateral, and been involved with the entrepreneurship minor. He created the Entrepreneurship Learning Community in conjunction with Student Services. He established three (and continues to conduct two) business competitions annually; created the original “Introduction to Entrepreneurship” and the “New Venture Planning” classes. He also has created the Entrepreneurial Internship program. Graves is the faculty advisor for a student organization and has received several awards, including being recognized in 2016 with the naming of the Graves Undergraduate Business Plan Competition endowment.
“I feel extremely fortunate to work with a highly motivated team of associates in the Anderson Center who share my passion for ensuring the success of aspiring student entrepreneurs from across campus,” says Graves. “It’s all about helping students realize their dreams and the Haslam College of Business allows me to work in that space.”
When Graves and his wife, Florence, who also works at UT as the budget director for the College of Architecture and Design, are not on campus, they enjoy working in their vegetable garden, making wine and traveling. “I’m blessed with the greatest second career imaginable,” Graves says, “and I hope to continue on for the foreseeable future.”
"Haslam has given me the best quality education that I could ask for because of our emphasis on group work and project-based learning."
"I am so grateful to everyone at UT who helped by introducing me to their connections, providing feedback on my product and business plan, and supporting our team with words of encouragement."
"Ron's unique skill set will be an invaluable benefit to GEE, the Department of Accounting, and our business development initiatives."