Anonymous Donors Endow Undergraduate Business Plan Competition in Honor of Graves

An anonymous couple has donated $1 million to UT’s Haslam College of Business in recognition of Tom Graves. Graves is a senior lecturer in business management and the operations director of UT’s Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

Tom Graves, operations director of UT’s Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, and Steve Mangum, dean of the Haslam College of Business.

Tom Graves, operations director of UT’s Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, and Steve Mangum, dean of the Haslam College of Business.

The donation will endow the Undergraduate Business Plan Competition, which will now be known as the Graves Undergraduate Business Plan Competition. The donors requested that the competition be named in Graves’s honor to recognize his long-term dedication and passion for the program.

“Tom Graves has dedicated great personal energy over the past eight years to nurturing and honing the entrepreneurial visions of UT students,” said Steve Mangum, dean of the Haslam College of Business. “For Tom, this is a labor of love as well as a professional passion. To now have the competition bear his name is beyond appropriate. It is a lasting testament to a diligent, caring educator.”

Though Graves said having the program named after him is surreal, he is most grateful for its secured future.

“I have to keep pinching myself,” Graves said. “We were never 100 percent sure that we would have the money to put on the competition the next year. Because of these donors’ generosity, we will be able to offer this real-world opportunity to students indefinitely.”

Providing opportunity and creating an entrepreneurial spirit for all students across UT has been Graves’s ultimate aim since the competition’s founding in 2008. The competition has awarded $170,000, funding fifty startup ideas, to date. Thirty-six ideas have resulted in established companies.

During the competition, students present their ideas to business professionals who evaluate the startups on the strength of the pitch, project innovation, and feasibility. Graves handpicks the judges from the business community, creating an authentic entrepreneurial pitch experience for students.

 

CONTACT:

Katie Bahr (865-974-3589, katiebahr@utk.edu)

Tyra Haag (865-974-5460, tyra.haag@tennessee.edu)