College of Business Administration Honors Alumni
at First Annual Alumni Awards Gala


Awards recipientsThe College of Business Administration has honored four alumni and organizations for their extraordinary commitment to the college and their communities. They received unique awards of hand-blown glass, designed and created by local artists, and were recognized at the first annual Alumni Awards Gala hosted in the Haslam Business Building on November 6. The event, sponsored by Pilot, PetSafe, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, and Regal Entertainment Group, was an opportunity for guests to spend an evening of celebration together and share in the success of the college and its alumni. Each table was sponsored by a business, with proceeds benefitting the College Fund for Business Administration. Guests entered the building, showcased under the effects of lighting by Bandit Lites, and were welcomed by the music of a string trio. They enjoyed a reception and silent auction followed by dinner and the awards ceremony, hosted by Dean Jan Williams.

Award bowslMichael Strickland was honored as the Distinguished Alum of the Year for his outstanding contribution to the college and university and his professional success. The Distinguished Alum award is a long-standing tradition for the college and was established in 1982. Three awards were given for the first time this year: David Evans was honored as the Outstanding Young Alum; Home Federal Bank of Tennessee was named the Outstanding Corporate Partner; and Randy Boyd, CEO of Radio Systems, received the Entrepreneur of the Year award. Please join us in congratulating these award winners and thanking them for their loyal support!

Distinguished Alum: Michael Strickland

Michael StricklandStrickland is founder and owner of Bandit Lites, renowned as the “Rolls Royce of entertainment lighting.”  Widely regarded as one of America’s best companies, Bandit Lites has received dozens of national and international lighting-industry awards. It also has received countless accolades for business and civic leadership and for being an outstanding employer. Bandit Lites serves the world’s most famous music and performance artists from its offices in Nashville, San Francisco, London, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Strickland started Bandit Lites in 1968 at the age of 12 in his hometown of Kingsport. He moved the company to Knoxville in 1973 when he attended the College of Business Administration to earn his bachelor’s degree in general business. He remained in Knoxville after graduation to direct the company’s global expansion, and the company now employs 500 people worldwide. Named CNN-USA Today Entrepreneur of the Year in 1999, Strickland has founded several non-profit and for-profit organizations and has numerous lighting patents and inventions to his credit.
Strickland commits much of his time to philanthropic and civic endeavors. At UT, he generously gives of his time, both in the classroom as a guest speaker and serving on the College of Business Administration’s Campaign Leadership Team. He was recently named as the college’s Annual Giving Chair, where he will work to increase the level of support from the college’s alumni. He is also an active volunteer for the the City of Knoxville, Knox County, and the state of Tennessee, as well as a chair of the Knoxville Chamber Partnership.

 “I wouldn't be where I am today but for the education I received at UT,” Strickland said. “It is where I developed the principles, foundations, knowledge, and habits that have helped me be successful in the workplace.”

Entrepreneur of the Year: Randy Boyd

Randy BoydA Knoxville native, Boyd graduated from Doyle High School at the age of 16 and paid his own way through UT, earning a degree in management in just three years. When asked about the secret to graduating at such a young age, he claims it was not because he was smarter. Rather, he says, it’s because he was paying for school on his own and discovered tuition didn't increase once a student reached 14 hours, so he simply took 22 hours per term!

Like many successful entrepreneurs, Boyd learned about entrepreneurship from his family’s business. He launched his own business at an early age, only to watch it fail. But then, in classic entrepreneurial fashion, he launched a second business out of his car and built it up before finally selling it and starting his current business, Radio Systems/Pet Safe, with only $26,000 in accumulated assets. His goal for the first year of operation was to sell 100 units per month, but he sold 3,000 in his first month of business and his success hasn't slowed since. His business goal is to grow his firm to be the most trusted in its field. His success has been measured in part by beating his goal of being the first company in the industry to reach $1 billion in sales.

Along with his professional success, Boyd has been a tremendous standout in his contributions to the university and the Knoxville community. Despite his busy schedule, he has provided tremendous support of the college’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, volunteering numerous hours to the program by speaking to entrepreneurship classes, judging the undergraduate business plan competition, and establishing the Randal D. Boyd Venture Fund for Student Entrepreneurs Endowment, which will support the center’s programs.

“Investing in this program will improve our community for generations to come,” Boyd said. “By teaching young people to be entrepreneurs and innovators, we'll create opportunities and businesses right here in our own community; that, in turn, will expand our tax base and improve educational opportunities for the next generation.”

Outstanding Young Alum: David Evans

David EvansEvans a 1994 undergraduate and 1995 Master of Accountancy graduate of the College of Business Administration, was introduced to guests at the gala by the head of the Department of Accounting and Information Management, Dan Murphy.   He recognized Evans for possessing, “that rare combination of working really hard, being really smart, and being really motivated. David was widely admired, respected, and liked by the entire faculty while he was in our program, and it became clear to all of us that great things were in store for him.” 

Evans began his career in Atlanta with Evans, Porter, Bryan & Company, which evolved into Dixon Hughes, a growing practice with over 1,000 employees in 22 offices across eight states. He carried the same attributes that made him a successful student to his career. Evans made partner in 2003 after only eight years in practice, an accomplishment considered to be almost unheard of in his field. Two years later, he was named partner in charge of the Atlanta tax practice, and this past October, at the age of 38, he was named managing partner of the Atlanta office.

Evans has remained one of the college and department’s most active young alums. He participates in the annual Accounting Roundtable -- an alumni advisory board that counsels the College of Business Administration’s Department of Accounting and Information Management -- and recruits for Dixon Hughes. As Murphy noted in his introduction, Evans has never missed the college’s annual Accounting Day.

“I enjoy being around students, sharing industry experiences with the faculty, and suggesting ways that the program can give students an even greater edge in the marketplace,” Evans said.
He credits “great connections with the faculty” for shaping the course of his life and instilling in him a passion for giving back to the college. He not only personally gives generously to the college, but also spearheads a giving campaign every year among other Dixon Hughes employees who are UT College of Business Administration graduates. He and his partners were responsible for the naming of the Dixon Hughes Master of Accountancy Classroom in the Haslam Business Building, and have provided tremendous financial support for the program, the faculty, and students.

Outstanding Corporate Partner: Home Federal Bank of Tennessee

Dale KeaslingHome Federal Bank is Knoxville’s oldest and largest locally-owned, full-service bank, having been founded by 1924. Accepting the college’s inaugural Outstanding Corporate Partner Award, the bank was represented by its president and CEO, Dale Keasling. The award, presented by Jim Wansley, head of the Department of Finance, recognized the bank’s ongoing support of the college and its programs. Wansley expressed the department’s deep appreciation for Home Federal and Keasling’s efforts, saying, “As I have told Dale, because of Home Federal Bank, we have been able to hire and retain faculty that we simply could not have without their (Home Federal’s) support.”

Home Federal Bank of Tennessee has given over $850,000 to the College of Business Administration by establishing the David E. Sharp/Home Federal Bank of Tennessee Professor of Banking and Finance and the Home Federal Bank Excellence Endowment in the Department of Finance. Keasling said the bank places a high priority on supporting higher education, particularly at UT.

“UT has such a tremendous impact on our marketplace and upon our staff and board. A large number of our key people are graduates of the College of Business Administration, and we owe a debt of gratitude to UT for supplying us with such sharp, capable people.”

Keasling said his favorite part of supporting the university is hearing from scholarship recipients, many who would not have been able to go to college without the bank’s support.

 “We get thank you letters every semester from students, and it’s a thrill to imagine the impact that each one of these students will make. As they become productive members of our community, they will ‘pay back’ that gift many times over. So, a gift to UT is not just a gift to UT -- it’s a gift to the community at large.”

For information on the College of Business Administration’s alumni awards or next year’s Annual Alumni Awards Gala, please contact the college’s director of stewardship and alumni affairs, Meredith Hulette, at

Gala guests Gala guests HBB front Gala guests Gala guests

Return to front page >>