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Faculty Spotlight: Tom Graves

Tom Graves

Thomas H. Graves joined the UT College of Business Administration in 2006 after a successful 33-year career with Caterpillar Inc. Graves brought with him a wealth of knowledge and experience in a variety of areas including entrepreneurship, “intrapreneurship,” and management.

Graves completed his BS in business at Virginia Tech in 1967 and his MBA at East Tennessee State University in 1971. Following a brief period when he established a “complaint and information center” for the city of Johnson City, Tennessee, Graves joined Caterpillar Inc. He held various sales and marketing management positions, both foreign and domestic, throughout his career. During the 17 years he spent in Asia, the Middle East, and the Mediterranean, he became keenly aware of the essential contribution the entrepreneurial culture of the U.S. makes in maintaining the country’s pre-eminent economic position in the world. The last 12 years of his career with Caterpillar was spent "intrapreneuring," as he established two internal ventures to support a Caterpillar Rental Business global initiative. Additionally, he created and owned an oriental art and antique business while living and working in Hong Kong, and he was a partner in a similar business in Singapore.

Following a brief retirement and a stent teaching at National Business College and Pellissippi State, Graves was invited to develop a course in new venture planning for the enterprise management curriculum in the Department of Management at UT. Student participation in the class grew from 11 in the spring of 2007 to approximately 55 per semester for the last four semesters. Student enrollment in this entrepreneurially-focused class demonstrated an interest in and need for an undergraduate collateral in entrepreneurship. Graves was instrumental in the establishment of the collateral and developed a second class, Introduction to Entrepreneurship, teaching over 65 students in the new collateral in the fall semester.

Working with the administration of the College of Business Administration, Graves created and manages the annual campus-wide Undergraduate Business Plan Competition. The competition encourages students from all colleges on campus to participate, and it has spawned eight businesses in three years, awarding $50,000 in prize money and 40 hours of pro bono CPA services. Because of his passion for entrepreneurship and extensive involvement in the creation of the Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, he was invited to become the center’s director of operations in 2009, a position he continues to hold along with his teaching duties. In an effort to spread the entrepreneurial message across campus, Graves worked with a group of students to establish the UT Knoxville chapter of the Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization in 2010. He currently serves as the faculty advisor to this group.

In addition to these initiatives, Graves is UT’s representative to the Global Consortium of Entrepreneurship Centers. He also is the college’s representative on the steering committee of the regionally-focused Entrepreneurial Growth Group, the UT Outreach and Engagement Council, the UT Solar Decathlon (DOE international design competition), and has conducted a series of leadership workshops for student leaders in the College of Architecture and Design. In his limited free time, Graves has volunteered as a classroom teacher for twelve years with the Junior Achievement organization in both Illinois and Tennessee.

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