Centennial Alumni

Charlie Ergen

Business Leader

UT Knoxville, ’74

An avid mountain climber, Charlie Ergen has scaled Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Mount Aconcagua in Argentina and reached Mount Everest base camp
in Nepal.

In fact, Ergen has been reaching lofty heights ever since earning a bachelor’s degree in general business and accounting. He is chairman and co-founder of EchoStar and DISH Network.

Ergen was born in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, where his father, an Austrian immigrant, worked as a nuclear physicist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. His mother was an accountant.

After graduating from UT, he earned an MBA at Wake Forest University.

Always an entrepreneur, Ergen, along with business partner Jim DeFranco and Ergen’s future wife, Candy, pooled their savings and began selling satellite dishes from the back of their truck in Colorado in 1980. The company eventually became EchoStar Communications Corporation and launched its first satellite from China in December 1995. Early the following year, the DISH Network brand was born.

As a leader in the field of satellite and telecommunications, Ergen has been hailed as “Master Entrepreneur of the Year” for the Rocky Mountain region by Inc. magazine, one of Barron’s “World’s Best CEOs” and one of Forbes’ “Top
Ten CEOs.”

Ergen has earned a reputation as a results-oriented businessman who once said, “When you deal with change, you have a couple choices: You can lead it and make the rules, or you can be a fast follower or you can be a slow follower.”

The Ergens have supported UT Athletics and entrepreneurship efforts. They fund the Ergen Professorship in the Haslam College of Business and also support an MBA fellowship.

“Throughout the years, the generous financial support from the Ergens has greatly contributed to our success in recruiting some of our top MBA students,” says Donna Potts, director of student recruitment and admissions at the Haslam College.

The Ergens, who have five children, live in Colorado.