Centennial Alumni

Jim Powell

Business Leader

UT Knoxville, ’59

Jim Powell

After he graduated from Bellevue High School in Nashville, a $250 hardship scholarship to UT Knoxville opened doors for Jim Powell. Now, he helps open those doors for others.

After graduating in 1959, he joined his cousin’s company, Powell Erection in Knoxville. In 1969, he founded his own business, Powell Construction Company, which now has offices in Tennessee, West Virginia and Australia.

Never forgetting his own opportunity, Powell in 1980 funded scholarships at UT and East Tennessee State University. Later, he founded the Powell Foundation that supports about 200 students a year. “Students are the product of our universities, and we should strive to get the best and the brightest by offering them an opportunity that they might not have otherwise,” he says.

Powell served as chair of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission from 2002 until 2006. He chaired the UT Institute of Agriculture’s steering committee for the university’s bicentennial capital campaign.

“Jim Powell has dedicated his life and his resources to giving back through good deeds. His generous support of scholarships and research will benefit our world for many years,” says Buddy Mitchell, former interim vice chancellor of the UT Institute of Agriculture.

Powell also was instrumental in leading UT to become an “All Steinway School,” a designation for universities in which all the pianos owned are made by Steinway. And he surprised his wife with a philanthropic gift resulting in the naming of the Sandra G. Powell Recital Hall in the UT Knoxville music building for her.