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Nashville banking giant wins a 2019 Horatio Alger Award

DECEMBER 11, 2018

Nashville banking giant wins a 2019 Horatio Alger Award

By Meg Garner  – Reporter, Nashville Business Journal

One of Nashville’s most notable bankers is set to receive a 2019 Horatio Alger Award for his dedication to promoting higher education.

Jim Ayers, chairman of Nashville-based FirstBank, is one of 13 recipients of the annual national award, the organization announced Tuesday. He will be inducted into the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans in April.

The nonprofit recognizes “exceptional business, civic and cultural leaders who have succeeded despite facing adversities in their lives,” according to a news release. Each year, the Horatio Alger Association’s members contribute millions to fund need-based scholarships across the United States and Canada.

He joins the ranks of several prestigious award winners, including former Secretaries of State Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell, television personality Oprah Winfrey and poet Maya Angelou. Notable Tennesseans to previously win the award include: musicians Reba McEntire and Johnny CashJim Haslam, founder of Pilot Corporation; and Jim Clayton, founder of Clayton Homes, who sold two banks to Ayers’ FirstBank in 2017.

In addition to leading the state’s third-largest homegrown bank, Ayers is known for his philanthropy. For instance, The Ayers Foundation Scholars Program provides educational opportunities for students from Decatur, Henderson and Perry counties by providing college counselors and renewable, last-dollar scholarships. In 2016, Ayers and his wife, Janet, made the largest donation to Belmont University in the school’s 125-year history, donating $15 million for need-based scholarships.

Here are the other 2019 honorees:

  • David P. Abney, chairman and CEO, United Parcel Service
  • Colonel Vance L. Cryer, director of operations and experimentation, IOMAXIS
  • Amy Dickinson, syndicated advice columnist, “Ask Amy”
  • John J. Haley, chief executive officer, Willis Towers Watson
  • Jay S. Hennick, global chairman and CEO, Colliers International; founder and chairman, FirstService Corporation
  • Michael Ingram, founder, chairman and chief executive officer, El Dorado Holdings Inc.
  • Jewel Kilcher, award winning singer-songwriter, actress and New York Times best-selling author
  • Ronald J. Kruszewski, chairman and CEO, Stifel Financial Corp.
  • Daniel Lubetzky, founder and CEO, KIND Healthy Snacks
  • John C. Maxwell, author, speaker and founder, The John Maxwell Co. and The John Maxwell Team
  • Chandrika K. Tandon, business leader, Grammy-nominated musician and humanitarian
  • William C. Weldon, retired chairman and CEO, Johnson & Johnson
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