UT Martin, ’87
Memphis native Bill Rhodes’ path to becoming chairman, president and CEO of AutoZone began with the swing of a golf club.
As a member of the UT Martin Pacer golf team, Rhodes made the honorable mention All- America and Academic All-America teams during his senior year. That, combined with his pursuit of an MBA at the University of Memphis, landed him an interview with the head audit partner at Ernst & Whinney (now Ernst & Young).
“As it turned out, he wanted to hire me as an intern—not because of my audit skills—but because they had a golf challenge between the audit, tax and consulting departments at E&W, and he was tired of audit losing,” Rhodes says.
Twists and turns along the way led him to AutoZone, where he ultimately climbed the ladder to become, at age 39, the youngest president and CEO of a Fortune 500 company.
“There is no question UT Martin helped me tremendously from many different aspects,” he says. “I received a terrific education, especially from my accounting professors. They challenged me all along the way, but they also coached and mentored me.”
Rhodes says his golf coach, Grover Page, however, was the most influential person from his days at UT Martin.
The skills he learned on campus have served him well in business, where he leads a team of more than 84,000 employees in 50 states. He says he lives “in the zone,” and has no intention to slow down, which is par for the course.
Part of the Tennessee Alumnus‘ 100 Distinguished Alumni feature.