UT Knoxville, ’74
Part of the Tennessee Alumnus‘ 100 Distinguished Alumni feature.
A youthful Bob Corker went on a mission trip to Haiti and came home wanting to give back to his own community. Over the years, in business and public service, he’s found many ways to do that.
Born in South Carolina, Corker and his family moved to Tennessee when he was 11. He came to UT Knoxville to study industrial management and graduated in 1974.
“The experiences I had and the enduring friendships I made during my time at UT prepared me for real-world challenges and helped me launch my career in business and later in public service,” he has said.
At 25 years old, Corker started a construction company with $8,000 in savings, and operations eventually expanded to 18 states. He sold the company in 1990 and went on to acquire two of the largest real estate companies in Chattanooga.
In 1986, he helped found the Chattanooga Neighborhood Enterprise, a nonprofit organization that has helped more than 10,000 families secure affordable housing through low-interest home loans and personal training in basic home maintenance.
Corker served as Tennessee’s Commissioner of Finance and Administration from 1994 to 1996. He later was elected mayor of Chattanooga, serving from 2001 to 2005. Applying a businesslike focus on results, he helped transform his hometown into one of the nation’s most admired cities.
Since 2007, Corker has served as a U.S. senator from Tennessee and today is chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a member of both the Banking Committee and the Budget Committee.
Corker also makes time to give back to his alma mater, regularly visiting the Haslam College of Business to speak with students, faculty, staff and local business leaders. He was a commencement speaker in 2010 and received a Distinguished Alumnus Award in 2015.