UT Knoxville, ’79
Randy Boyd arrived at UT Knoxville knowing only that he wanted to major in business. Once he learned about the industrial management concentration, an entrepreneur was born.
“I wasn’t even 20, but I thought, ‘Yes, I’d like to manage an industry. That’s what I’ll learn to do,’ ” Boyd says with a laugh. And he worked in industry—long shifts at a plastics manufacturer—to put himself through college. At 19, he graduated, the first in his family to do so.
At 23, he started his first company, offering storm detection for tornadoes, that “failed quickly and mercifully,” he says with another laugh.
Today, he is founder and chairman of Radio Systems Corp., with more than 700 employees, offices in six countries and the brands PetSafe, Invisible Fence and SportDOG under its umbrella. Boyd describes his company’s presence in the pet products sector as a business opportunity that aligns with being an animal lover, “I decided it’s hard to have a bad day when you’re greeted by a wagging tail.”
His passion for higher education led him to chair tnAchieves and to serve as Gov. Bill Haslam’s special, unpaid adviser for higher education in 2013. “I believed it was possible to light a fire for culture change around educational attainment in Tennessee, and it’s been exciting to see how Drive to 55 was accepted,” Boyd says.
In December 2014, Haslam named him commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (ECD), and over Boyd’s two years in that role, ECD saw 50,000 new jobs and $11 billion in capital investment in Tennessee.
A longtime and generous philanthropist, Boyd’s commitment to giving back includes his alma mater, where generous gifts support the Boyd Center for Business and Economic Research, and the Boyd Venture Challenge seed grant program for student entrepreneurs.
He’s also been a serious runner since his teen years and today has 49 half-marathons and 34 full marathons under his belt.
“In many ways, I’ve been running all my life—running to be a better husband, a better father,” Boyd says, “and just running to make the world a better place than I found it.”
Part of the Tennessee Alumnus‘ 100 Distinguished Alumni feature.