Nashville, TN – Launch Tennessee (LaunchTN), a public-private partnership focused on supporting the creation and development of high-growth companies throughout Tennessee, announced new members of its Board of Directors today.
“I am grateful that so many of our state’s leaders are willing to give their time to help support our local entrepreneurs,” Governor Bill Haslam (R-TN) said. “I know they will help make Tennessee the best place in the Southeast to start a company, helping to create jobs and economic prosperity for all Tennesseans.”
“I appreciate all those who are willing to serve on this important board of directors,” said Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville). “If we are to compete in this global, technology-driven economy, we must be willing to integrate this into our overall economic plan. I applaud LaunchTN and their efforts to further this cause.”
“It’s exciting to be part of such a strong set of new board members,” said Stuart McWhorter, chairman of Clayton Associates, a leading venture capital firm based in Brentwood, Tennessee. “Utilizing our diverse private sector expertise, I am confident we will help achieve Governor Haslam’s goal of making Tennessee a national leader for innovation and entrepreneurship.”
Launch Tennessee’s new Board of Director members include:
• Dr. Jeff Balser, Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs and Dean of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine (Nashville)
An anesthesiologist by training, Dr. Balser’s research has been published in Nature and been funded by the National Institute of Health among many others. Under Dr. Balser’s leadership, Vanderbilt has drastically expanded its commercialization and technology transfer programs and moved into 10th place among U.S. medical schools in funding from the National Institutes of Health.
• Dr. Brian DeBusk, CEO, DeRoyal Industries, Inc. (Knoxville)
Dr. DeBusk is CEO of DeRoyal, a global healthcare products manufacturer based in Knoxville. Prior to becoming CEO, Dr. DeBusk oversaw DeRoyal’s research and development efforts. In that role, Dr. DeBusk pioneered several medical products that are now used in hospitals throughout the country. An engineer by training, Dr. DeBusk remains the youngest Ph.D. recipient in the history of Vanderbilt University.
• Marci Harris, Co-Founder and CEO, POPVOX (Jackson)
A native of Lexington, TN, Harris is CEO of POPVOX, a startup that leverages social media and legislative data to revolutionize the way citizens communicate with government. In 2011, POPVOX won the BizSpark Accelerator startup competition at South by Southwest. In 2012, Harris received a 2012 Tribeca Film Festival Disruptive Innovation Award and was named #13 on Fast Company’s list of the “Top 100 Most Creative People in Business.”
• Dr. Thom Mason, Laboratory Director, Oak Ridge National Laboratory (Oak Ridge)
As Laboratory Director, Dr. Mason oversees the more than $1 billion of federal research and development occurring every year at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. By training, Dr. Mason is an experimental condensed matter physicist whose primary research was focused on neutron scattering. Dr. Mason was elected as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2001 and a Fellow of the American Physical Society in 2007.
• Stuart McWhorter, Co-Founder, Chairman and President, Clayton Associates (Brentwood)
McWhorter is Co-founder, Chairman and President of Clayton Associates, a leading investment firm in Middle Tennessee that has invested over $125 million in over 100 operating companies in the Southeast. McWhorter has also served in executive roles at a number of companies, most recently as Chairman and CEO of Medical Reimbursements of America. McWhorter serves on a number of corporate and community boards including the Board of Trustees of Belmont University and the Board of Directors of FirstBank of Tennessee.
• Dr. Gregory W. Nelson, Chief Technology Officer, Eastman Chemical Company (Kingsport)
As Chief Technology Officer (CTO), Dr. Nelson oversees all the technology aspects of Eastman Chemical Company, a global leader in the development and manufacturing of specialty chemicals. Prior to becoming CTO, Dr. Nelson held numerous roles within the company, including several posts in the company’s research and development division. Dr. Nelson is also the Vice-Chair of the Greater Kingsport United Way Board.
• Dr. Brian Noland, President, East Tennessee State University (Johnson City)
As President of East Tennessee State University (ETSU), Dr. Noland is focused on helping ETSU leverage its medical and pharmacy schools to become a driver for regional innovation and economic growth. Prior to ETSU, Dr. Noland served as Chancellor of the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission and also worked for the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, where he helped implement the Tennessee Education Lottery Scholarship program.
• Dr. David Owens, Director, Executive Development Institute, Owen Graduate School of Management, Vanderbilt University (Nashville)
Dr. Owens previously served as CEO of Griffin Technology, a consumer electronic company based in Nashville, and has consulted on product development and other business issues for Apple, Dell, Gibson Music, NASA, Nissan Leaf, the Smithsonian and many others. Dr. Owens is also author of the book “Creative People Must Be Stopped! Six Ways We Stop Innovation (Without Even Trying).”
• Richard Smith, Managing Director, Life Sciences & Specialty Services, Federal Express (Memphis)
As Director of the Life Sciences and Specialty Services division of Federal Express, Smith is focused on helping make Memphis a hub for biologistics. In this role, Smith interacts with hundreds of medical and life sciences businesses each year. Smith also serves on the board of the Center for Health Innovation, the Greater Memphis Chamber, and LeBonheur Children’s Hospital Foundation among many others.
• Laura Whitsitt, Divisional Senior Vice President, Research and Emerging Technologies, Smith & Nephew (Memphis)
Whitsitt is responsible for overseeing research and a new product development portfolio for Smith & Nephew, one of the largest medical technology and device companies in the nation. Whitsitt has also personally designed two successful orthopedic implant systems and patented five products. Whitsitt also serves on the board of the Memphis Research Consortium.
• Frank Williamson, Advisor, FourBridges Capital (Chattanooga)
Williamson was part of the management team that helped grow Provident Life & Accident Insurance Company into the Fortune 250 company today known as Unum. Williamson served Unum in a wide variety of roles until 2010, including as Chief Investment Officer for its $40 billion investment portfolio. Since 2010, Williamson has served as Interim Chief Operating Officer of a venture-funded Internet retailer; advisor to the Company Lab, Chattanooga's new business accelerator; and advisor to FourBridges Capital, an investment bank.
DeBusk, Mason, McWhorter and Whitsitt were appointed by Governor Haslam. Nelson and Noland were appointed to the board by Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey (R-Blountville). Smith was appointed by House Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville). Dr. Balser, Harris, Owens and Williamson were appointed by the LaunchTN Board of Directors.
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