By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.
The “G” in the “P&G” duo at the University of Tennessee’s (UT) Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation has decided to retire again.
Glenn Swift, a former AT&T executive who teamed with Pat Richardson in 2007, says in his own low-key way that “It’s time. I really feel good. I’m blessed with good health.”
The always nattily attired Swift, who joined the UT staff in early 2003, showed-up for his interview with me in an orange tattersall shirt emblazoned with the Power T. It was characteristic of the always upbeat champion and cheerleader for entrepreneurs, the region, students, and the university.
“I’ve been a part of something that is really good,” Swift said as he reflected on his tenure at UT. In reality, he and Richardson, who joined Swift in 2007, were the architects of the Entrepreneurship and Innovation curriculum (E&I) that is now a required course for all full-time UT MBA students.
We profiled “P&G” in an early 2014 two-part teknovation.biz series (Part 1 and Part 2) and spotlighted the capstone program that the full-time MBA students undertake with a nonprofit organization in a six-part series (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5 and Part 6).
The last decade plus has been both a learning experience for the West Tennessee native who has degrees from the University of Memphis and Georgia State University and an opportunity to create an environment for others to learn.
If you checkout Swift’s LinkedIn profile, he captures in a few words the calling that he has been pursuing: “I enable aspirations of passionate, hardworking entrepreneur MBA students. My focus is skill development of students via applied learning, mentorship and connections.”
Swift did not plan to have a second career when he retired from AT&T in 2001 after 35 years. He and his wife built a home on Norris Lake.
“I intended to fish and play golf,” he says, adding there is only so much of either you can enjoy.
Fast-forward a year, and Swift was teaching a few classes at UT on change leadership. He later served a few months as Interim Director of the full-time UT MBA program and, as the old saying goes, “The rest is history.”
Swift joined UT full-time in August 2003 to begin building the E&I course. He offered the first capstone class in Spring Semester 2004 for nine students. It was called “Innovation in Practice,” later becoming “Entrepreneurship and Innovation.”
“I had never been an entrepreneur worrying about making a payroll,” Swift says of his tenure at AT&T. What he had learned was a great deal about sustainable value, leadership, critical thinking, and talent development.
That knowledge and a willingness to be a learner, engaging with and listening to others, were the key ingredients that Swift employed as he and later in partnership with Richardson built and continued to refine the program model.
Since piloting the E&I curriculum in 2004, students and faculty mentors who support the courses have undertaken 111 projects for nonprofit entities and logged 41,574 hours in the process. Students have also completed 51 projects in the for profit world. In total, 718 students, plus faculty, have devoted 58,210 service-learning hours to 162 community organizations.
“We’ve proven the model will work,” Swift says. “Importantly, our students have created 61 new ventures.”
As he reflected on his tenure with UT, the always philosophical Swift was particularly retrospective.
“To be a part of UT is a long-felt dream,” he says, quickly adding another reward from the experience was “the opportunity I had to give back to students and the community.”
Of Richardson, his friend and partner, Swift says they “bonded together under a common purpose. Pat’s a reflective learner, I’m an engaged learner.”
The “G” in “P&G” will now become an “L” Swift says. Austin Lance, another former corporate executive who more recently was a Management Consultant and Lecturer at UT, will fill his slot. Ironically, it will be “P&L” going forward.
“I’ve learned a great deal in the last 13 years,” Swift says. No doubt those who have been touched by his passion, commitment and inspiration feel they’ve learned much more from the association.