Ethier is commencement speaker for Class of 2014

Ethier is commencement speaker for Class of 2014

March 19, 2014

James B. Ethier, chairman of the board of Bush Brothers & Company, will deliver the commencement address to Maryville College’s Class of 2014 during a ceremony scheduled for 6 p.m., Sun., May 18 on the lawn between Anderson Hall and Sutton Science Center.

His address to the approximately 200 graduating seniors is “What Is Your Vision?” and the Scripture reading is from Proverbs.

During the ceremony, Ethier will also receive the honorary doctor of laws degree from the 195-year-old liberal arts college.

“Maryville College challenges students to dedicate a life of creativity and service to the peoples of the world,” said Maryville College President Dr. William T. “Tom” Bogart. “Jim Ethier embodies this ideal as a leader in business and in the community.”

Ethier is credited with steering the transformation of his family business from a canner of commodities to a nationally branded food producer. “Bush’s Best” is the nation’s leading brand of bean products. The company was founded in 1908 by Ethier’s grandfather, A.J. Bush.

Ethier is the son of MC alumna Lena Maye Bush Ethier ’32 and father of MC alumnus David Ethier ’08.

“Ethier’s strong family ties to Maryville College make it natural to invite him to share his thoughts with this year’s graduating class,” Bogart said.

In the event of rain, the ceremony will be held in the Boydson Baird Gymnasium of Cooper Athletic Center.

Ethier has long history of leadership in food industry

Ethier is not only active in his profession at Bush Brothers & Company, but also in the broader community of family-owned businesses. He has served the food industry as a board member of Grocery Manufacturers Association and chairman of Food Products Association.

He currently serves on the boards of the American Family Business Foundation and the Beacon Center of Tennessee, which is an independent, nonprofit and nonpartisan research group that aims to change lives through public policy.

He received the Guard Society Honorary Life Member Award for 2000, which recognizes individuals for their years of service and their contribution to the food industry. In 2005, Ethier received the Distinguished Leadership Award from the Food Products Association.

Ethier has worked with Bush Brothers & Company for 45 years, serving as president and chief operating officer from 1992 until 2003, then chairman and chief executive officer from 2003 until 2009. Before 1992, he acted as chief financial officer for the company.

Headquartered in Knoxville, Tenn., the company employs approximately 650 people in manufacturing facilities located in Chestnut Hill, Tenn., and Augusta, Wis. Taking “responsible citizenship in our community” seriously, the company has invested in technologies that boost ecological efficiencies, as well as food and employee safety.

As a business, Bush Brothers & Company strives to be “an everlasting community that adds wealth to society,” which is the company’s philosophy as inspired by Irish writer Charles Handy. However, Bush Brothers & Company also understands that, as a food producer, it plays a role in fighting hunger across the country and the world. The company regularly supports Second Harvest Food Bank and Feeding America.

Ethier earned his bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University and his M.B.A. from the Kellogg School at Northwestern University. He was presented with the first Kellogg Family Enterprise Leadership Award in 2012.

He and his wife, Melinda, live in Knoxville, Tenn. He has three daughters, one son and two grandchildren.

Graduation broadcast live

Streaming video of commencement exercises will be broadcast live online. After commencement, the video will be archived online.

Baccalaureate planned for 2 p.m.

The Rev. Tommy Brown ’84, ministry consultant at Boone Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, will be this year’s baccalaureate speaker. Brown is the father of graduating senior Hayden Brown ‘14.

Held in the Ronald and Lynda Nutt Theatre of the Clayton Center for the Arts, the baccalaureate ceremony will begin at 2 p.m., Sun., May 18, and is open to the public.

After graduating from Maryville College in 1984, Brown received his Master of Divinity degree in 1990 from Louisville Presbyterian Seminary in Louisville, Ky. In 2001, he received his certificate in youth and theology from Princeton Theological Seminary for serving on the school’s youth ministry forum. He received his certification for professional coaching in 2013 from the Institute of Professional Excellence in Coaching in Shrewsbury, N.J.

Before becoming a ministry consultant, Brown served as campus minister at Presbyterian Episcopal Campus Ministry at Appalachian State University and associate pastor for youth and families at First Presbyterian Church in Greensboro, N.C. He is the founder of College Engagement Coaching, LLC and a first year seminar instructor and adjunct instructor at Appalachian State University.

From 2009 until 2012, Brown served on Maryville College’s Board of Church Visitors. He has also been involved with the National Leadership Board of the Presbyterian Association for Collegiate and Higher Education Ministries.

By Mary Moates '14, Communications Assistant


Maryville College is ideally situated in Maryville, Tenn., between the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Knoxville, the state's third largest city. Founded in 1819, it is the 12th oldest institution of higher learning in the South and maintains an affiliation with the Presbyterian Church (USA). Known for offering its students a rigorous and highly personal experience that includes an undergraduate research requirement, Maryville College is a nationally ranked institution of higher learning that successfully joins the liberal arts and professional preparation. Total enrollment for the Fall 2018 semester is 1,154.