Honorary Members

James Ayers

James Ayers, Trustee

Nashville, TN

James Ayers was born in 1943 in Parsons, a small town in western Tennessee. His mother worked as a bank teller to support herself and her young son. His father and brother supplemented their income with what they could raise on the farm, while his mother opened a small flower shop in town. Times were tough, but Jim's parents believed in hard work. Jim started his entrepreneurial journey at a young age, selling peashooters for 10 cents a box using soybeans from his father's farm. He later worked at the peanut sheller before attending the University of Memphis, where he paid his own way through a multitude of part-time jobs. After turning around a nursing home company, he went into business for himself managing a nursing home contract in Nashville. He later built a nursing home in his hometown and ventured into the banking industry, eventually acquiring several banks. Jim believes that being an entrepreneur is just a long word for common sense, and he has worked to create opportunities for others from similar backgrounds to attend college. His foundation offers scholarships to high school graduates from Parsons and encourages them to avoid drugs and alcohol. Through his efforts, Jim has transformed the lives of many rural students and has been honored with a Horatio Alger Award.


Neta McKnight

Neta McKnight, Trustee

Jackson, TN

After receiving a 12-month certificate in Roentgen ray technique from the University of Tennessee Medical School in 1957, Neta began her career at the Ochsner Foundation Hospital in New Orleans. She then returned to Tennessee and, in 1970, was employed at Jackson State Community College. After 37 years as an associate professor and the first director of the radiography program, she looks back with pride at having developed the first college degree program in radiologic technology in the state of Tennessee - one of the first programs to receive national accreditation.


Reggie Smith

Reggie Smith, Trustee

Jackson, TN