Entrepreneurship Hall of Fame 2008

Joe Engel

Georgia H. Pettway

Anthony L. Vest

John EngelJoe Engel
Joseph William Engel was an American left-handed pitcher and scout in Major League Baseball who spent nearly his entire career with the Washington Senators, and went on to become a promoter and team owner in the minor leagues. He was born in Washington, D.C. as one of six children of a German immigrant who owned a string of hotels in the District of Columbia. Engel spent his youth playing with Kermit and Alice Roosevelt, President Teddy Roosevelt's children. He was a Washington Senators batboy, and later a team mascot. He attended Mount St. Mary's College, where he lettered in four sports – track, baseball, basketball, and football. Engel also pitched a perfect game at Mount St. Mary's College. Engel made it to the major leagues as a pitcher from 1912 to 1920. He played for the Senators for four seasons (1912-1915), where he was roommates with Walter Johnson, compiling a record of 17-22. After the 1915 season, Engel played in only three more major league games -- 2 for the Cincinnati Reds in 1917 and 1919, and a final game for the Senators in 1920.

When Senators owner Clark Griffith sent Engel off to the minor-league Minneapolis Millers, he reportedly told Engel to swap himself for someone who could play ball. Engel looked the Millers over, and sent back Ed Gharrity, a catcher. Gharrity turned out to be so good that Griffith hired Engel as a scout. Engel became known as one of the greatest scouts in baseball history, discovering Goose Goslin, Joe Cronin, Alvin Crowder, Bump Hadley, Buddy Myer, Cecil Travis, Ossie Bluege, Bucky Harris, and Doc Prothro. Engel signed Cronin in Kansas City for $7,500 and sold him seven years later to the Boston Red Sox. Engel's discoveries helped bring the Senators three American League pennants in ten years.

Engel later became best known as one of the most eccentric promoters in baseball history. In the late 1920s, Griffith sent Engel to Chattanooga, Tennessee, to manage a newly acquired farm team, the Chattanooga Lookouts. Engel remained with the Lookouts for 34 years. One year, Engel had his players parade into the ball park on elephants for Opening Day. He traded a shortstop for a turkey, roasted it and served it to local sportswriters who had been "giving him the bird." He raffled off houses and automobiles, and had canaries singing in the grandstands. When the New York Yankees went to Chattanooga to play a pre-season exhibition game with his Lookouts, Engel located a female 17-year-old left-handed pitcher, Virnett "Jackie" Mitchell, who struck out both Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.

Engel's promotions were a hit in Chattanooga, and fans poured into the ballpark that would later be named Engel Stadium. In 1932 the Lookouts won the Southern Association pennant for the first time in 40 years and beat the Texas League champions in the Dixie Series. In 1936, Engel decided to buy the Lookouts, but he didn't have enough cash. He persuaded 1,700 fans to chip in and buy the club for $125,000. That year, attendance tripled. The fan-owned Lookouts made a profit of $50,000. The following year Chattanooga won another pennant.

Engel died in Chattanooga in 1969 at age 76.

George Pettway George H. Pettway
After a brief career in management consulting in New York City, George H. Pettway took a job at Standard Coosa Thatcher in his native city, Chattanooga. The well-known textile company had 13 plants nationally and more than 5,000 employees. Beginning in the marketing department, Mr. Pettway worked into the financial area, eventually becoming chief financial officer. After that, for two years he was a Division President, and then elected President and CEO of the company in 1980 at the age of 37.

In 1982 Mr. Pettway led a management buyout of the company. The buyout was highly successful with debt reduced by two-thirds in 12 months and a substantial increase in earnings. In 1985 Mr. Pettway sold his position in the company and retired.

His next venture was founding a catalog company. Recognizing the company’s true strength, the company started fulfilling orders for other catalog companies. The company grew from 10 employees to 750 in one year, and was subsequently sold to a foreign buyer in 1988 for a 20-fold gain in the equity invested.

In 1989 Mr. Pettway founded River Associates LLC. The firm was designed as a buyout firm for small to medium size companies by using funds from a pool of monies from investors. River I was followed by River II, then River III, then River IV and today River V. Outside investor investment minimums grew from $200,000 to $5,000,000. The firm has bought and sold 30-plus companies and has earned investors a 28 percent internal rate of return on their investments since 1989. Mr. Pettway retired from River Associates in 2002, but remains an advisory partner.

Mr. Pettway was born and raised in Chattanooga. He graduated from Baylor School and then attended the University of Virginia. After receiving his BA from Virginia, he was commissioned in the US Navy. After serving two years off North Vietnam aboard the aircraft carrier, Intrepid, he was discharged with the rank of Lt.j.g. He then attended the Wharton Graduate Business School at the University of Pennsylvania. He received is MBA from Wharton in 1969.

Mr. Pettway is married to Bonnie Harper Perry of Chattanooga and together they have five children and seven grandchildren.

Anthony VestAnthony L. Vest
Anthony (Tony) Vest was born and grew up in Kingsport, Tennessee. He got his early experience in business while working at his father’s service station as a young boy. His father, Leon Vest, taught him the importance of taking care of the customers needs and treating employees fairly. His parents also insisted that he get a college education, something no member of his family had ever done. On a challenge from a classmate, Tony, a “C” student enrolled in the nuclear engineering program at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. He graduated in 1969 as a mechanical engineer.

Tony worked for General Electric as a field engineer in the early 1970’s, supervising the installation of power equipment, such as large turbines, generators and nuclear reactors. His entrepreneurial spirit struggled as he ascended into management however, and in 1985, Tony left GE and formed Onsite Engineering and Management Company. Onsite provided training, engineering, refueling, and management services to nuclear power facilities. Although the nuclear industry was in severe contraction throughout the period, by 1990 Inc. Magazine named Onsite the 30th fastest growing privately held firm in the United States. In 1991 Onsite was named a Blue Chip Enterprise Award winner by the US Chamber of Commerce. In 1992 Tony was named Georgia Entrepreneur of the Year. Tony left Onsite in 1996 after completing its sale. At that time Onsite had grown to more that 200 employees and more than $50 million in annual revenues.

After the sale of Onsite, Tony continued his management consulting through Management Programs Corporation, a company he founded in 1987. In 2001 he was asked to take over as Managing Partner of Teton Springs Golf and Casting, LLC, a large second home resort development in Teton Valley Idaho. He and his wife, Sandy, worked as a team to right a real estate development that was in serious difficultly. Lack of financing and sales, partly as fallout from 9/11, along with fundamental management and cash flow issues, had the project on the brink of failure. Tony and Sandy invested all their time and resources and by the end of 2006 Teton Springs was a success, having sold more than $120 million in property, and providing returns to investors. Along the way, Tony founded Headwaters Construction Company and All Seasons Resort Realty, LLC. Headwaters Construction had revenues of $56 million in 2007 and was named number 145 in the Inc 500 that year. ASR Realty was the third largest realty, by sales and volume in the greater Jackson Hole area, consistently selling more than $150 million worth of real estate annually. Additionally, Tony is the managing partner of Teton Springs Lodge, LLC, which developed Teton Springs Lodge and Spa, a small luxury hotel, the first of its kind in Teton Valley.

Tony enjoys helping young entrepreneurs realize their dreams and in 2005 he structured agreements whereby key management personnel were able to obtain the majority interest in Headwaters Construction Company and All Seasons Resort Realty.

Tony and Sandy make their home in Chattanooga and Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Their daughter, Shannon, lives in Pasadena, California. Tony attended UTC in 1979 while working on his MBA. Tony enjoys piloting his own plane, hiking, scuba diving and snow skiing. He and Sandy are avid believers in free minds and free markets.