Entrepreneurship Hall of Fame 2006

Dr. Richard C. Becherer

Harold L. Coker

Jack L. Frost

Rich BechererDr. Richard C. Becherer
Dr. Richard C. Becherer holds the Clarence E. Harris Chair of Excellence in Business and Entrepreneurship at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. He came to Chattanooga in 1995 from Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan where he established the first entrepreneurship courses in the College of Business. Dr. Becherer has had a unique career as both an academic and as an entrepreneur.

From 1974 to 1982, Dr. Becherer was a tenured Marketing Department faculty member at Wayne State. While an academic, his extensive consulting experience with health care organizations led him to start one of the first for-profit HMOs in the US in 1978 along with six other individuals who had been his clients.

That organization, Independence Health Plan, grew to over $100 million in revenues. The organization went public in 1983 and was named the seventh fastest growing small public company in 1984 by Inc. magazine. Dr. Becherer sold his interest in Independence Health Plan to pursue other entrepreneurial activities in 1986.

After being involved in several new entrepreneurial pursuits, including a biotech company, real estate development, and several marinas, Dr. Becherer returned to Wayne State University in 1991 to establish the university's first entrepreneurship courses.

When Dr. Becherer came to Chattanooga in 1995, his primary role was to "entrepreneurize" the College of Business at UTC. While the College of Business had pioneered an entrepreneurship course in the late 1970s, there was not an entire entrepreneurship program for students. A meeting of fourteen UTC faculty interested in entrepreneurship was the kick-off of both a very strong entrepreneurship program and a faculty who have focused on entrepreneurship in teaching, research, and community engagements.

Currently, the UTC College of Business is one of a handful of AACSB accredited programs that has both a full concentration in entrepreneurship for business students and a minor in entrepreneurship for students across the university who want to start and operate their own business. As of 2006, there are 150 students at the College of Business concentrating in entrepreneurship and approximately 85 minors. Additionally, the UTC College of Business MBA program is unique in that it has a required entrepreneurship course as part of its core program.

Dr. Becherer graduated from Michigan State University with a BS in Packaging. He earned his MBA from the University of Georgia, and his DBA from the University of Kentucky. He has published in numerous journals, including Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, Journal of Small Business Management, Journal of Marketing, Journal of Consumer Research, The Journal of Services Marketing, and Decision Sciences. In 1998, Dr. Becherer received the Edwin M. Appel Prize for "bringing entrepreneurship vitality to academe." It is presented each year at the Price/Babson College Fellows Program at Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts.

Harold Coker Harold L. Coker
An entrepreneurial-spirited family, sales ability, and a passion for old cars led to establishment of one of Chattanooga's most successful and well-known automotive supplies enterprises - Coker Tire.

Founder Harold Coker attended public schools in McMinn County and graduated from Tennessee Wesleyan College in Athens in 1949. He then left home for Tennessee Technological University in Cookeville, graduating in 1951 with a bachelor of science degree in chemistry.

Mr. Coker and his wife, the former Lillian Thomas, were married in 1953 while he was pursuing a career with the B.F. Goodrich.

"All through high school and college I worked in a tire store," Mr. Coker recalls. "My dad was responsible for our family being 'car-crazy.' My two brothers, Bob and Bill, and I had the same love for old cars that Pop Coker had. I have collected them since I was 14 or 15 years old."

Motivated by a strong sense of entrepreneurship, Harold founded Coker Tire Company in Athens, TN in 1958. In 1961, the opportunity arose to sell the Athens business and move south to start Coker Tire Company of Chattanooga. Today, the business distributes tires for antique cars worldwide.

"Because we collected antique cars and sold tires, all our collector car friends expected us to find tires for them, and we began our quest to find suppliers and sell tires to collectors all over the world," says Mr. Coker. "Today we have worldwide distribution of collector car tires and have exclusivity with B.F. Goodrich, US Royal, Firestone and with Michelin in North America. We have distributors in most countries that have democracies, including the United Kingdom, Australia and Germany."

Mr. Coker served on the Hamilton County Commission, including three terms as its chairman. He was president of the Antique Automobile Club of America and the president of the National Tire Dealers and Retreaders Association. His collection of antique cars is housed in Hamilton County.

Jack Frost Jack L. Frost
Jack L. Frost of Chattanooga laid a firm foundation for success in the business world with the building blocks of higher education and hard work. He estimates he has been involved in 18 to 20 businesses in his long and continuing career.

While a college student, Mr. Frost worked for the trust department at American National Bank and Trust Company (later Sun Trust). He graduated from the University of Chattanooga in 1952 with a B.S. degree in business administration, majoring in accounting and economics. He did graduate work for a master of science in business administration at the University of Tennessee.

After graduate school, Jack returned to American National Bank and continued his interest in education by teaching night classes in accounting at the University of Chattanooga. Later, he went to work for W. Max Finley at Tennessee Paper Mills where he served as assistant treasurer and controller. He became a certified public accountant in 1955 and with his brother, Jim, started the Frost and Frost accounting firm in 1963.

In 1969, Mr. Frost helped launch Tuftco Corporation of Chattanooga and served as president for 24 years. The company manufactures carpet making machinery and sells its products in over 40 countries.  Tuftco became a public company in 1969 and was listed on the American Stock Exchange.  In 1977, Tuftco merged with another public company and in 1985, Trade-Finance International, a Frost private company, purchased all of Tuftco to make it a private company again. Today, members of the Frost family continue to hold leadership positions at Tuftco.  Jack is chairman; his son, Steve, is president; his daughter, Susan Bishop, and wife, Charlotte, are board members.

Jack Frost, with Larry Webb and Benton Hood, started Professional Industrial Tire Co. in 1981, and in 1992 his family company, Trade-Finance International, bought Mitchell Industrial Tire Co.  These two companies with manufacturing and distribution facilities in Chattanooga and warehouses in California and Pennsylvania have a significant share of the replacement industrial tire market in the United States.

Jack has been involved in the start-up and operation of several other businesses including the manufacturing of mobile homes and modular houses and real estate development.  He also served as a director of Bank of America, Tennessee board, and as director of Commerce Union Bank for many years.

Jack and Charlotte have been married 53 years.  Their children, Steve and Susan, are graduates of the UTC College of Business, as are grandchildren, Amy Haddock and Jonathan Frost.  They have three other grandsons, David, Will, and Ben Bishop, and a great granddaughter, Charlotte Ann Haddock.

Mr. Frost has been a member of Red Bank Baptist Church for 65 years where he has served as deacon and Sunday School teacher.