Former Tennessee Governor and First Lady Bill and Crissy Haslam were today named as the inaugural recipients of Belmont University’s Rick Byrd Character Award. Named in honor of retired legendary Belmont men’s basketball coach Rick Byrd, the award will be presented annually to community members who demonstrate a steadfast commitment to principled performance in their field.
The Rick Byrd Character Award will be presented during a private celebration October 24 as part of The Hope Summit, a multi-day event focused on Belmont’s initiative surrounding data-informed social innovation. The gathering will bring together entrepreneurs, investors, researchers, artists, philanthropists, faith community and nonprofit leaders to discuss making hope real in people’s lives, work and communities.
“I am proud and delighted that Belmont will recognize Bill and Crissy Haslam as the first recipients of the Rick Byrd Character Award,” said President Greg Jones. “From my earliest days of getting to know the Haslams, they have personified strong and thoughtful leadership. They are people of deep faith who bring that faith to life as innovative problem-solvers, whether in business or politics or service to their community. As The Hope Summit seeks to inspire each of us on how to better love our neighbor, the Haslams embody the kind of dedication to improving the lives of others that we want to foster at Belmont University.”
Gov. Haslam added, “Crissy and I are honored to be the first recipients of the Rick Byrd Character Award. I have been a fan of Rick’s since he played high school basketball in Knoxville. Our dads were friends too, so it has been fun for me to watch his incredible coaching career. Rick showed that you really can win and do things the right way in college athletics.”
The Haslams are known for their work in education reform, job creation and volunteerism. Under Gov. Haslam’s leadership, Tennessee became recognized as a national leader in education, economic development, efficient and effective government, and fiscal strength. Former First Lady Crissy Haslam meanwhile has championed parent engagement in education, reading proficiency and other children’s issues in the public service space. Combined, their contributions to foundations have accumulated about $100 million in assets through donations and investing, which will fund gifts for 50 years or more.
The Rick Byrd Character Award will annually recognize individuals in the community who exemplify the leadership and character of Coach Byrd, who was known for promoting a winning tradition and selfless culture. The creation of the award was announced last fall as part of the Rick Byrd Character Formation and Leadership Program, an initiative around Byrd’s leadership, coaching and character formation that will inform curriculum across the university and beyond.
“I am humbled to have an award named in my honor, and even more so to see community leaders as accomplished as Gov. and Mrs. Haslam be named as the first recipients,” Byrd noted. “They represent the kind of personal integrity, humility and character that are hallmarks of a Belmont educational experience, and they serve as excellent examples for our students to emulate.”