John Thornton Is Commencement Speaker For Maryville College Class Of 2013

Wednesday, April 3, 2013
John Thornton
John Thornton

John C. Thornton, founder and CEO of Thunder Enterprises, will give the commencement address to Maryville College’s Class of 2013 during a ceremony scheduled for 6 p.m., on Sunday, May 19, on the lawn between Anderson Hall and Sutton Science Center.

His address to the approximately 200 seniors graduating is “Lloyd’s Lessons and Pat’s Principles,” and the Scripture reading is Jeremiah 29:11.

During the ceremony, Mr. Thornton will also receive the honorary doctor of law degree from the 194-year-old liberal arts college.

“John’s experience with Maryville College epitomizes our communication of the goals of the current strategic plan – linking liberal arts education with professional preparation,” said Maryville College President Dr. William T. “Tom” Bogart.

A former member of the Maryville College board of directors, Mr. Thornton has long had ties to Maryville College. Maryville College’s football stadium, Lloyd L. Thornton Stadium, is named after his father. In 1993, the younger Mr. Thornton decided he wanted to do something to honor his father, a life-long sports enthusiast, so he donated a $100,000 lead gift to renovate the press box and stands.

Over the years, Mr. Thornton also recruited MC graduates to positions in his business.

“Mr. Thornton recognized that the holistic preparation of a Maryville College education produced graduates who were equipped to be, and indeed were, successful in the world of work,” President Bogart said.

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

Mr. Thornton, a Maryville native, has had successful careers in both real estate development and the carpet industry.

In 1984, he founded American Rug Craftsmen, the nation’s largest producer of decorative floor mats. Under his leadership, the company continually posted $100 million in annual sales and was twice named Wal-Mart’s Vendor of the Year from a pool of 8,000 suppliers. It was also named JC Penney’s Supplier of the Year.

Mr. Thornton was named Ernst & Young’s “Entrepreneur of the Year” in 1992, and American Rug Craftsmen made the list of Inc. magazine’s “Fastest Growing Companies in America” before he and his partners sold the company to Mohawk Industries, the second-largest floor covering supplier in the world, in 1993.

In 1994, he founded American Weavers, a leading supplier of lap blankets and tabletop products to Wal-Mart and Kmart, which he later sold.

Mr. Thornton began developing high-end residential properties in Jackson Hole, Wyo., in 1991. Chattanooga-based Thunder Enterprises continues to develop high-end homes and master-planned communities in Wyoming, Tennessee, Montana, North Carolina and Hawaii.

Mr. Thornton is a trustee of the University of Tennessee, Baylor School in Chattanooga and the Oquirrh Institute in Salt Lake City, Utah. He serves on the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga Faculty Development Committee, the UT-Chattanooga Entrepreneurial Hall of Fame Committee and the University of Chattanooga Foundation. He is chairman of UT's Athletic Facilities Capital Campaign, past chairman of the UT Development Council, past chairman of the UTC Roundtable, past co-chairperson for the UT Lady Vols Development Campaign and the past chairman of the Chattanooga United Way Alexis de Tocqueville Society. He also formerly served as a member of the board of directors of NASDAQ-listed InBrand Corporation.

Mr. Thornton earned a bachelor’s degree in business management from Tennessee Wesleyan College, where he was named the college’s Most Distinguished Alumnus in 1994. In 1999, he was inducted into UT-Chattanooga’s Entrepreneurial Hall of Fame.

He resides in Chattanooga, with his wife, Eileen, and five children.

Streaming video of commencement exercises will be broadcast live. A direct link to the ceremony will be available at

Questions regarding the broadcast should be directed to Mary Leidig, director of marketing, at 865 981-8079 or

Baccalaureate is planned for 2 p.m.

The Rev. James Steven Musick, associate pastor for outreach and pastoral care at New Providence Presbyterian Church, will be this year’s baccalaureate speaker. Musick is the father of graduating senior Michae Musick ‘13.

Held in the Ronald and Lynda Nutt Theatre of the Clayton Center for the Arts, the baccalaureate ceremony will begin at 2 p.m. on Sunday, May 19, and is open to the public.

A native Texan, Mr. Musick is a graduate of Trinity University in San Antonio. After a number of years in the banking industry, he felt a strong call to the ministry and enrolled at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Austin, Tex., where he graduated in 1986.

He became the chaplain at Rhodes College in Memphis, but was later recruited to East Tennessee to become the director of the Presbyterian Student Center at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, where he served for eight years.

From 2000 until 2002, Mr. Musick was the pastor at Washington Presbyterian Church in Corryton, Tn. – the same church from which Isaac Anderson, founder of Maryville College, came. He has been active within the Presbytery of East Tennessee for over 10 years. 

James Steven Musick
James Steven Musick

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