Louis H. Gump received the George L. Carter Award, which is the highest honor bestowed upon graduates or friends of ETSU who have made the university a more dynamic and viable force in the world of higher education.
The award is named for the industrialist, railroad magnate and philanthropist who provided land, enlisted support and organized local government agreements in the successful campaign to locate the state's remaining "normal school" – now known as East Tennessee State University – in Johnson City. It is presented only on occasion when an individual has "gone above and beyond the call" to support ETSU, and exhibited the commitment exemplified by George L. Carter.
Gump graduated from the University of North Carolina as a Navy ROTC Honor Graduate with a B.A. in economics. After serving the U.S. Navy as an officer on the destroyer USS O'Brien, he returned to Johnson City in the fall of 1963 as the treasurer of two family-owned finance companies.
In 1971, his family acquired Smith-Higgins, a wholesale pharmaceutical distribution company. Gump became president and CEO, expanding Smith-Higgins to cover a seven-state area before resigning in 1988 to start Impact Management, a company working primarily with owners and managers of closely-held companies and professional corporations to improve profits through better business planning and increased operational
Gump is, and has been, very active in civic affairs. He has served as campaign chair and president of the Johnson City Area United Way, president of the Johnson City Public Schools Foundation, chairman of the Northeast State Community College Foundation Board, and a member of the Duke University Talent Identification Program National Advisory Board. He is a co-founder and past president of both East Tennessee Hospice and Hands On! Museum. He is a past chairman of the Johnson City Medical Center Hospital Board and a past president of Watauga Area Mental Health Board. Gump currently serves on the ETSU Foundation Board, Bank of Tennessee Board, and Milligan College President's Advisory Council. He is also the founding benefactor of the ETSU Roan Scholars Leadership Program and has chaired the Steering Committee.
Among Gump's numerous awards for service and philanthropy are ETSU's 2003 Margin of Excellence Award and the 2005 Tennessee Board of Regents Chancellor's Award for Philanthropy. He is a member of the ETSU College of Business and Technology Hall of Fame.