Scott M. Niswonger - 2006 Regents’ Award for Excellence in Philanthropy

Scott Niswonger

Scott Niswonger was born in Van Wert, Ohio. He learned to fly at the Van Wert County Airport, soloing on his 16th birthday. During his career, Niswonger has flown J-3 Cubs to the Boeing 747. He currently enjoys flying his aerobatic Navy T-34 and Gulfstream jet.

He is a graduate from Purdue University with a degree in Aviation Technology. In addition to his degree from Purdue, Niswonger holds a business degree from Tusculum College; was awarded a Doctorate of Technology from Purdue University in 2004; and an honorary Doctorate of Human Letters from Tusculum College in 2006.

In 1968 he moved to Greeneville, Tennessee as the pilot for the president of The Magnavox Company. In 1973, Niswonger started a cargo airline, General Aviation. After selling General Aviation, he became the Senior Vice President of North America for Flying Tiger Lines – an international cargo airline. He later co-founded a second transportation company, Landair Transport, in 1981 with an initial investment of $2,000; later expanding into airfreight with the formation of Forward Air Corporation. Those companies today have a market value of over $1.2 billion dollars. It's impressive to note that Scott founded the first two companies to ever be taken public in Greene County's 225-year history. Today, Niswonger is the majority shareholder of Landair Transport, Inc. and is Chairman Emeritus of Forward Air Corporation.

In 2000, he partnered with ETSU to develop the Scott M. Niswonger Digital Media Center, building on the university's growing international reputation for providing a top-flight education in computer and graphic animation. He provided the catalyst for the Advanced Visualization Laboratory to secure the best equipment for the program. 

Niswonger's seven-figure gift included a scholarship endowment in the ETSU Foundation so students could receive a technology-based education.

Not only does he give, but his involvement leads other individuals and organizations to join him in a community and culture of philanthropy.

"Scott has been a major donor to our Roan Scholars Leadership Program, the Gray Fossil Site, Intercollegiate Athletics, the new College of Pharmacy, Greeneville/Greene County Scholarship Endowment, James H. Quillen Chair of Excellence, ETSU Cardiology" and many other ETSU endeavors.

In addition, he has served on the board of the ETSU Foundation and played an instrumental role in the success of the university's first capital campaign, "The Campaign for ETSU Tomorrow."

Designated an ETSU Honorary Alumnus in 1998, he also has family members who have attended and graduated from the university.

"It would be difficult, if not impossible, for me to imagine any other individual who, through his or her philanthropic giving, service, and leadership, has had a greater impact to positively shape, support, and create new endeavors, initiatives, and partnerships for East Tennessee State University than Scott Niswonger" said Stanton.

Niswonger's generosity in so many areas is formed by a personal philosophy to which he adheres while also encouraging others to "Learn, Earn, and Return." "Scott is truly a philanthropist in the purest and best sense of the term," Stanton said.

"He believes in not only generously sharing his financial resources with ETSU, but most importantly, Scott shares the gift of himself - his ideas, resources, and his vision that move ETSU forward in so many successful and effective ways."

He also generously supports Tusculum College and Purdue University.

Some of the activities he is currently involved with include serving as President of The Niswonger Foundation; Trustee at Tusculum College; President of the Governing Board for the Niswonger Performing Arts Center; co-chairs the Purdue University Foundation Development Council and serves on the Dean's Executive Council for the College of Technology at Purdue; the East Tennessee State University Foundation; and is an ordained elder in the Presbyterian church. He is a past chairman of Economic Development and Growth Board for the State of Tennessee. He continues to be very active in community and civic affairs having served in positions of leadership on the local, state, and national levels.

Niswonger has been honored with numerous recognitions. Some of those include being selected by Junior Achievement International as their worldwide recipient of the International Distinguished Graduate Award; also a regional Business Hall of Fame inductee; he is a past recipient of Ernst & Young's Entrepreneur of the Year for the Southeastern United States; Coopers & Lybrand's Entrepreneurial Company of the Year; selected by Forbes to the top "Best 200 Small Public Companies" for nine consecutive years; awarded Purdue University's Distinguished Technology Alumni Award; the Mountain States Foundation Spirit Award; the State of Tennessee Board of Regents Award for Excellence in Philanthropy; ETSU Honorary Alumnus award; and received the Paul Harris Fellow Award from Rotary International.

He is especially proud of The Niswonger Foundation that he established in 2001 to create opportunities for individual and regional growth through educational programs, scholarships, and other charitable activities. This educational operating foundation currently has 17 student-scholars in universities across America and an annual program budget of more than $5 million.

Niswonger is the lead benefactor for the new Niswonger Children's Hospital built in Johnson City, Tennessee at the Johnson City Medical Center and serves on the Executive Council.

With an exceptional level of involvement, giving and generosity; businessman and philanthropist Scott M. Niswonger has made a positive impact that will affect many generations to come.