Category Logo

United Way of Greater Knoxville President and CEO Ben Landers announces retirement

July 1, 2019

Ben Landers, president and CEO of United Way of Greater Knoxville, announced June 27 that he is retiring after 26 years of service during which the agency experienced significant growth and accomplishments.

Under Landers’ leadership, United Way of Greater Knoxville donors, staff and volunteers raised a total of $273 million to support the nonprofits served by the agency.

“I have worked side by side with Ben on many United Way campaigns,” said James A. Haslam II, a longtime supporter of United Way of Greater Knoxville and a former board and campaign chair. “When Ben joined us in 1993, the annual campaign raised $6 million. In 2017, we raised a record $13.4 million, and the number of agencies served has grown from 35 to 54. Ben has done a great job.”

Haslam, founder of United Way of Greater of Knoxville’s Alexis de Tocqueville Society of leadership donors, added that Knoxville now has 97 champion givers who donate $10,000 or more to the United Way every year.

Pilot Founder and Chairman James A. Haslam II, right, unveils a donation of $97,173, the total amount raised for the United Way of Greater Knoxville through the 2018 Pilot Celebrity Pumpers fundraiser, at a presentation at the Pilot Convenience Store on Western Avenue on Oct. 5. United Way of Greater Knoxville President and CEO Ben Landers, left, accepted the donation, which brings the total amount raised through Pilot Pumpers since its inception to more than $1.4 million.

During Landers’ time, United Way opened a new building – which is debt-free – with free parking. The agency also nurtured other nonprofits, including Leadership Knoxville, Alliance for Better Nonprofits, Volunteer East Tennessee and the 2-1-1 community call service.

“Together with very generous donors and extraordinary staff and volunteers, we have taken United Way of Greater Knoxville to a higher level of service to the community,” Landers said. “I am very proud of our accomplishments and want to thank everyone for their hard work and support as we partnered with our agencies to create lasting change and improve lives over the last 26 years.”

Landers’ total time with United Way encompasses 41 years in six communities, including Knoxville. Landers, who turned 65 in April, said he will remain as CEO until a successor is selected.

“We can’t thank Ben enough for his dedication,” United Way Board Chair Cynthia Gibson said. “The agency and the Knoxville community owe him a great debt of gratitude for his leadership. We appreciate his service and his commitment to the nonprofits we support. We also appreciate that Ben has agreed to stay on until we find a successor.”

Gibson said a search committee will be chaired by Mintha Roach, the former president and CEO of Knoxville Utilities Board. Gibson will serve as co-chair. Gibson is a former executive vice president and chief legal and business affairs officer for Scripps Networks Interactive.

“We will be looking for a leader with a strong vision who can build on Ben’s accomplishments and transition our service model to meet the changing needs of the community and donors,” Gibson said. “Society and philanthropy are undergoing rapid change, and we need to explore the new tools and strategies necessary to widen and diversify our donor base.”

According to Gibson, United Way of Greater Knoxville wants to enhance its digital tools to increase engagement with corporate and individual donors, especially those who make contributions through their place of employment.

“There are positive, donor-centered trends in philanthropy that we will review to further increase community support and serve our agencies even more effectively,” Gibson said. “We appreciate the support of our donors, staff and agencies as we go through this transition.”