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East Tennessean of the Year: Pete DeBusk



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Story by Gay Lyons. Photography by Jack Williams.

Established in 2011 by the East Tennessee Historical Society Board of Directors, the East Tennessean of the Year award periodically recognizes and honors an East Tennessee history maker who is an ambassador for the region and represents integrity, dignity, leadership, and the volunteer spirit. The award is given to an East Tennessean with either a recent accomplishment or a compilation of accomplishments.

Businessman and philanthropist Autry O.V. “Pete” DeBusk was recently honored as 2017 East Tennessean of the Year at a black tie dinner at Cherokee Country Club.  DeBusk’s impact on East Tennessee can be seen in his successes at DeRoyal and Lincoln Memorial University. As founder, owner, and chairman of DeRoyal, he expanded his business from a single room in Fountain City to manufacturing plants across Tennessee, Virginia, and abroad, leading the healthcare industry in innovation ranging from products to services. As chairman of the board of trustees at LMU, DeBusk has spearheaded numerous projects including the DeBusk College of Osteopathic Medicine, DeBusk Veterinary Teaching Center, and the Duncan College of Law.  

Guests at the event watched a biographical video describing Pete DeBusk’s career and contributions to the committee. Among those appearing in the video were Gary Wade, Philip Fulmer, Jim Haslam, Debusk’s wife Cindi, and his son Brian. The words in the video of Maude DeBusk, his 95 year old mother, were the hit of the night. She concluded by saying, “I wouldn’t take a million for him, but I wouldn’t pay two cents for another just like him.”

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