Influential philanthropist, businessman Bill Gatton dies at 89
BRISTOL, Tenn. (WKYT) - A legendary businessman, philanthropist and Kentuckian has died at 89 years old.
Bill Gatton was from Muhlenberg County and a graduate of the University of Kentucky.
He moved to Tennessee and grew his business, the Bill Gatton Automotive Group.
If you walk through the doors of the Gatton College of Business and Economics at UK, you’ll be greeted by the smiling face of its namesake.
“I think Bill Gatton is one of the most important people at the University of Kentucky perhaps in our history,” said UK spokesperson Jay Blanton. “He was an incredible philanthropist, he was a graduate of our institution.”
In the class of 1954, he also received his MBA from the prestigious Wharton Graduate School. He would later make his wealth owning several car dealerships in the southeast and multiple real estate projects. He would turn some of his earnings into a $5 million scholarship, targeting first-generation college students.
“There will be thousands and thousands, if not hundreds of students ultimately that would be able to go to college, that would be able to become a doctor in Kentucky,” Blanton said. “That would be able to stay in school because of a contribution he made.”
Gatton gave $20 million for the new student center and $20 million for the College of Business and Economics.
Kayla Griesbach is a UK accounting student and lead ambassador for the College of Business.
“He’s found so much success and it makes me really proud to know that I’m following in those footsteps,” Griesbach said.
She said she never met Gatton, but felt his influence.
“If you put your mind to it, the Gatton College will help you get there. The University of Kentucky will help you get there and I think that Bill Gatton played a huge role to play in that,” Griesbach.
Gatton’s legacy is certainly alive.
He also created the Gatton Academy for gifted students and that is located at Western Kentucky University.
He was 89 years old.
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