In accepting this year’s Jennings A. Jones Champion of Free Enterprise Award, MTSU alumnus Joey Jacobs thanked his wife of 37 years, Debbie, as well as “great parents” who taught him “to work hard and do the right thing” while growing up on a Warren County farm.
It was on the farm that Jacobs got his first taste of entrepreneurship at 12 years old selling apple cider produced from the family’s apple orchard and his father’s cider mill — $1 a gallon promoted with a hand-painted sign for some down-home marketing.
“I’ve been very blessed,” he said.
Now chairman and CEO of Acadia Healthcare, a rapidly growing behavioral health company based in Franklin, Tenn., Jacobs shared his story at the annual Economic Outlook Conference held Sept. 27 at Middle Tennessee State University.
After receiving his award from first–year dean Dr. David Urban, Jacobs, 60, paid homage to MTSU, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in accounting.
“I wouldn’t be here without MTSU, and without being a graduate inside the accounting department,” Jacobs said. “It prepared me to take advantage of the opportunities that came to me.”
Jacobs served for 21 years in various roles with Hospital Corporation of America in Nashville, most recently as president of the Tennessee Division. Before joining Acadia, Jacobs cofounded Psychiatric Solutions Inc. and served as its chairman, president and CEO from April 1997 until November 2010.
True to his roots, Jacobs offered simple advice to the MTSU students who’ll eventually be moving out into the workforce and trying to make their own marks in the world.
“Being successful, you have to lead people, and I’ve found that the best way for me to lead people is to work hard. You set an example by working hard,” he said. “Truly it’s finding something that you love, that you have a passion for, and believe in … Find something you have fun at. It can be anything, just please have fun.”
With that farm work ethic, parental wisdom and a good wife to help keep him grounded, Jacobs said his company’s success and his personal achievements have impressed upon him the need give back to the community. He and his wife “adopted” a school to provide the extra funds needed for additional resources to help children succeed.
“It’s very important for the ones that have been successful to give back,” he said.
The Jennings A. Jones Chair of Excellence in Free Enterprise, the Weatherford Chair of Finance, and the MTSU Business and Economic Research Center co-sponsored the conference. Learn more about the Jones College of Business at http://www.mtsu.edu/business/.
— Jimmy Hart (firstname.lastname@example.org)