The 917 Society Board, Founders Club President Dr Ming Wang and Vice President Lee Beaman welcome to the Founders Club for the 2019/2020 school year, Jim Ayers. Mr. Ayers, one of the state’s most successful entrepreneurs and leading philanthropists, has spearheaded the growth of FirstBank from a single branch in rural West Tennessee into the third largest Tennessee-based bank. After building successful health care and real estate ventures, Ayers and a business partner in 1984 bought Farmers State Bank in Scotts Hill. They moved the home office to Lexington, Tenn., in 1986 after acquiring First National Bank of Lexington, and changed the bank’s name to FirstBank. Ayers shortly thereafter became the bank’s sole stockholder. In September 2016, FB Financial Corporation (NYSE: FBK) had an Initial Public Offering. Today, Ayers remains the largest shareholder and is the Executive Chairman of the Board.Mr. Ayers is perhaps most proud of his contributions to increasing educational opportunities for young people and improving the quality of health care in his native Tennessee.In 1999, he established The Ayers Foundation, which supports a wide range of programs and institutions with an emphasis on education and operates a highly respected scholarship program for high school graduates. He and his wife, Janet Ayers, also established and funded the Ayers Institute at the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, which conducts advanced cancer research at Vanderbilt University, the Ayers Children’s Hospital in Jackson, Tenn., and the Ayers Institute for Teacher Learning and Innovation at Lipscomb University. In 2016, the Ayers Foundation donated $15 million to Belmont University in Nashville for a need-based student scholarship fund.In addition to his business interests, he is active in a number of civic, educational and charitable organizations. Ayers was awarded the prestigious 2019 Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans Award. He is the recipient of the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ 2007 Philanthropist of the Year Award, the Silver Beaver Award from the Boy Scouts of America, the Joe Kraft Humanitarian Award from The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee, and the 2007 Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Memphis.Ayers was named a Leader in Banking Excellence by the Tennessee Bankers Association, and holds honorary doctorates from Freed-Hardeman University, Union University and Bethel University. He received his bachelor’s degree in business administration with a major in accounting from Memphis State University, becoming one of the first in his family to attend college. He is an avid outdoorsman.