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Finding Opportunity in Change

John Ingram applies lessons learned at Owen to navigate multiple industries

John Ingram
Chairman of the Ingram Content Group, Lightning Source and Digital Ingram, and Ingram Industries

Vanderbilt MBA 1986

You might say that John Ingram was born to be an industrialist. The tradition goes way back in his family.

His great-great-grandfather, Orrin Henry Ingram, was a lumber baron in Wisconsin who was an early investor in the timber properties that ultimately became Weyerhauser Corporation. From its headquarters in Nashville, Ingram Industries — founded by John’s father — encompasses everything from barges to books and entertainment. 

John joined the family business in 1986, after completing his MBA at Vanderbilt. He worked initially for Ingram Micro in California and, later, in Belgium. Now, he serves as the company’s chairman.

Businesses like book distribution have changed dramatically since 1986. But Ingram has thrived, applying ideas about change management that have always been central to Owen’s approach to business education. In 2017, in fact, John was part of a panel at Owen, focused on a topic that would have been right at home in the school’s original curriculum: Leveraging Change to Create Opportunity. 

In addition to his company, John has invested a great deal of energy and resources into Vanderbilt, where there is now an Ingram Commons, Ingram Court at Memorial Gym and an Ingram Scholars program. At Owen, four endowed professorships bear the Ingram name — a reflection of the family’s benevolence.

Now, however, thanks to John Ingram, the name has also become synonymous with Major League Soccer. John was a lead investor in an effort that involved a public private partnership to build a stadium and bring MLS to Nashville. In recognition of his service, the Tennessean newspaper gave him an honor in 2017 to go with his corporate titles: Sports Person of the Year.