The University of Tennessee School of Music has received a $3.14 million gift from Eric Barton, of Maryville, a former Marine who went on to start several businesses serving the U.S. Armed Forces in the Middle East.
“I met Eric in our Introduction Knoxville class,” said Jeffrey Pappas, director of the School of Music in a news release Friday.
“I invited him to tour the Natalie L. Haslam Music Center, and he was intrigued by what we were accomplishing in developing the talents of our students. As Eric learned more about our ambitions, he decided to help us make a number of ideas a reality. His gift will have an enormous impact on our ability to continue to develop our programs and to attract and retain the very best faculty. We are very grateful for his support,” Pappas said.
Barton’s gift will support several initiatives, including an annual visiting artist residency, which will give students the opportunity to meet and learn from a world-renowned musician during a week of clinics and performances.
Raised in Sandoval, Ill., Barton enlisted in the Marines out of high school, earning his bachelor’s degree from Southern Illinois University while in the military. He rose through the ranks from private to captain, serving as both an intelligence officer and sniper platoon commander during his 11-year career.
After the Marines, Barton found his niche in defense contracting, where he began as a project manager in Baghdad, the release states. He started several defense contracting companies based in East Tennessee. He is the recipient of the Blount Partnership’s Large Business of the Year and Philanthropist of the Year awards in 2014 and the Knoxville Chamber’s Entrepreneur of the Year award in 2015.
Barton’s Vanquish Worldwide, which he founded in Maryville, provides contract support services to multiple U.S military bases as well as secure logistics in Afghanistan and the Middle East. He also owns the Tennessee Veterans Business Association, which hosts an annual veterans’ job fair each January.