Charles Wharton (’65)

Category: Awards | Distinguished Alumnus/Alumna

2023 Distinguished Alumnus Award Winner

Having come full circle from his early days in Shelbyville, Tennessee, to a distinguished career with international dignitaries, Charles Wharton, spends his days on his Winchester, Tennessee, farm with the horses he loves and serving the university that was a springboard for his education.

Wharton graduated from the Tickle College of Engineering in 1965 which led to jobs building nuclear submarines and as a reliability engineer for NASA during the Apollo missions that landed humans on the moon. After that, he attended the University of Chicago on a full scholarship and completed his MBA six months ahead of his class. From there he worked for international consulting firm McKinsey & Company, before heading Los Angeles to manage operations for international law firm O’Melveny & Myers. During this time he oversaw 950 lawyers and worked with prestigious legal counsel such as those working with the Warren Commission, the prosecuting attorney for the Watergate scandal, a former US Secretary of State, and White House counsel. After retiring from O’Melveny, Wharton returned to the rolling hills of middle Tennessee to focus his attention on Poplar Creek Farms in Winchester where he, and his late wife Julie, bred and showed Tennessee Walking Horses.

The Whartons love for animals extended to their transformational philanthropic support for UT’s College of Veterinary Medicine. After the Whartons utilized the UT Veterinary Medical Center’s care in the 1980s for their English bulldogs, they became avid supporters and benefactors for the College of Veterinary Medicine (UTCVM). Wharton recently established the Charles and Julie Wharton Endowment to expand he and his late wife’s support of UTCVM. In honor of his generosity and service, the UTCVM Large Animal Hospital was renamed the Charles and Julie Wharton Large Animal Hospital. On the importance of the veterinary medicine field, Wharton reflects that, “large-animal medicine contributes to more than solely animal care. Research conducted by those in animal medicine can—and has—led to advancements which benefit humans.” Wharton hopes that generous giving has aided students’ educational pursuits.

Along with his wife, Lori, Wharton continues to serve UT at a high level. He has acquired numerous awards and accolades for his service to UT. He is as a member of the UT President’s Council, a member of the UTCVM Board of Advisors, a recipient of the 2017 UTIA Meritorious Service Award, a winner of the 2012 Alumni Service Award, and a recipient of the 2009 Development Council Award, while serving on numerous boards, committees, and councils. In 2023, Wharton was awarded the Jim and Natalie Haslam Presidential Medal, the highest honor bestowed by UT. He is a former member of the UT Board of Trustees, UT Foundation Board, UTIA Advancement Board, UTAA Board of Governors, UTSI Support Council, UTAA Board of Governors Annual Giving Standing Committee, UT Research Foundation Board, and the former chair of the UT Development Council, among other leadership roles. His volunteer leadership provides influential assistance on educational issues, with a focus on access and opportunity for Tennesseans to higher education, at the institutional and state levels.