James Caldwell (’87)
“My time at CBU was one of the greatest eras of my life. As in so many endeavors, it ends up being all about the people. The education I am thankful for; however, the people and friendships I made and continue to enjoy have been life-fulfilling.”
James “Fig” Caldwell graduated from CBU in 1987 with a BS in Electrical Engineering. While a student, he met his future wife, Dawn Blalack (’87). He was nicknamed “Fig” as a child but said it became prominent during his college days. “My nickname took off in college,” he recalls, “and to this day, more people know me as ‘Fig.’ Dawn has always called me ‘Fig.’”
After graduation, Jim went to work as an Engineer at Boeing in the St. Louis area and then returned to Memphis to take a position as a Sales Engineer at VRC Corporation. In 1990, he and a partner purchased Ladd’s Golf and Turf, a distributor of professional golf course maintenance equipment, golf cars, and utility products that had been founded in 1963. Ladd’s is a highly decorated company in several markets it serves. Jim has served and chaired several advisory councils for manufacturers associated with the industry over the years. He has been awarded individual honors locally, such as the Cary Middlecoff Award given by the West Tennessee PGA Chapter for contributions to the golf market and the betterment of the PGA.
Jim’s business management skills allow him to create jobs in the community, and he has encouraged his employees, especially young adults, to pursue their dreams and search for areas of work where they can have a passion and give back to their work and their community. He encourages the pursuit of education to better themselves and to gain a skill set to be able to work and take care of themselves sufficiently, so they can be independent and successful in their career and life.
Jim and Dawn have been married for more than 30 years and make their home in Bartlett. They have raised two children who are now young adults. Their son Taylor works with Jim at Ladd’s and has a finance degree from the University of Tennessee. Their daughter Indie recently graduated from the University of Arkansas — in three years! — and plans to seek a degree in Physician Assistant Studies. “He has taught his children how important it is to ‘walk the walk.’” Dawn says. “He makes time to encourage all of us and his employees — as well as remind himself — to lift someone up in some way, to help, pray for, or compliment someone and smile at them. Just a smile can make their day because you just never know what is going on in someone’s life, and that simple, nice gesture may change their outlook.”
“Our children are both well aware of how much Dawn and I loved our time in college and of all the friends we made along the way,” Jim says. “I am proud that they seek to make lasting relationships as well.”
I like to think of myself as a lover of people, and those four years set the foundation. Success in business and career pales in comparison to these relationships.