Baker School of Business to induct newest honorees into its hall of fame April 4

Baker awards table setting

The Tommy & Victoria Baker School of Business at The Citadel holds its Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Thursday, April 4. Honorees include Niall Gannon, Citadel alumnus and lead member of the Gannon Group at Morgan Stanley Private Wealth Management; Bill and Rachael Best, founders of Thermal Engineering Corporation; Nick Gavalas, Class of 1972 and co-founder of the Gavalas Kolanko Foundation; and Mark Bebensee, Ph.D., interim provost at The Citadel.

“We are proud to honor this outstanding class of inductees for the Baker School of Business Hall of Fame this year,” said Michael R. Weeks, dean of the Tommy & Victoria Baker School of Business. “Their contributions to business and the community set examples for The Citadel’s cadets and students as we develop our future generation of principled leaders.”

The Baker School of Business Hall of Fame begins at 6:00 p.m. at Charleston Gaillard Center, located at 95 Calhoun St., in Charleston. Tickets are $100 per person ($700 for a table of eight) and can be purchased here.

Niall Gannon, The Alvah H. Chapman, Jr. Distinguished Leadership Award


Niall Gannon, The Citadel Class of 1990
Niall Gannon, The Citadel Class of 1990

In his role as lead of the Gannon Group, Niall Gannon is a private wealth advisor to high net-worth investors. Barron’s and Registered Rep (now have recognized Gannon as one of the nation’s top 100 financial advisors. Gannon is the author of Investing Strategies for the High Net-Worth Investor: Maximize Returns on Taxable Portfolios (McGraw-Hill, 2009) and Tailored Wealth Management: Exploring the Cause and Effect of Financial Success. In 2018, he published The Efficient Valuation Hypothesis in Seeking Alpha. Gannon is a graduate of The Citadel Class of 1990 and was named Alumnus of the Year from the business school in 2012.

The Alvah H. Chapman, Jr. Distinguished Leadership Award was created to recognize exceptional leaders, 30-50 years old, who have been successful in business and have made noteworthy contributions to their communities, just as Chapman did.

Bill and Rachael Best, Leaders of Principle Award

Bill and Rachel Best (Photo by: Jeff Amberg)
Bill and Rachel Best (Photo by: Jeff Amberg)

Bill and Rachael Best are leaders of Thermal Engineering Corporation (TEC), a maker of high-performance grills for commercial and home use. The company’s infrared technologies are also used in the automotive and aerospace industries. Bill served as a U.S. Air Force bomber pilot during the Korean War and later entered the business world, founding the Thermal Engineering Corporation. Bill Best and his team at TEC hold over 100 patents on their innovative cooking technologies. Rachael Best serves as the President of TEC and oversees day-to-day operations of the thriving company.

Leaders of Principle awardees have enjoyed substantial success in business or public service and have made significant contributions to their communities. Anyone can nominate an outstanding business leader who is living or deceased from any state or college. The nominee’s values should mirror those of the Tommy and Victoria Baker School of Business. (Photo courtesy:

Nick Gavalas, Leaders of Principle Award

Nick Gavalas, The Citadel Class of 1972
Nick Gavalas, The Citadel Class of 1972

Nick Gavalas began his career at MassMutual Life Insurance Company as an agent just after graduating from The Citadel in 1972. He became part of the Charleston agency management team in 1975 and was appointed General Agent in 1985. During his tenure, he led his agency from $1 million of premium and investment revenue to over $100 million.

In 1999, Gavalas co-founded the Gavalas Kolanko Foundation, a public charity, with a mission to provide college scholarships to students with physical disabilities. The foundation has raised over $1.2 million and granted 188 scholarships for students to attend local colleges and universities.

Mark Bebensee, Ph.D., Lonnie N. Carter Distinguished Service Award

Dr. Mark Bebensee, The Citadel
Dr. Mark Bebensee, The Citadel

Dr. Mark Bebensee became The Citadel’s interim provost in March 2018. Prior to his current position, he was the Associate Provost for Academic Affairs since 2009. Earlier in his 42-year Citadel career, Bebensee served as Associate Dean of the School of Business Administration, a position he held for eight years. Bebensee has consistently taught undergraduate and graduate students all four decades and has a profound influence on the principled leaders produced by The Citadel.

In the area of teaching, Bebensee’s student evaluations are consistently among the highest in the Baker School of Business, from both undergraduate as well as MBA students. He has won every teaching award The Citadel has, and he is well into his second generation of students who are as generous with their praise of his teaching as their fathers were when they were here.

Bebensee has a B.A. from Millsaps College and an M.A., Ph.D. from Duke University.

The Citadel Class of 1965 supports The Hall of Fame Awards Ceremony.

The mission of The Citadel’s Tommy and Victoria Baker School of Business is to educate and develop innovative leaders of principle to serve a global community.