2017 Distinguished Alumni Award recipient: Don Flow (MBA ’83)

Flow Automotive CEO can sell a community, a message and a cause.

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Don Flow’s mother still has the first diploma her son received from Wake Forest: from Wake Forest Baptist Church kindergarten. The 5-year-old who “graduated” from the church’s kindergarten would go on to graduate from Wake Forest’s business school and become one of the University’s most dedicated leaders. Flow says he feels a profound sense of responsibility to ensure “the flourishing of Wake now and for future generations.”

Flow’s love for Wake Forest was nurtured throughout his childhood. He developed a lifelong love of sports at summer camps taught by Professors Leo Ellison (P ’77, ’83) and Bill Hottinger (P ’88, ’92). As a teenager, he attended summer basketball camps and hung out around Reynolds Gym, where he got to know many coaches and players.

When it was time for college, Flow naturally chose … the University of Virginia. “I went away to college because I had practically lived at Wake since I was 5 years old,” he says. But he didn’t stay away long.

After working in his father’s auto dealership for several years, he attended the Babcock Graduate School of Management where he met classmates he still calls friends. “The team-based format facilitated tremendous camaraderie … and I can say without equivocation that I have had an opportunity to apply everything that I learned while in school.”

Flow, 61, is chairman and chief executive officer of Flow Automotive Companies. He’s also chairman of Winston-Salem Professional Tennis and the Winston-Salem Open, an ATP World Tour 250 tournament held each August at the Wake Forest Tennis Complex. He is a driving force in Winston-Salem, leading numerous community organizations. Most recently, he founded Winston Starts, a nonprofit organization to help startup businesses get off the ground.

Flow’s service to Wake Forest began more than two decades ago when he joined and later chaired the business school’s board of visitors. He was elected to the Board of Trustees in 2005 and chaired the board from 2012 – 2015.

He’s also vice chair of the Medical Center board of directors and a past chair of the Health Sciences board. He also chaired Wake Will: The Campaign for Wake Forest, which surpassed its $600 million goal in 2016. (Flow’s father, Vic (’52), was also a longtime trustee who funded Flow House in Vienna.)

Flow explains his devotion to Wake Forest this way: “Forming a future generation of leaders who will live lives that matter, in whatever setting they find themselves, is a compelling institutional purpose.”

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