Thomas F. Darden ’76, ’92 (MRP)
Tom Darden is the founder and chief executive officer of Cherokee, a Raleigh-based company that builds environmental technology businesses and remediates environmentally contaminated real estate. He also co-founded and chairs the board of Industrial Heat, a fusion energy research initiative. A successful entrepreneur, Darden is renowned for applying his business acumen toward philanthropy by serving in leadership roles on several boards and donating to educational and environmental causes.
After graduating from Carolina as a Morehead Scholar, Darden began his career as an environmental planner for the Korea Institute of Science and Technology and later worked with Bain & Company. In 1985, he bought and converted fossil-fueled manufacturing plants to use biomass. He created Cherokee Biotechnology to grow bacteria for remediating soil and Cherokee Investment Partners to acquire and remediate hundreds of sites in the U.S. and Canada. He received a master’s degree in regional planning from Carolina’s city and regional planning department in 1992.
Other companies founded or funded by Mr. Darden, who also holds a law degree from Yale University, include Cherokee Environmental Risk Management, Brownfield Revitalization, Plant Prefab, Cherokee Solar, EcoSite, Consert, Swiss Quantum Technologies and Clean E.
Darden has served on numerous committees and boards at Carolina, including the chancellor’s Philanthropic Council and the Institute for the Environment’s Board of Visitors. He and his wife, Josephine, established a professorship in sustainable community design in the Institute for the Environment, and he created a student exchange program that offers internships at the Cherokee House in Addis Ababa.
Darden served two terms on the N.C. Board of Transportation and chaired the Triangle Transit Authority. He was on the North Carolina Teaching Fellows commission and is a trustee for Shaw University and the Environmental Defense Action Fund.