W. Lee Williams III and James S. “Chip” Mahan III, founders of Live Oak Bank Shares, were honored on Thursday, March 21 as recipients of the 2024 Elon University Medal for Entrepreneurial Leadership. The award, presented by the Love School of Business and the Doherty Center for Creativity, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, recognizes entrepreneurs who are leaders in their field and who represent Elon’s values.

Mahan is the chairman and co-founder of Live Oak Bank Shares, a digital banking company insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and dedicated to aiding small businesses. Mahan, an Elon native, is known for his innovative approach to banking. According to Mahan, Live Oak Bank was one of the first companies to utilize cloud technology within the banking sector.

Williams is the vice chairman and co-founder of Live Oak Bank Shares. Elon honored Williams for his leadership in the banking industry and his commitment to aiding small businesses. Williams is not only a member of the Elon University Board of Trustees, but his mother, Dr. Jo Williams, is also a famed Elon alumnus. After graduating in 1955, Williams’ mother was awarded the Elon Medallion and the Dr. Jo Watts Williams School of Education was named after her in 2000.

LaRose Digital Theater housed over 100 guests, ranging from trustees and alumni to students and professors. The ceremony commenced with remarks from Lars Heidenreich and Trinity Swepson — two senior scholar interns at the Doherty Center. Following the opening remarks, Alyssa Martina, executive director of the Doherty Center, introduced the award recipients. Martina honored a large group of Elon alumni who have gone on to work for Live Oak Bank. Dean of the Martha and Spencer Love School of Business Raghu Tadepalli and Elon University President Connie Book presented the awards to Williams and Mahan.

Williams and Mahan each gave a speech and answered some questions from the audience. As they talked about their endeavors, sharing success stories and words of wisdom, they both expressed the importance of community and partnership. Williams and Mahan told stories of a partnership that has lasted over 50 years, beginning in 1973 when they got their first banking jobs at the Wachovia Bank and Trust company.

“One of the things that has driven where I’ve been is partners,” Williams said. “At Live Oak Bank, I am so privileged to be able to show up every day with all these folks and with my partner Chip.”

Williams and Mahan said they carry this value into their work, viewing every customer as a part of the Live Oak Bank community.

“When we began this bank, we knew putting people first was the path to success," Mahan said during the event. “We treat every customer like they’re our only customer.”

When presenting the medals to Williams and Mahan, Book commended Williams and Mahan for their integrity, innovation and dedication to the community. 

“Together, Lee and Chip exemplify the entrepreneurial spirit and values that Elon University holds dear,” Book said as she presented the awards. “The awarding of the Elon University Medal for Entrepreneurial Leadership serves as an inspiration to all of us here, to Elon, to the community and beyond.”