For more than 51 years, Tom Tillar has been a Hokie in every sense of the word. From his time as a student through his career with alumni relations, Tillar has embraced the values and traditions of Virginia Tech.
He said that it was his father, who attended Virginia Tech in the late 1940s, who largely influenced his decision to choose the university.
“My father often teased me by saying, ‘You can go to any college you want, but I’ll pay for Virginia Tech,'” Tillar said.
Tillar is one of seven Virginia Tech employees who are being honored for 45 years of service to Virginia Tech. He was recognized during the 2016 Service Recognition Program.
After starting at Virginia Tech as an undergraduate student majoring in biology in 1965, Tillar became a student leader in the class officer system and for the Squires Student Center. When he enrolled as graduate student in 1970, he was also hired to work for the student union and Greek life programming, which are now part of the Division of Student Affairs.
After obtaining his master’s and beginning his doctoral program, Tillar started his career with the Virginia Tech Alumni Association in 1975. There he held various positions, including director of annual giving and director of alumni relations.
In the mid-1990s, he became the vice president for alumni relations, a position he held for 20 years. In this position, Tillar helped grow and expand the association.
He helped create alumni relations directors for all eight academic colleges and planned separate homecoming weekends for alumni from each college. He was also a leader in planning, designing, fundraising for, and decorating the Holtzman Alumni Center and Inn at Virginia Tech. Tillar also played a part in creating the Multicultural Alumni Advisory Board, which reaches out to Virginia Tech’s diverse community.
In his time in alumni relations, he helped implement multiple alumni programs, such as Summer around the Drillfield, which encouraged alumni to visit Virginia Tech during the summer. He also promoted programs for local alumni chapters that hosted prospective students, raised money for scholarships, and created job fairs for alumni.
Tillar is held in high esteem by his peers as someone whose dedication to his alma mater has helped shape Virginia Tech.
“Tom Tillar’s impact on and legacy in the alumni relations arena stretches far beyond his years at Virginia Tech,” said Matthew Winston, senior associate vice president for alumni relations. “During his tenure leading the alumni operation, he was regarded as a leader in this industry amongst his peers across the country. He applied his knowledge and experiences to the betterment of the entire Hokie Nation, and his dedication and service to our alma mater, as evidenced by the innovative programs, signature alumni center, and legions of loyal Hokies around the world are a testament to his commitment to the Virginia Tech community.”
In January 2016, Tillar took on a new position in the Pamplin College of Business as the special assistant to Dean Robert Sumichrast. In this position, Tillar is responsible for interacting with alumni about the Global Business and Analytics Complex, which will include a residential component. He also assists the new Virginia Tech Investor Network, a group that seeks to finance promising start-ups that include a founder, board member, or active investor who is a Virginia Tech graduate, student, or faculty member.
“Tom Tillar is a trusted advisor for me about a wide range of issues — especially on issues concerning Pamplin’s relations with our external constituencies,” said Sumichrast. “He has been wonderful in making introductions for me with alumni across the country and in maintaining relations with them. Tom’s decades of experience with Virginia Tech allow him to help put current issues in context.”
Written by Mackenzie Nicely, a senior from Lexington, Virginia, majoring in public relations and political science.