Tom Tillar’s exceptional dedication to higher education advancement, shown throughout his 46-year career at Virginia Tech, will be recognized with the Frank L. Ashmore Award by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, widely known as CASE.
Tillar stepped down as vice president for alumni relations in 2015. He continues to serve his alma mater as special assistant to Pamplin College of Business Dean Robert Sumichrast and is involved with planning and preparation for the Global Business and Analytics Complex.
“Tom created an unprecedented culture of engaged and committed alumni by building life-long relationships and maintaining the history and traditions of the university,” Virginia Tech President Tim Sands said. “He has been an exemplary role model to senior professionals in the field, and a mentor and inspiration to students and staff.”
The Ashmore Award honors a current or former staff member at a CASE member institution or educational partner who has performed exceptional service to CASE or the advancement profession. Presented annually since 1968, it was originally known as the Presidential Citiation. It was renamed in 1973 in memory of a former director of the American College Public Relations Association, a predecessor organization to CASE. This year’s award will be presented to Tillar in July at CASE’s Summit for Leaders in Advancement.
A native of Emporia, Virginia, Tillar is a member of the university’s Class of 1969. He earned a bachelor’s in biological sciences, a master’s in student personnel services, and a doctor of education degree, all from Virginia Tech.
Tillar began his Virginia Tech career in 1971 in what is now the Division of Student Affairs. In 1975, he joined the Virginia Tech Alumni Association staff. He held several positions in alumni and development, including director of alumni chapter programs, director of corporate and foundation support, director of alumni annual giving, and director of alumni relations, before being appointed vice president for alumni relations in 1995.
In 2015, Tim Sands called on Tillar to serve as interim senior vice president for advancement during a reorganization that combined the Office of Development and University Relations and the Office of Alumni Relations into a single Division of Advancement, now headed by Charlie Phlegar. Senior Associate Vice President for Alumni Relations Matt Winston now heads the university’s alumni relations programs.
Tillar has been active in CASE throughout his career. He has presented at national and district conferences and served on the CASE Alumni Commission. He completed the CASE certificate program in alumni relations. He earned the certified fundraising executive designation conveyed by what is now the Association of Fundraising Professionals and has been a member of the Council of Alumni Association Executives for 20 years.
Doug Dibbert, president of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill General Alumni Association, nominated Tillar for the Ashmore Award.
“For nearly a quarter of a century I have observed and admired Tom’s deep commitment to his alma mater, his complete understanding of its rich history, and his pride in the passionate support of present and former Virginia Tech students,” said Dibbert, who won the Ashmore Award in 2015. “At professional conferences, when Tom speaks, he reflects quiet confidence, authenticity, and wisdom.”
While leading the university’s alumni engagement initiatives, Tillar established staffing for college and constituency programs and incorporated student-class-officer leadership into alumni relations. He helped plan, design, and raise funds for the Holtzman Alumni Center, which opened in 2005. In 2007, at the request of former President Charles Steger, Tillar formed and chaired the committee that oversaw creation of the April 16 Memorial on the Drillfield in front of Burruss Hall. The number of active alumni chapters nearly doubled between the start of Tillar’s Virginia Tech career and when he announced he was stepping down as vice president in mid-2015.
“I am honored to receive this recognition from CASE, which is such a valuable organization enriching our profession,” Tillar said. “While I realize it’s rare these days, I’ve been blessed to work for my university over my entire career. It’s always meant so much personally to be able to serve in the spirit of our motto, Ut Prosim, and help hundreds of thousands of our alumni stay connected with their university and with each other.”