Alan Hilliker’s ’80 William & Mary degree transported him from being an undergraduate on Scotland Street to an executive on Wall Street where he worked as an investment banker for Goldman Sachs. Now a senior partner at Egon Zehnder, he is giving back to his alma mater through a $120,000 gift to the Provost’s Discretionary Fund for Arts & Sciences. His gift will help the university attract and retain distinguished professors as well as provide vital funds for faculty research and educational conferences. Hilliker, who lives in New York City, is a trustee of the College of William & Mary Foundation, and is a member of the For the Bold New York City Regional Campaign Committee and the William & Mary Weekend New York Committee.
We spoke recently with Hilliker about why he believes in financially supporting his alma mater.
Why did you decide to give this particular gift?
It’s very hard for people to know what a university needs most. People know what they want to support and what they care about, but they don’t know what a university needs. This fund gives full discretion to the provost to use the money where it is needed most in support of faculty.
Can you talk about the importance of giving back to William & Mary?
It’s incumbent on people who can support the institution to actually support it. It’s important to give back however you can.
How did your education set you up for a successful career?
I was a dual major: economics and English, which was actually a pretty effective combination. Economics got me onto Wall Street and being able to write is a critical skill that is far more impactful in business than most people realize.
Why is a liberal arts degree valuable in society today?
A lot of what is rewarding about the degree is learning to understand the big picture. I think a liberal arts education gives you depth of perspective and the ability to think broadly and abstractly. I think nothing exercises the mind quite like a liberal arts education.
What are attributes that make a good leader?
If people want to see a great leader, they don’t have to look much further than William & Mary President Taylor Reveley. He is the embodiment of excellent leadership. He is a leader intellectually, organizationally, socially and personally because he encourages people. I’ve seen many great leaders and Taylor is among them.