Spokanes Tom Tilford, a certified public accountant and lawyer who has launched a series of business ventures here and is a familiar face on many community and private boards, is transitioning from business to education.
Tilford recently was named program manager for the Hogan Entrepreneurial Leadership Program, at Gonzaga University.
I wasnt interested in spending my sunset years counseling young people on how to make money, yet this program teaches them how to make changes in all sorts of institutions, says Tilford.
Not having to report to an office job for the past 11 years, while his self-proclaimed retirement included starting new businesses, teaching a Gonzaga finance class in Florence, Italy, and participating on many local boards, the Wallace, Idaho, native had continued to remain busy.
Yet, the lure of sharing his entrepreneurial skills with bright, eager students was too great to ignore, he says.
As manager, Tilford is responsible for many aspects of the 5-year-old Hogan program, including student recruitment and selection, curriculum design, and fundraising, he says. He succeeds Paul Buller, who has moved into the newly created position of academic director, where he will advise students in the program and continue to teach many of its classes.
Tilford, after working as a CPA for three years for the Spokane office of Touche Ross & Co. CPAs and as a tax lawyer for nine years at Lukins & Annis PS, of Spokane, where he ended his tenure as president of the firm, launched a number of successful entrepreneurial ventures. Among those was Job Line Construction Inc., of Spokane, a high-voltage power line construction company that had annual revenues of up to $30 million, he says.
Speaking of Tilford in a Gonzaga University press release, Gonzaga President Rev. Robert J. Spitzer said, Gonzaga is very fortunate to have a business leader, entrepreneur, and mentor of Toms caliber join the university to help us grow the Hogan program and increase its national visibility.
After retiring in 1995, Tilford helped launch a heavy-equipment auction company here called First Team Auctions LLC. He later sold his majority interest in that business. He also helped start and was a part owner of two other Spokane businesses that have been sold, Mustang Line Contractors LLC and Maslonka & Associates. Currently, he is chairman of UltraShred LLC, of Spokane, a manufacturer of truck-mounted document-destruction equipment, and has a one-third ownership interest in the company.
Tilfords 13-year tenure as a Gonzaga University trustee is scheduled to end Dec. 31, and he already has relinquished his positions on several local community-service boards and business boards, but is still on the boards of two Spokane venture-capital companies, Northwest Venture Associates LLC and Win Partners LLC. Hes also a member of the trust committee and chairman of the audit committee for Washington Trust Bank.
The students need to know how to take a vision and turn it into a reality, he says.
The Hogan program is not unique, but its certainly unusual, Tilford says. Unlike most collegiate entrepreneurial programs, which have become increasingly popular in recent years, the Hogan program is available to students seeking business and nonbusiness majors at Gonzaga, is designed on the model of an honors program for the academically elite, and is offered only to undergraduates, he says.
Tilford says one goal he has is to continue recruiting multidisciplinary students into the program. Currently, 40 percent of Hogan program students are majoring in business, 35 percent in arts and sciences, and 25 percent in engineering, he says.
About 100 students, 25 or so in each undergraduate class, are enrolled in the Hogan program. The program includes three credit hours of study each semester, or 24 credit hours of study during a students undergraduate career. Tilford says the focus of those classes is to teach students how to launch a new venture successfully, whether the venture is in the profit or nonprofit sector. Course topics include how to draft a business plan, elements of finance, different types of business ownership, marketing, and how to sell an idea to others, he says.
In addition to classroom studies, Hogan students participate in new venture labs, where prospective entrepreneurs from the Spokane area, North Idaho, and Eastern Washington enlist the assistance of Hogan students to see if proposed ventures are viable. The students also participate in internship programs at many local businesses during their junior and senior years.
Tilford says that students who complete the Hogan program, which is an add-on to their normal academic pursuits, are highly recruited by employers here.
Selected from among 155 highly recruited applicants, the 28 students chosen to enter the program at Gonzaga this fall have an average SAT score of 1338, an average high school grade point of 3.87, and have distinguished themselves as leaders both at school and in their communities, Tilford says.
Every student chosen to participate in the program receives a $250 stipend each semester from the Los Angeles-based Hogan Family Foundation, which provides $250,000 each year to support the program.
Tilford says the Hogan program probably wont grow in the future.
We operate on the premise that well only accept a limited number of students. Then well direct a lot of effort and resources on those students, says Tilford. And that decision is not driven by finances.
Gonzaga currently offers no major or minor academic degrees in entrepreneurial studies, but that could change in the next two to three years, Tilford says. He says the university is looking at the possibility of offering entrepreneurial studies to undergraduate and graduate business students that would be more expansive than the venture-oriented focus of the Hogan program.
Contact Rocky Wilson at (509) 344-1264 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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