Robert Hilliard

Robert Hilliard
  • Class of: Col ’74
  • Current city: Charlottesville
  • Current job: Author
  • Bodo’s Order OR Favorite Charlottesville Spot: The University/greater Charlottesville community has become a far better place than the one in which my pizza order at Lefevre dorm was from Lupo’s. We now have New York pizza (LeLo’s on Pantops, Christians at the pedestrian mall and on The Corner, Fabio’s downtown by the Rivanna), New York-style bagels (I always have a plain bagel with strawberry cream cheese), and a plethora of world-class eating establishments. (I literally could eat at The Nook every morning and Tavern & Grocery every night.)

Tell us your UVA story. What did you do during your time on Grounds? What were your favorite memories?

As a two-sport athlete in high school, I was at once frustrated at not continuing to play sports at the school I was attending but also enthused with becoming an avid fan of all UVA sports. Graduating with a degree in history, I left Grounds with some volunteer work for the recently founded Madison House and extensive sports-related experiences — which included authorship of the 45-rpm single, “Mr. BP,” as part of the athletic department’s promotional campaign for Barry Parkhill, and promoting the new UVA ice hockey club that played at an ice rink on Greenbrier Drive off Route 29.

Tell us what you’re up to today!

It’s been almost 48 years since walking the Lawn on May 19, 1974. In the almost half-century that has passed, I earned two master’s degrees (one in history from Seton Hall and the other in mass communication from Georgia) and built a successful career in marketing and communications. Based first in NYC and then in metro Detroit, I was fortunate to undertake business assignments here in the U.S. and Canada, throughout Europe, and across much of the Asia-Pacific region and Australia. Interrupted only by my real-life “Field of Dreams” experience in developing a baseball stadium and enjoying ownership of a St. Louis Cardinals Minor League Baseball franchise, I have recently retired and moved from southeast Michigan back “home” to Charlottesville, where I’ve taken pen to paper and become an author. Thus far, a memoir and trilogy of novels have been published.

What makes you say Wahoowa?

“Wahoowa” has been reserved for those occasions in which I rejoice in the accomplishments of my fellow alums, current UVA students and faculty, or the University as one of the world’s leading academic and research institutions. Over the past several years, it seems as if I’ve been shouting “Wahoowa” more and more — from classmate Larry Sabato’s work with his UVA Center for Politics, Katie Couric’s dedication of the Emily Couric Clinical Cancer Center and Tina Fey co-hosting the Academy Awards to the signature stories of current and former professional athletes like Chris Long, Ryan Zimmerman, Malcolm Brogdon, Danielle Collins and Becky Saurbrunn.

Over the past 15 years, I’ve steadily increased my involvement in the greater University community, from becoming a donor to the VAF and specific development projects like the Davenport expansion to volunteering as co-chair for the last two Reunions Weekend cycles (2014 and 2019) and serving as president of the UVA Club of Michigan and as a member of the Madison House Alumni Council.

What’s the biggest way in which you hope alumni can impact UVA?

BECOME INVOLVED. . .because once you “walk the Lawn” and earn your sheepskin, you are forever a representative of our University. Take your lifetime of experiences and put them to work for your fellow alums, our current and future students, and the University as an institution of higher learning.

Pick a pillar that best captures your life today:


Why does that pillar speak to you?

It has always been a core value of the Hilliard family to “give back,” to pay it forward.