Meet One Tough (and Fun) Mudder: Tim Hallinan

If you were among the record-number of participants—509, who raised more than $20,000 for the Fallen Soldiers Scholarship Fund (October 2014)—in Western Illinois University’s third annual Fallen Soldiers 5k Run/Walk, you probably saw the guy in the gas mask. If you weren’t able to be there that beautiful autumn day at WIU, you may have come across the photo on the event’s Facebook page. Or, maybe,  you’re seeing this photo for the first time.

Tim Hallinan particpating in the third annual Fallen Soldiers 5k at Western Illinois University October 2014

But no matter how you encountered it, after you have looked at it, one thought and/or question likely comes to mind: “Is this guy crazy?”

Crazy like a fox.

Underneath that MOPP (mission oriented protective posture) gear is Army National Guard Veteran Tim Hallinan, the director of annual giving at Western. Tim, who competes in obstacle course races for fun, knows the value of “creating a ruckus” to draw attention to a cause. Last year, when the WIU community was furiously participating in the NCAA’s “6th Fan” contest for $100K in scholarship funds, Tim spearheaded voting marathons/parties to help Western’s cause. Alas, we didn’t win… but the event—and Tim’s efforts to unite the campus through voting events—served as a rallying force for Fighting Leathernecks everywhere.

This month, as the inaugural installment of the Council of Administrative Personnel (COAP) Employee Spotlight, we focus on Tim, one of Western’s many dedicated and talented COAP employees. He was gracious enough to be the first victim… ahem, subject… and answered a few questions about himself (the man who is also behind the chucklesome, “Things overheard at the Hallinan house“).

Q. Tell me a bit about your background… How did you wind up working at WIU?

I graduated from Western in 1995 with a B.A. in sociology and began working as an advocate for people with disabilities in Macomb. In that position, I had the opportunity to network with the local school district, as well as many social service and non-profit organizations in the area. In 2000, I was approached to head up the new Big Brothers Big Sisters chapter, and I jumped at the chance to help build a new agency from the ground up. I gained a lot of experience with grants and fundraising in my eight years in this position. When the opportunity arose to come back to Western to raise funds for students in my alma mater, I saw it as a way to come “full circle” and was fortunate to have been selected as Director of Annual Giving.

Q. What does a typical day at work at Western look like for you?

My hours are a bit unconventional, as they mirror that of our Phonathon operations—mostly evenings and Sundays. I spend a lot of time collaborating with students and departments in preparing our direct mail outreach, designing solicitations, tracking our progress and researching trends and emerging technology in the area of annual giving that can benefit our university.

Tim Hallinan, WIU '95 and the director of annual giving in Western's Foundation and Development Office, earned "Trifecta" status in 2013 in the Spartan Race series.

Tim Hallinan, WIU ’95 and the director of annual giving in Western’s Foundation and Development Office, earned “Trifecta” status in 2013 in the Spartan Race series.

Q. What are some of the best aspects of your job? What are some of the most challenging aspects?

First and foremost, about 75 percent of the work I do is in cooperation with our students. Regardless if they are callers for our Phonathon or sharing their Western experiences in annual fund letters, I’m honored to be able to facilitate that connection between our students and alumni, and I feel rewarded in having the flexibility to showcase the impact of our donors’ collective giving on our students and our university. Alumni participation rates are declining industry-wide, and each year it is a challenge for me and others in the field to keep the need for alumni support in the forefront.

Q. What do you like to do in your time away from work?
In addition to as much “family time” as I can do with my wife, Jeri, and our three boys, I have served on several non-profit boards including – Western Illinois Service Coordination (WISC) and Big Brothers Big Sisters – for many years. This year, I have also begun serving on the board for our local Roller Derby team – The Macomb Bombshells. I admire this team for their hard work and dedication to themselves, the sport and our community, as well as their philanthropic efforts in donating their proceeds to local charities. But aside from my work and family, OCR (Obstacle Course Racing) is my passion.

Q. Tell me a little about your fitness activities (as I know you compete in those crazy obstacle course races), e.g., how and why did you get into this area of fitness? What is the next race you plan to compete in?

I served for 20 years in the Illinois National Guard, and I retired shortly before working for Western. In the military, even part time, there is the excitement, travel opportunities and challenges that appeal to me. I find that in OCR, as well as in fitness, benefits training for and competing in races. I have found it is a unique way to not only challenge myself, but also raise donations to fund a new scholarship at Western.

Impact and emotion certainly have a place in philanthropy, but I feel that adding an element of uniqueness or sensationalizing a philanthropic endeavor, to a degree, can also be beneficial and make it exciting. I can run a 5K and am grateful for a few that will sponsor me, but if I run a 5K in a gas mask or holding a Western flag, I find people are more inclined to be a part of the effort – especially if they have no other connection to our university. The underlying message is basically, “If I can do ‘this’ for a cause, you can help with a modest donation.”
This year, both my wife and I will be running a Tough Mudder, a Spartan Race, two Warrior Dashes and a marathon in hopes of securing a place in the OCR World Championships in Ohio this October.

Q. What is your favorite quote?

“Doubt kills more dreams that failure ever has.”

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WIU’s Thai Scholars traveling, adjusting to life in U.S.

For 10 high-achieving students from Thailand, a weekend this past February was the beginning of a life-changing adventure at Western Illinois University.

For 10 high-achieving students from Thailand, a weekend this past February was the beginning of a life-changing adventure at Western Illinois University. They are pictured here after they first arrived in the U.S.

Just about five months ago, 10 high-achieving students from Thailand began a new adventure at Western.

The students (all from rural districts in Thailand) are part of the One-District-One-Scholarship (ODOS) program, sponsored by their government, the Kingdom of Thailand. They arrived at WIU in February and were immediately enrolled in a specially developed Western program, Royal Thai Newcomers, which helped prepare them for their English-language studies through the WESL (Western English as a Second Language) Institute.

According to David Bell, WESL director, all 10 of the students have matriculated into the regular WESL program and are now studying English six hours per day.

“They continue to live in University housing, and several of them have requested to have U.S. roommates beginning this fall semester,” Bell said. “They have adjusted well, and their English-language skills have improved greatly in the short time they have been here.”

Once the students are competent in their English-language skills, they will begin their studies in their chosen majors.

This past weekend, Western's Thai Scholars traveled to Chicago with Bell and Dana Vizdal, the assistant director at Western’s Center for International Studies, to meet the Secretary General of Education visiting from Thailand. The Thai Consulate hosted a luncheon for all of the scholars, and after the luncheon, the secretary General also held a private meeting with the students to discuss their academic progress and their adjustment to U.S. culture.

This past weekend, Western’s Thai Scholars traveled to Chicago to meet the Secretary General of Education visiting from Thailand. (They are pictured here with Thai Scholars who are attending other Midwestern universities.) The Thai Consulate hosted a luncheon for all of the scholars, and after the luncheon, the secretary General also held a private meeting with the students to discuss their academic progress and their adjustment to U.S. culture.

“The plan is to provide them with the skills they need to succeed so they can start in their major programs in Spring 2014,” noted Richard Carter, executive director of Western’s School of Distance Learning, International Studies, and Outreach.

This past weekend, the students traveled to Chicago with Bell and Dana Vizdal, the assistant director at Western’s Center for International Studies.

“The purpose of the meeting was to introduce the ODOS scholars to the Secretary General of Education visiting from Thailand. The Thai Consulate hosted a luncheon for all of the scholars. After the luncheon, the secretary General also held a private meeting with the students to discuss their academic progress and their adjustment to U.S. culture,” Carter explained.

Western Illinois University English as a Second Language Institute Director David Bell and Minister of Education Wachira Tirakornvisesphukdi from the Royal Thai Embassy

WESL Institute Director David Bell and Minister of Education Wachira Tirakornvisesphukdi from the Royal Thai Embassy

At the June 15 meeting, in addition to the Thai Scholars from Western, Thai students from several universities in the Midwest region were present, as well as the Secretary General of Education visiting from Thailand, Dr. Nontigorn Kanchanachitra. Also present were the Minister Counselor of the Royal Thai Consulate, Dr. Nantawan Sangton, and the Guidance Office of the Office of Educational Affairs, Dr. Korn Thepnorarat, Carter added.

Learn more about the One-District-One-Scholarship program at thainewsupdate24.blogspot.com/2013/03/one-district-one-scholarship-program.html and more about how the Thai Scholars came to Western at www.wiu.edu/news/newsrelease.php?release_id=10514.

Primitive Craziness… for WIU Scholarships

WIU Annual Fund Director's Super Spartan Race for WIU Scholarships

WIU Annual Fund Director Tim Hallinan, B.S. '95, is training for a Super Spartan Race this coming October. He has tied his training and race event to a fundraiser for WIU Scholarships. Donate to Tim's cause on his Super Spartan Race for WIU Scholarships website by clicking on this photo or visit http://bit.ly/GGBJXl

What is with these WIU alumni taking part in these Spartan events? If you haven’t heard of them before, according to the Spartan Race website, “Spartan Race is the world’s leading obstacle race series. It’s an event of pure primitive craziness that you’ll never forget!”

WIU alumnus Joe Decker (’98, B.S.), last year, participated in the Spartan Death Race. He won… for the second year in a row.

Now another alumnus, Tim Hallinan (’95, B.S.), who also happens to be the director of the WIU Annual Fund, is hopping on the crazy train and is planning to compete in a Super Spartan obstacle race later this year.

Hallinan is using the event not only as a way to maintain his fitness, but he is also tying his training and race day event to a fundraiser for WIU Scholarships. (People can donate to help Tim’s cause, WIU Scholarships, on his Super Spartan website at www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/timhallinan/midwestsuperspartan.)

I asked Tim a few questions about his path of “pure primitive craziness”; his answers are below…

1. How did you come up with the idea to do a Super Spartan Race as a fundraiser?

Tim: I work with many great students who help Western raise money for the Annual Fund either as callers for the WIU Phonathon or by helping with our direct mail fundraising. Although Western remains committed to access and affordability, many of these students know at least one person who has struggled to meet the cost of his or her education. As a Western alumnus, I make my annual gift to my department to support scholarships, but wanted to do something extra this year to benefit a student that could really use some help. The Spartan Race is unique, and I thought it might be a good way to raise some much needed funds for our Scholarship Office to distribute and raise awareness for the University’s need for Annual Fund participation among current students, as well as friends, alumni, and Western parents.

2. Why do you want to put yourself through something like this when there are probably much easier ways of raising funds, i.e., bake sale, etc.?

Tim: It’s just easier for me to endure eight miles of mud and obstacles as opposed to someone else having to endure my attempt at a Snicker Doodle. Plus, I have always wanted to compete in a Spartan Race, and I made the commitment this year to do so. I’m not particularly athletic by any means, but the training regimen for something like this really helps me stay in shape, too.

3. How are you training for this event?

Tim: Lots of running and cardiovascular exercises. I don’t expect to run the entire eight miles, and lucky for me there is no time limit to finish, but I do want to finish in under 3 hours. They don’t advertise the challenges a competitor will face on the course, but I’ve seen a lot of military-style obstacles in videos from past races so I’m really working on upper body strength as well.

4. What will the funds, from this particular fundraiser, go toward?

Tim: The funds will go to our scholarship office to be distributed to students in need and deserving of some extra help this fall to ensure they graduate.

5. How do fundraisers like this and the Annual Fund help current and future WIU students?

Tim: Many students don’t realize that the tuition they pay only covers about half of what it costs Western to provide their education in a given academic year. Gifts to the Annual Fund help keep our scholarships in place and bridge the funding gap between tuition and appropriated funds from the State of Illinois. If you think about it, the Annual Fund helps all students enjoy a “free” semester every year!

6. When and where will the race/obstacle course take place?

Tim: The event will be Saturday, October 27th in Marseilles, IL.

7. Anything else important to highlight that I didn’t ask about?

Tim: Virtually every area of our Macomb and Quad Cities campuses needs and appreciates Annual Gifts. I did not want his to compete with other worthy causes, so most of my outreach has been to people without a current connection to Western. That being said, anyone who does choose to support this effort will be sent a link to a private YouTube video of me crossing the finish line in my Purple and Gold, and likely receiving quite a bit of physical punishment (as is customary at the end of a Spartan Race.) As this video will be available only to donors, I’m betting that a lot of my student employees as well as colleagues would give a small gift just to see that!

Click on Tim’s photo in this post to donate… Good luck, Tim!