Though he was a self-described late bloomer, he has blossomed and today he is an experienced financial advisor sharing his knowledge in how to invest money with clients and serving on Williamson’s board of trustees’ Finance Committee helping to guide the school’s investments.
Inspired by his Williamson journey and fueled by his professional success, Timothy Gilligan 9W6 recently made a significant annual donation of $25,000 to name an annual student scholarship. Reflecting on his life, Gilligan recognizes his hometown community and schooling as guiding forces that have led him to where he is at today.
Gilligan grew up in Sharon Hill and while attending Monsignor Bonner High School had no idea what he wanted to do after graduation.
Coming from a family of four boys with limited financial means, college was not an option.
He knew he needed to do something though he didn’t know what and when he learned of Williamson he was intrigued by the school’s uniqueness and enrolled in the Power Plant Technology Program.
“Williamson helped me a lot because it takes young men and puts them into a structured environment with discipline. This gave me an opportunity to mature intellectually. Williamson helped me find myself. It gave me hope that there was a place for me. It helps you think about your future in a realistic way. I benefited so much from the daily morning chapel and the guest speakers.”
Gilligan, who has always had a desire to be very much involved in whatever he is doing and takes things seriously, served as his class’ president and played on the baseball and basketball teams.
Though he benefited in many ways from his Williamson education, when he graduated he still had not made any firm career decisions.
He worked briefly in the power field and then enrolled in West Chester University because they accepted two years worth of his Williamson credits.
In two years he earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and, still searching for career goals, was considering becoming a history teacher or joining the Navy. He eventually enlisted in the Navy Reserves after 9/11 serving as an intelligence specialist supporting the global war on terrorism.
While trying to figure out which direction to take, he realized the economy was doing very well and saw that the Vanguard Group was hiring. For a long time he had been interested in how money works and decided to give Vanguard a try.
He says that was a great place to begin his career in finance and while working earned an MBA evenings at Drexel University. Later, he earned the difficult to obtain Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) certification, the gold standard in finance.
He then was promoted to the executive level, gave investment consultations as an advisor, and traveled the country going where his expertise was needed. Next, he became head of ETF sales at Legg Mason Global Asset Management before moving into the financial advisory role.
Among the highlights of his career are ringing the bell to open and close Nasdaq, seeing his picture displayed on Times Square, and being interviewed by many major financial publications including Bloomberg News.
Now, a number of years out of Williamson, Gilligan realizes that someone gave the money for his “free” education and it’s time for him to pay it forward. “Donors made my education happen. They gave me a hand up and changed my life. I remembered what various speakers said at Williamson when I was a student about the importance of giving back. A scene from the movie Cinderella Man with Russell Crowe also stayed with me. He fell on hard times, accepted money from the government, and when he had the financial ability, paid it back. After thinking about it, I made the decision to pay for a young man to go to Williamson. The time was right in my life and I wanted to make an investment in another person so I gave enough money to fund an annual named scholarship. I hope to help other young men again when the time is right. I want to help give kids the same opportunity I had. I don’t know how I will fund it yet, but I will work towards that goal. Investing in other people is the best investment I can make.”
Gilligan named his scholarship the Parents of Sharon Hill Scholarship instead of naming it after himself because he wanted to recognize the parents who lived in Sharon Hill when he was growing up because so many of them helped him as a child. “I was raised by a village and the parents who lived there did an amazing job of helping me and the other children in the community. My mother was an artist and artists don’t make a lot of money so she worked at a 7-11 to make ends meet. The people in our community came to her art shows and purchased her art which helped our family. Williamson helped me and the parents of Sharon Hill helped many.
“I hope I can motivate other alumni to evaluate how Williamson helped them as it did me. I donated $25,000 and it makes me feel like I have come full circle. It is a good feeling to help in this way.”
Gilligan joins a group of nearly 40 individuals, corporations, and foundations that provide scholarship support for a Williamson student.
When he gave to the scholarship program, a freshman was designated as the recipient of his generosity. They will meet at the annual Scholarship Celebration Dinner in the spring. This will give Gilligan the opportunity to get to know the young man he is helping and it will let the young man meet the person who is helping him receive a Williamson education.
Gilligan said there is another way he would like to help Williamson students and that is by helping them feel good about themselves. “There is another down side to coming from a family without much money other than just the economic limitations. Coming from a family without a lot of money caused me to feel like I was not as good as others who came from more affluent families. It’s easy for me to sell myself short and see others as better than me. This is wrong. It’s not how much money you have, but that you have the right morals and ethics and try to do the right thing. It’s important to me that the kids at Williamson realize this. Even if they come from low income families they are as good as anyone else. I have a tendency to put others on a pedestal, but you should put yourself on a pedestal and be proud of who you are and where you came from. You need to think of yourself in a positive way and we need to build each other up.”
Gilligan certainly has a lot to be proud of.
[If you are interested in supporting a student through a named annual scholarship, please contact Kelsey Turk, advancement officer, at email@example.com.]