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Leslie Vermillion-UI Sociology Outstanding Alumni Award

I am pleased to have this opportunity to introduce Leslie Vermillion as this year’s BA recipient of the Sociology Outstanding Alumni Award.
Leslie and I worked together in the Office of Advancement for the College of LAS here at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. The advancement team is charged with raising money to support the college and works primarily with alumni and friends to achieve annual fundraising goals. Leslie joined the team in 1993, and I came in 1995. We worked together for 26 years, and during that time I was able to observe the many ways Leslie made a profound and lasting impact on the College.  

Over the 28 years that Leslie worked in advancement for the college, she achieved many accomplishments. Early in her tenure, she oversaw the annual fund which required analysis of data, observation of trends, attention to detail, and an ability to match communication styles with diverse audiences. In this role, she hired and supervised an entire team of student callers and raised millions of dollars in support of the college and its priorities. Later in her career she served as a major gift officer which drew on her ability to listen, to discern where individuals want to make an impact with their monetary support, and to meet people—including unit leaders—in order to achieve mutual goals. She personally raised more than $9 million in support of departmental and college level priorities during that portion of her tenure. At the end of her career, as our senior director of advancement operations, she and I worked very closely together to lead our team of more than 20 people. In this role, Leslie was not only an invaluable sounding board and strategic partner for me but was also particularly well known for her supportive yet very effective management style. One of her supervisees shared that Leslie “listened to, advised, and advocated for the employees she supervised. I always felt valued and heard. She strived to bring out the best in others and helped them become better in their current roles as well as prepare for the next. She was, and still is, a wonderful mentor.”
In an online video interview on the sociology departmental website, Leslie credits her study of sociology as being crucially important to her work in advancement. I agree with her assessment, as over the years I was able to observe Leslie’s profound ability to view individuals holistically, to adapt her communication style to that of her audience, and to seek to understand the backgrounds and orientations of the individuals with whom she worked in order to help further the mission of the college. Leslie is a walking embodiment of the impact a successful alumnae can accomplish with her degree in sociology, and I am pleased to help honor her with this award today.

- Joan Volkmann, retired associate dean for advancement
College of Liberal Arts & Sciences