After Successful Career Reinvention, Executive MBA Alumnus Inspired to Make Planned Gift

Tom Tichenor (EMBA ’11) calls his time in the University of Virginia Darden School of Business Executive MBA (EMBA) program the most transformative of his professional life — two years that reoriented his career, expanded his professional abilities and permanently connected him to a tight-knit network of colleagues and friends. Now senior vice president at Marsh & McLennan Cos., Tichenor enrolled in the Executive MBA to bolster his professional capabilities following the global financial crisis, when the banking industry was in a period of great strain.

“While I had a successful career to date, I decided to pursue an MBA to reinvent myself and to round out my skill set,” said Tichenor. “I was drawn to Darden because of the rigorous academic program combined with a caring and supportive culture.”

Exceeding Expectations

Tichenor said the academic and cultural experiences lived up to their reputation and delivered unexpected layers of personal growth. Tichenor recalled being invited to speak to the EMBA faculty and his class in the UVA Rotunda toward the end of the program. During the EMBA program, Tichenor, who wanted to improve in public speaking because it was a critical part of his career, worked closely with management communication and leadership faculty to strengthen his delivery skills.

“To be able to deliver that speech and get a standing ovation, it really forced me to address one of my deepest fears,” Tichenor said. “It’s given me the confidence to present to audiences of over 1,000 people, and I’ve actually since been recognized at work for being a public speaker.”

Tichenor’s professional responsibilities also grew after graduating. He ascended in the Wells Fargo organization, taking a national sales leader position reporting directly to the head of the company’s insurance division before moving to Marsh & McLennan, which he describes as the “gold standard” of the insurance industry.

‘Instant Credibility’ Inspires Support

“The Darden degree gives me instant credibility internally with leaders and externally with clients and prospects,” Tichenor said. “I have realized an ROI on that investment that will continue to give back my entire life.”

The experience and results inspired Tichenor to support his alma mater, offering both time and philanthropic support. He serves as a class agent for his EMBA Class of 2011, which consistently surpasses 60 percent class participation every year — a figure that is typically the highest among all Darden classes. Tichenor also decided to make a major commitment to Darden by incorporating the School into his long-term financial and estate planning. In doing so, he joins the Cornerstone Society, which is comprised of alumni, parents, faculty and friends who have made planned gifts to any school or unit within the University of Virginia. He has also ensured his long-term commitment to Darden and its future.

“I can enjoy the benefits of being a Cornerstone Society member in my lifetime,” said Tichenor. “I also know that, one day, I will be providing an opportunity to a prospective student who normally would not be able to attend Darden.”

About the University of Virginia Darden School of Business

The University of Virginia Darden School of Business prepares responsible global leaders through unparalleled transformational learning experiences. Darden’s graduate degree programs (MBA, MSBA and Ph.D.) and Executive Education & Lifelong Learning programs offered by the Darden School Foundation set the stage for a lifetime of career advancement and impact. Darden’s top-ranked faculty, renowned for teaching excellence, inspires and shapes modern business leadership worldwide through research, thought leadership and business publishing. Darden has Grounds in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the Washington, D.C., area and a global community that includes 18,000 alumni in 90 countries. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.


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Molly Mitchell
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Darden School of Business
University of Virginia