Dr. Billy Hilyer
Anyone familiar with Faulkner University in Montgomery is probably familiar with Dr. Billy Hilyer.
For 43 years, Hilyer has served as a constant advocate and supporter of the university that has shaped much of his life and has also been shaped by him. Looking back on his career at Faulkner, which is still ongoing in his current role as chancellor, Hilyer says, “I just think this is best job in the world. I never had any inclination to go anywhere else or do anything else because I think faith-based and values-based education is just so very important. So to be able to work with young people, and to be able to grow and learn from them, and hopefully in some way, help them develop characteristics and qualities that will help guide them in life. I just never felt like there was anything that equalled.”
A graduate of Faulkner, Hilyer started his career there in 1974 as a part-time counselor, and eventually became president in 1986. Hilyer recalls, “we were dealing with some financial difficulties at the time, but we improved our position and then went full speed ahead into a time of great growth.” Indeed, the list of accomplishments under his direction includes a dramatic increase in enrollment and academic offerings, approval of the Thomas Goode Jones School of Law, and a transformation of the main campus through new buildings housing the college of business, school of law, dinner theatre, football stadium and several new residence halls.
During his time as president, Hilyer also frequently served the professional community. He participated for a number of years in the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and also chaired its Alabama delegation. He was also past chairman of the executive committee for the Southern States Athletic Conference and past chairman of the Alabama Independent Colleges and Universities.
Desiring more time with his family, Hilyer retired in June 2015. Faulkner’s board wasn’t ready to lose such a strong force for the university, so they created the chancellor position and offered it to him. Hilyer says, “I struggled with being retired and not knowing what I was supposed to do with myself, so I agreed to accept the position if I could make my own schedule. I’m now almost three years in, and I really enjoy the flexibility.”
Hilyer’s duties as chancellor include donor communications, assisting with fundraising, and working with the Faulkner Foundation. He is also involved in assisting current president Mike Williams with the development of an autism center that will be coming to the school soon. Hilyer says, “The whole area of health science is so important in the future of our country so we want to do something in that area. The autism center is an outstanding initiative of Dr. Williams that will focus on seminars and workshops, training teachers on how to better work with people with autism, and operate as a clearinghouse for information.”
Hilyer has also been active in community service separate from Faulkner. A native of Tallassee, he has helped launch several initiatives in his hometown. Several years ago, he got involved with a group seeking to restore Tallassee’s historic Mount Vernon Theatre. He says, “It was built in 1935 and had been closed for a number of years. A group of us talked to the owners about giving it to the city, and once they did, we worked to restore it. I got involved in the early stages and was able to get some architectural friends to do some designs and work free of charge. The group has been working especially hard for the last year or two, and I believe they’re about ready to open.”
In addition, Hilyer was part of the group that formed the Tallassee Community Development Corporation. “A while back the Tallassee mills closed and left a huge employment and leadership gap in the community. A few of us got together to form the group to help encourage growth, both community and economic, in Tallassee.” The nonprofit corporation is still going strong.
Several years before he stepped down as president, Hilyer and his wife moved to their farm in Elmore County near Tallassee. Over the years he’s raised quarter horses and showed cutting horses. He says, “I always used to have 12-15 horses. We’re down to about four now. My boys and I really used to have a good time showing those horses. We enjoyed doing it together.” Hilyer also enjoys hunting and fishing, and spending time with his three children and six grandchildren.
Those grandchildren are part of the reason Hilyer believes so strongly in giving back to the community. He says, “I had such a good childhood here in Tallassee. You’ve heard the saying, ‘It takes a village.’ That’s true.