Erica Tillery, 36

0 Posted by - September 26, 2014 - 2014, Charlotte-Lee-Collier 2014

Vice President of Finance, Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer, Hodges University

A public bond sale is like the Super Bowl of finance.

But Erica Tillery is no stranger to tackling big challenges. After all, she quit a high-powered accounting job to move to China without knowing a word of the language to coordinate educational grants for poor Chinese children. Later, she moved to Southwest Florida without a job, eventually landing at Hodges University.

Tillery, who has been the chief financial officer at Hodges University for three years, raised $28.9 million in a public bond sale for the Naples-based university last year. She refinanced existing privately held bonds and arranged for the purchase of a new building by taking advantage of the current low-interest rate environment.

“It’s an ungodly amount of work,” says Tillery. That included dealing with attorneys, bankers, institutional investors, bond underwriters and a maze of regulatory issues. “If the first thing you have to do is hire five separate law firms, you’re in trouble,” she laughs.

In the world of accounting, a public bond sale is a huge accomplishment given the complexity of issues. “It is a very big deal,” Tillery acknowledges.

— Jean Gruss

Q&A

City of residence: Estero

Birthplace: Quincy, Ill.

Years on the Gulf Coast: Five

Marital status/children: Married to Chad Tillery, six-pound miniature dachshund Trinka

Alma mater: University of Missouri

The most important business lesson I’ve learned: Hire good people and take good care of them. The success you will achieve is directly linked to the quality of your supporting team.

Favorite off-hours activity: Home renovation

What’s at the top of your bucket list: Visit Normandy invasion beaches.

Best place to network: Hodges University events. Thelma Hodges not only knows everyone, she has a good story to share about them as well.

Coolest business experience: University’s first public bond issue.

One website that makes your job easier: IRS.gov

One community group you’re most involved with: Summit Church in Estero

Two people, dead or alive, you’d like to have dinner with: Winston Churchill, Sheryl Sandberg

Best award you ever received: Poem written by my sister (who has since passed) when she was in second grade naming me as her hero.

Most adventurous thing you’ve ever done: Moved to China with two suitcases, speaking one word of Chinese and not knowing a single person.

What new skill would you like to learn: I would like to continue learning new languages.

Who would play you in a movie about your life: My friends say Renée Zellweger because they think she looks a little like me. I don’t see it, though.

If I had a magic wand I’d: Widen Corkscrew Road in Lee County.

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