Tom Lucchesi joins the UIS Office of Advancement

Tom Lucchesi

One Professor Can Change a Student’s Life

In 1978, Sangamon State professor Anna May Smith changed Tom Lucchesi’s life forever.

A Springfield native, Tom was working on a bachelor’s degree in psychology at another college. When he encountered a mental block in a statistics class, rather than finishing he came back home, eventually becoming a manager at the newspaper.

“That career wasn’t for me, but what to do?” he says. “Take the first step and go talk to someone at the College.”

During that very first meeting with Dr. Smith, just as so many students at Sangamon State and then UIS have before him, Tom found a university that makes a way for students to succeed.

He mentioned his reason for leaving college, and Dr. Smith started asking him about statistics—some of the questions quite challenging. When Tom had answers for all of them, she wrote something on a piece of paper, handed it to him and told him to go register.

Unbeknownst to Tom, Dr. Smith had been giving him a test to gauge his proficiency in statistics, and he passed!

“If she had that much faith in me,” Tom says now, “I had to have faith in myself.”

Working fulltime, with a wife and child, Tom took six years to graduate—the non-traditional experience of so many students even today.

A Turning Point in Tom’s Life

After graduating, another turning point came in Tom’s life in 1987 when his mother died of cancer. He decided then that he wanted to use his life to help others, and within a few years, he began working for the American Cancer Society as a field representative.

Tom got his first taste of fundraising at the Cancer Society, organizing events to raise money. He then went to the Central Illinois Community Blood Center, where he “raised (blood) donors instead of dollars.”

Then came time as the development director for the Masonic Grand Lodge of Illinois, raising funds for the Illinois Masonic Charities. A one-person shop, this gave him experience an all aspects of fundraising. It was during this time that he learned the vital importance of meeting the needs of donors and protecting their interests.

A Great Fit at UIS

As a Director of Development at UIS, Tom will be reaching out to donors, seeing what their interests are and then helping them help the university. His main areas of focus will be the College of Education and Human Services and Sangamon Auditorium. Two things he’s looking forward to:

  1. Being part of a team: “No more one-person shop!”
  2. Even more—being a part of the growth of UIS.
    “I was so excited when I saw the new Student Union, and also the scholarship program, through which I’m going to raise funds to help someone with their life. That is fantastic.”