April 6, 2009 — At Friday's close of the two-day meeting of the University of Virginia Board of Visitors, Rector W. Heywood Fralin said he wanted to take a few minutes to reflect on Alexander G. Gilliam Jr.'s contributions to the University — and in particular to the board.
Gilliam, known to all as Sandy, has served as secretary to the board since 1991. Friday's meeting was his last before retiring at the end of April.
"For 18 years, he served the board with remarkable wisdom, fairness and good sense," Fralin said. "He also has played an invaluable role in arranging and overseeing visits by heads of state and other dignitaries … with his customary common sense and cool head."
Gilliam, a U.Va. alumnus, came to work at the University in 1975. Prior to his service to the board, he was special assistant to three U.Va. presidents, accumulating vast institutional knowledge. Most in the University community know that Gilliam is a veritable walking history of U.Va.
But don't think the board — or President John T. Casteen III — will let Gilliam go very far, Fralin said. Gilliam's recall of even the smallest details of historic events is just too valuable to leave the Grounds, he said.
In May, Gilliam, who turns 76 next month, will move from his office in the Rotunda to a perch in the Small Special Collections Library, where he will continue to work part-time in dual roles as protocol and history officer.
As protocol officer, he will oversee visits to the University by heads of state and other senior government officials. As history officer, he will provide reference information and help prepare records on the University's history.
Gilliam received a prolonged standing ovation from members of the board for his service. Asked to say something in response, Gilliam — who is seldom at a loss for words — replied simply: "It¹s been fun."
The board then passed a resolution honoring Gilliam, which concluded:
"Now therefore be it resolved that the Board recognizes and thanks Mr. Gilliam for his distinguished service to the University, his thoughtful attention to the Board, and his friendship and advice to its Members during his term of office. … The Members of the Board are grateful that the University will continue to benefit from Mr. Gilliam¹s knowledge of the University and its people."