Tyler Reich was happily pursuing healthcare-reform legislation as chief of staff for Oregon State Sen. Alan Bates when his alma mater, Willamette University, gave him a call. And a second. And a third.
"It was someone from the Annual Fund, who said 'We think you’d be a great fit for this position we have open,'" said Reich, Oxy’s new assistant vice president for alumni engagement. "I said no. I loved politics and had no intention of leaving. But they kept calling until I agreed to meet. That’s when I recognized that the whole purpose of education, transforming people’s lives, could be even more gratifying."
That was six years ago. Today, Willamette’s former director of Annual Giving has signed on with Oxy to head Alumni Relations and the Annual Fund, the result of a successful national search to find a successor to Carl Botterud ’79. (Botterud will now focus exclusively on his role as College counsel.)
"Oxy seemed like a perfect fit," Reich said in his Samuelson Alumni Center office on his second day on the job. "It’s an incredible college with a national reputation, an impressive alumni population, Jonathan Veitch’s dynamic leadership, distinguished faculty, and outstanding students. It’s the perfect package. Besides, my wife has been asking for years, ‘Don’t you want to move someplace warmer?’"
Reich’s hiring is symbolic of the College’s renewed commitment to better serving alumni, one of the goals in the College’s new strategic plan, said Shelby Radcliffe, vice president for Institutional Advancement.
"That commitment began with the opening of the Samuelson Center last spring, and Tyler’s arrival represents a major investment in this important goal," Radcliffe said. "One of his first tasks will be to work with the Board of Governors to develop a three-year plan for alumni engagement."
Reich can’t wait to get started. "It’s important for us to look at everything we’re doing," he said. "I look forward to working closely with the Board of Governors and the alumni body as we chart the future. This is an opportunity to continue the longstanding traditions held closely by Oxy alumni while also being as creative and innovative as our resources will allow."
Reich knows firsthand the value of alumni generosity. In becoming the first person in his family to graduate from college, he supplemented his scholarships with night and weekend jobs. "Instead of going to Mexico on spring break, I was working in a medical office. I worked Christmas Eve most years."
And it was well worth it, he said. "Willamette was a good fit. I got a broad education, a lot of one-on-one interactions with professors, and lots of opportunities for leadership roles. The best decision I ever could have made was to choose a liberal arts education."
It was also at Willamette that he met his wife, Katie, an MBA and business continuity analyst. "I was her resident assistant our sophomore year," he said with a grin. "Ironically, I had to get permission from my director to be able to date her. We got married on the ninth anniversary of our first date."
Having found a place to live within minutes of the Oxy campus, Reich is still shopping for an Oxy wardrobe. "I’m working on that," he said with the air of a man on a mission. "I now have four or five orange ties, and a few orange shirts, but I need to spend a lot more time in the bookstore."