Making the Sale
Richard Twilley invests in ECU to educate sales leaders
Richard Twilley ’89 is sold on his belief in East Carolina University and the potential for the university to become a national leader in sales education.
Through a $4.5 million commitment, Twilley is leading the way to bring his vision to fruition. His investment will establish the Richard G. Twilley Academy of Sales Leadership in the College of Business (COB). Twilley’s gift was a capstone of the university’s Pursue Gold campaign, which exceeded its $500 million goal ahead of schedule.
“We are grateful for the support of alumni like Richard Twilley who are motivated by our efforts to prioritize transformational experiences for all learners,” Chancellor Philip Rogers said. “Through his investment and innovative leadership, Mr. Twilley is supporting ECU’s efforts to drive economic mobility and workforce success for our students.”
Twilley has worked in the sales profession for 35 years, spending the last 25 years as an executive sales leader with Fortune 100 companies in a high-growth, competitive business-to-business marketplace. He aims to leverage his expertise and serve as an advisor in developing the new academy.
“I’ve prepared my whole life to help the university do this and didn’t even know I was,” Twilley said. “It’s a place that changed my life. I will be very engaged for as long as the university will take my input.”
Since 2015, Twilley has served as group vice president for vertical sales at Spectrum Enterprise, a division of Charter Communications. He is responsible for vertical sales across the country. With his vertical sales group, Twilley leads the generation of new revenue for the company across health care, hospitality, state and local government – K-12 public and private school systems, and higher education market segments.
Twilley graduated from ECU with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a concentration in marketing and completed Harvard Business School’s executive management program. He is experienced in the development and execution of dynamic sales distribution plans, methodologies and emerging technologies to accelerate revenue growth while aligning and contributing to organizational business priorities.
He was recently appointed to the ECU Foundation board of directors and will serve a four-year term, promoting and strengthening the university through the solicitation, management and distribution of private gifts. He also serves as a director on the Pirate Club’s executive committee.
As part of his overall gift, Twilley has established a charitable trust which will provide annual funds for the benefit of the academy, creating resources for scholarships, research, technology, marketing, and travel for professionals or students. The remaining funds will come to ECU through pledged planned gifts and a bequest from his estate.
“There is a great deal of positive momentum in the College of Business and our donors are seeing a strong return on investment for their gifts,” said Mike Harris, interim dean of the COB. “We’re using these opportunities to create high-impact learning experiences and the Twilley Academy of Sales Leadership is a great example of a strategic investment that can enhance critical skills for our students and better prepare them to be successful early in their careers.”
ECU’s leadership, its mission to be a national model for student success, public service and regional transformation, and the refreshed strategic plan, Future focused. Innovation driven., has inspired Twilley to give back to ECU in such a significant way.
“I’ve spent the last 35 years of my career training for this moment to be able to advise and participate in creating and launching a vision that all began in a discussion with Chancellor Rogers,” Twilley said. “That’s really what got me excited about the unlimited potential of such a needed resource for our university and region.”
Twilley sees himself as a catalyst for recruiting other people in the community to put their money and expertise behind the program.
About the academy
The Twilley Academy of Sales Leadership, which will be formally dedicated in Twilley’s honor later this year, is focused on advancing world-class sales education, cutting-edge research, providing executive educational programs, and fostering beneficial corporate partnerships.
“This investment in sales leadership through the Office of Expert Services will significantly enhance the region’s professional development and business growth,” said John Chapman, Twilley Academy director. “By establishing an executive education program in our state-of-the-art Twilley Academy of Sales Leadership, we will educate and empower the region’s current and future sales leaders with skills and strategic insights.”
The Twilley Academy is housed in the college’s Department of Marketing and Supply Chain Management. It serves COB students and its industry partners by developing a new generation of sales professionals based on academic excellence, experiential learning and executive education.
Twilley hopes to leverage cornerstone pieces already in place in the academy. Chapman offers four classes built for a sales certificate with more than 100 students enrolled. With additional courses, Twilley believes the academy can grow in relevance for sales professionals and students.
“Sales is what I do and I love it. It is not what we teach in college, but we have to innovate as ECU is committed to offering academic excellence and regional transformation. It’s so crucial to ECU,” Twilley said. “No matter what your training, eventually you’ll need to be able to understand that sales is a science and follows a disciplined system approach for optimal outcome. I am confident through the academy we can provide the foundation to give students the opportunity to become influential professional sales leaders.”
Raising ECU’s profile
Ultimately, Twilley’s goal is to support ECU in elevating the academy to best in class in North Carolina in five years and competing at a top level on the national stage in that same timeframe.
He is eager to serve as an advisor and will play a critical role in developing the academy’s long-range plan, vision and mission. Future ideas include the creation of a sales executive in residence program, enabling Twilley and other leaders to coach and mentor students and business professionals enrolled in sales training programs.
Twilley believes the short-term goal is to develop a comprehensive sales curriculum that includes a certificate (open to all majors) and a concentration. Sales training and professional development programs could be a revenue producer for ECU.
The most important goal for Chapman is graduating top-notch professional sales students. The Twilley Academy provides students the ability to compete in national sales competitions and meet and network with global companies at these events.
A more robust sales academy will create additional opportunities for competition, attract more national companies wanting to get involved as sponsors, and lead to student job opportunities, Chapman said. The increase in career opportunities will attract students wishing to participate in the Pirate Sales Club and compete in sales competitions, growing the academy.
The academy’s goals align with Twilley’s focus on educational excellence. In addition to improved infrastructure and space within the COB, advanced learning resources and expanded research opportunities are on the horizon.
“The investment will attract top-tier thought leaders and students, elevating the academy’s reputation,” Chapman said. “I also envision scholarships to outstanding sales student leaders.”
Training students to become sales leaders
Students like Olivia Grubb, a senior majoring in business marketing with a certificate in professional selling, are already preparing for careers in sales with the support of the academy.
“The (Twilley) Academy of Sales Leadership at ECU has helped me pursue my professional goals by providing access to hands-on training as well as several networking opportunities. I have been able to form connections with many successful sales industries and professionals,” Grubb said. “Along with this, participating in sales competitions has allowed me to strengthen my skills and confidence by engaging in real-world scenarios. I would like to thank John Chapman for believing in me and encouraging me to join the academy because it has truly changed my life.”
Rodney Bonilla, a senior majoring in supply chain management and marketing with a professional sales certificate, said it is motivating and inspirational to have access to ECU alumni and proves to him that Pirates can and will reach the highest positions of the business world.
“Having access to alumni like Richard Twilley is humbling because I know that for him to be at the level that he is at he has a lot of people that try to talk to him and taking up his time,” Bonilla said. “For him to want to be around us and want to teach us the lessons he has learned throughout his amazing experiences is humbling and great for students.”
The investment of time and training Twilley experienced at ECU have inspired and guided him throughout his career. He was a non-traditional ECU student who had a full-time job and no idea what profession he wanted to pursue.
Twilley recalls advisors and professors, Dr. Havva Meric, Dr. Jim Westmoreland and Dr. Ed Wheatley and others who influenced him. He says he would have never been prepared for the business world, including his transition to sales, without them. He describes Meric as a catalyst to his educational success.
“She always believed in my abilities and continuously pushed me to achieve greatness,” Twilley said. “I will forever be indebted to her for her mentorship.”
Westmoreland once wrote Twilley a note on a business card, “Richard, you have got a great career ahead of you, don’t press to impress.”
“I carried it in my wallet and before meetings where I had to go in and talk to people at an executive level, I would read that card before I walked in and it grounded me in purpose,” Twilley said.
He returned the card to Westmoreland about 15 years ago with a note to share how much it influenced his professional life.