UCI Trustee Tom Tierney has been honored as UCI's newest trustee emeritus, making him just the fourth person in the university's 50-year history to hold this exclusive distinction.
“Trustee emeritus status is reserved for our most distinguished supporters, and there is no one more deserving of this honor than Tom,” says Chancellor Howard Gillman. “Tom has truly made a difference in the lives of our students, and he has advanced the UCI mission in every way imaginable.”
For over a quarter century, Tom has been a trusted and passionate advocate for community health, a champion for veteran services, a pioneer for peace, and a critical force behind UCI's ascendancy as one of the world's most preeminent research universities. As the longest-serving member of the UCI Foundation Board of Trustees, the university has acknowledged Tom’s service by recognizing him with numerous awards, including the UCI Medal Award in 1990, the Alumni Extraordinarious Award in 1999 and now the title of trustee emeritus.
Tom and his wife, Elizabeth, have left an indelible mark at UCI. Their support spans more than three decades, during which time they established the Tierney University House, led the campaign for the UCI Douglas Hospital, created a lifetime chair in peace studies — the first of its kind in the entire UC system — and generously funded a wide variety of programs on campus as well as ongoing scholarships for students in the arts, humanities and nursing. They even created transformational scholarships for student veterans as a way to serve those who served our Country.
“The world is round and has no corners; therefore, everyone is a neighbor,” says Tom of his and Elizabeth's tremendous philanthropic support. “Being a force for good is in everyone’s best interest.”
Born into a working-class family from Detroit, Tom joined the United States Air Force after college and served in Vietnam as well as the world-famous RAND “Think Tank”. Returning to civilian life, he pursued a highly successful career in Orange County as founding CEO of Vitatech Nutritional Sciences. Once Elizabeth established strong ties to nearby UCI, he quickly became one of the university's biggest advocates and supporters.
"What makes Tom so unique is that he pours his heart and soul into everything he touches," says Gillman.
Many people still remember Tom’s enthusiastic involvement during the initial building phase of the Tierney University House. He used to arrive at the construction site early in the morning — before anyone else — to place nutritious energy bars all over the house for the construction workers. His compassion and sense of humor are a trademark.
“We enter the world, and then we all too soon leave,” Tom says. “What we do in between shapes our legacy for future generations.”
Tom and Elizabeth's thoughtful support for the university grew over time — and so did their legacy. Among the Tierney’s many contributions to UCI was their unprecedented campaign for the creation of the UCI Douglas Hospital. As campaign chairs, Elizabeth and Tom provided a strategic lead gift for the hospital and worked tirelessly to raise additional funding from the community. In fact, the Tierneys made it their personal mission to equip Orange County with its first — and only — university-based care provider. It was the university's largest capital campaign, and Tom says he loved every minute of it.
“The UCI Health enterprise needed a voice in the community to illuminate knowledge about its life-enhancing research,” says Tom. “UCI is a university for life. It supports the whole person from the tiniest cell to the healthy expressions of mind, body and spirit.”
Because of the Tierneys, countless individuals have been successfully treated at UCI’s Douglas Hospital and Medical Center. In addition, their support has enabled UC Irvine Health to pioneer innovative therapies and life-saving techniques that have been adopted by medical institutions across the nation.
Driven by a singular mission to lift people's lives, Tom and Elizabeth saw early on that they could make a lasting impact at UCI — a university, which like their philanthropic vision is built around a circle, without corners.“Without a doubt, our university and community are better off today because of Tom and Elizabeth's tremendous generosity and compassion," says Gillman. "As UCI's newest trustee emeritus, Tom is regarded as one of UCI's greatest visionaries."