A longtime fundraiser and political strategist for three presidential candidates – including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush – with indirect ties to the local area has been named to an executive-level position at Beacon College in Leesburg.
Richard Killion, a 25-year veteran of higher education advancement and fundraising and a political strategist for three Republican presidential campaigns, has assumed the role of vice president of institutional advancement at the college.
“Beacon is especially fortunate to have attracted a person and professional of Rich Killion’s caliber and reputation,” said Dr. George J. Hagerty, president of Beacon College. “It is understandably meaningful for me, as Rich and I enjoy a history of close collaboration on projects that truly made a difference for the organizations to which we were dedicated. I am certain that his impact on Beacon and its future will be significant.”
Killion, who started in his new role June 15, is charged with providing strategic vision and oversight for the department primarily responsible for the college’s comprehensive fundraising campaign and communications with external stakeholders. Killion primarily will focus on the college’s current $10 million “Continuing the Journey” campaign, which was launched last year.
Killion succeeded Stephen Muller, who served in the role for six years. He is retiring on June 30.
“It is an honor to serve at Beacon College, where a rigorous undergraduate liberal arts education is focused on the needs of students with diagnosed learning disabilities,” Killion said. “Beacon is committed to student success by providing pioneering academic, personal support and career development services. The significant graduation rates and career placement rates are a living testament to the dedication of the community that I am proud to join.”
Prior to joining Beacon, Killion co-founded and served as managing partner of the public affairs and strategic communications firm Elevare Communications for 16 years. At the Concord, N.H. company, he counseled CEOs, chairpersons and other high-level leaders on strategic communications and community engagement.
Killion also operated as a general consultant to former New Hampshire Senate President Chuck Morse and was tapped as senior New Hampshire strategist for the state presidential primary campaigns of governors Jeb Bush, Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty.
Both Bush and Romney have been frequent visitors to The Villages. Bush enjoyed strong support from The Villages Developer and spoke at both the dedication ceremony for The Villages Charter School and the first graduation ceremony for The Villages High School. Romney was the Developer’s presidential candidate of choice and also spoke to area residents at several rallies.
Killion also boasts a lengthy background in higher education. At Franklin Pierce College (now Franklin Pierce University), he served under Hagerty in various leadership roles including director of corporate and government relations, director of public relations, director of development and managing director of college relations.
Under his leadership as director of institutional advancement and capital campaigns, Killion oversaw Franklin Pierce’s first comprehensive capital campaign that exceeded the goal by $2 million and closed 18 months early.
From 2002-2004, Killion served as executive director of the Marlin Fitzwater Center for Communication at Franklin Pierce College. The former White House press secretary for both Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush is a part-time Villages resident and was a speaker at the Central Florida Book Expo 2020 at Eisenhower Recreation Center in January.
At the Fitzwater Center, Killion functioned as the principal researcher for the Center for Applied Public Opinion Research and generated more than a half-dozen public opinion survey reports that nationally spotlighted Franklin Pierce College during the 2004 Democratic presidential primary.
Killion earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from Stonehill College and holds a master’s degree in public administration from George Mason University.
The New Hampshire Union Leader recognized him in its “40 under 40” series of emerging leaders. Campaigns & Elections magazine ranked him among the state’s top 10 Republican influencers, while National Journal similarly rated him among the top 10 political operatives in New Hampshire.
Killion is married to KelliAnn (Norden). They have two children, Sean and Alexander.
Founded in 1989, Beacon College is the first accredited baccalaureate institution dedicated to educating primarily students with learning disabilities – ADHD, dyslexia and other learning differences. Ranked No. 1 in Best Value Schools’ 2019 rankings of 20 Best Value Colleges for Students with Learning Disabilities, the college is recognized nationally as a preeminent institution for accommodating and preparing students who learn differently to prosper in a global economy.