Alumni spotlight: 2017 Dean's Award winner
Alumnus Tommy Hickman channels passion for science into lifelong career, service.
Tommy Hickman wears garnet five out of seven days every week. Above and beyond a fan, Hickman considers himself an ambassador for the College of Arts and Sciences and the entire university.
“I see myself as someone who cares deeply about the university,” says Hickman, who earned his bachelor of science in chemistry. “South Carolina has been really good to me, and I always wanted to give back.”
Hickman was honored for these efforts and his years of service to the College of Arts and Sciences with the 2017 Dean’s Award.
A member of the Board of Visitors for the College of Arts and Sciences, Hickman and his siblings started the Mary Booth Hickman Scholarship at the university in 1998 in honor of their mother. He and his brother Fred started the Fred III and Tommy Hickman Chemistry Scholarship in 2002. In addition, Hickman and his wife Patricia created the Tommy and Patricia Hickman Scholarship in 2013. In 2001, he received the College of Science and Math’s Distinguished Young Alumnus Award.
Hickman, who is a Conway native, retired three years ago as senior vice president of operations for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. He joined the company in 1987 as quality engineer, and after working in several areas of operations, he was named vice president of operations planning and quality assurance in 1997. Hickman was promoted to senior vice president of manufacturing in July 2002 and became senior vice president of operations in October 2008.
As a student at Carolina, Hickman followed his interest in science and math to study chemistry, and he encourages current students to seek out the areas about which they are curious.
“I would tell them to pick the major that they have some passion about,” he says. “Sciences have always been very good to me. I’ve done a lot of work in the STEM field and in manufacturing and operations. There are lots of opportunities for careers for students who study in the arts and sciences.”
Prior to joining Reynolds Tobacco, Hickman held the position of quality manager for Anchor Continental, Inc. in Columbia. He is also an American Society for Quality certified quality engineer, a certified quality auditor and a certified reliability engineer.
Hickman has been married to Patricia Beagles Hickman for over 32 years, and they live in the Greensboro, North Carolina area. Their daughter, Lauren, recently graduated with a doctor of pharmacy from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Hickman enjoys spending time in North Myrtle Beach and visiting the university as often as possible.
He said he was surprised and extremely humbled to be given the Dean’s Award. What motivates Hickman to give back and continue serving is seeing the need for education in his community and hearing from students who his family has helped in some way.
“I always look forward to getting letters from students,” he says. “And it always puts a smile on my mother’s face to read letters from students.”