A friend of a friend-Wright Killian-Ila Gray Killian-August 14

One thing I have learned is that good friends have other good friends. This is a series of stories about “friends of my friends”. The post below is the story for August 14, 2015.

My goal in 2015 is to learn or get re-acquainted with 365 people and doing a daily post on the “the friend of a friend” is helping me get closer to my goal.

When you get a new position or job if you are honest you probably will find you have new responsibilities. Those new expectations for me as UNCP’s athletic director had me being overwhelmed. One particular responsibility I assumed when I became athletic director in 1998 was oversight of the department’s budget. Today that budget is probably close to 6 million dollars but in 1998 it was far less than that. That still didn’t diminish my anxiety and if were not for a special friend and colleague I don’t think I would have lasted very long as the athletic director at UNCP.

In 1998 after about 6 weeks on the job I made an appointment to have the controller at UNCP listen to my fears and inadequacies as it related to understanding budget spreadsheets. I was not a business major and the budgetary platform UNCP was using at the time was called FRS (Financial Reporting System). It was a language I could not decipher. It was software I could not navigate.

The controller or friend was Ila Gray Killian. In that first meeting with her I made a confession and plea for her help. Ila listened to me tell her I was lost when it came to understanding her world and complex language. For the next 8 years she mentored me and coached me to become proficient as a fund manager. In the 8 years she was assistant vice-chancellor and controller and I was athletic director we ended each year with a cash balance. That expectation and responsibility that I was assigned was met because I had an outstanding coach.

Under Ila’s guidance I learned to read FRS, then learned a new platform called BANNER Finance, and could make strategic decision with data instead of a hunch. Ila taught me about end of fiscal year reconciliations and the strategies that could make the athletic cash flow better. I wasn’t perfect and sometimes she scolded me for an inappropriate financial transactions by the coaches and staff. She came to trust that I would deal with the mistakes and do my best not to have them replicated again.

I think of all the compliments that I have ever received at UNCP the nicest one occurred after Ila retired. Roger Killian who was the budget officer at the time stated to a group of fund managers in a training session that Dan Kenney might be the most knowledgeable fund manager outside of business affairs on campus. I don’t know if that statement was accurate but thanks to Ila I had fiscal acumen.

Ila started working at Pembroke in 1975 as an accounting technician. She was well-known in the UNC system for spotless audits. She retired on December 31, 2006.


Ila served as the controller since 1984 and served in the dual role of budget officer for the first 14 years. At the time of her retirement she was  supervising a staff of 23 and was responsible for internal and external financial reporting, accounts payable and receivable, capital project budgeting and accounting, fixed asset and grant accounting, payroll and supervision of the cashier’s office.

She graduated summa cum laude from UNCP in 1983 with a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration while she was working at the university.

Ila today spends time doting on her family including her friend and husband Wright Killian.


Ila beach

The Friend of the Friend-WRIGHT KILLIAN

Wright Killian

The Professor and Dream Team member

Dr. Wright Killian is a retired UNCP psychology professor who married Ila Gray later in life. Ironically Wright married a women who had three daughters graduate from UNCP: Theresa Marie Brady, Rebecca Ann Gray-Carr and Mary Ila Oxendine. The marriage also came with three sons, Garrett, Steve and Scott.

Wright came to UNC Pembroke in 1967 as a psychology professor. He had earned a bachelor and master degree from East Carolina and a Ph.D from NC State.

When Wright retired in 2002 he was part of a Hall of Fame classes of faculty and staff that saw UNCP experience growth over parts of 5 decades. Picture below shows all the faculty who retired from UNCP in 2002.

Wright is listed on top row 3rd from left.

retired 2002

If Ila was the coach that helped me shine with my fiscal responsibilities then Wright was a member the “faculty dream team” that gave the student athletes the Pembroke experience I was entrusted with.

Together as a team Ila and Wright gave a lot to UNCP.


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