Paul Sullivan ’66 believes in sticking with what works.
So when the retired Exxon Mobil Corporation attorney discovered how the Paul E. Sullivan Business Scholarship he established had benefited financially needy University of Maine students, he decided to increase his commitment to help more young people.
It was from the recipients themselves that he learned about the difference that the award – created in 2001 with matching funds from Exxon Mobil – made in their lives.
“I’ve gotten some very beautiful letters from students who said they may not have had the opportunity to attend UMaine without it,” says the Dallas resident.
“Others said they would have had to drop out. One recipient waited to write me the year after receiving the scholarship to send me the grades. Hearing from these students is tangible evidence of success. So when you see that something’s working and you have the ability to increase it and you’ve got a company with a matching gift program, all of that comes together and tells me it would be awfully silly not to continue.”
Administrators also write thank-you letters to benefactors, says John Mahon, dean of the business school.
“But the letter that really carries weight is from the student.”
A Massachusetts native, Paul majored in accounting at UMaine and worked hard at his academics. He was inducted into the Sophomore Owls Society and the Senior Skull Society, honors groups whose members also are selected for their leadership, integrity, and service to the University.
But he was determined to shine in other areas, too, and he quickly joined the cheerleading team, the yearbook staff and Phi Kappa Sigma where he was elected treasurer in his senior year.
“I got involved in activities and I had a lot of good friends and great experiences,” he says. “There was a feeling of intimacy here and the professors were extremely friendly and helpful. Everything just seemed to click.”
Paul credits the University with giving him a first rate education, as well as the tools to take advantage of it, and also for paving the way for a successful career as vice president and general tax counsel at Exxon Mobil.
“UMaine taught me discipline and showed me how to focus, how to study, and how to work on the right things in the right way,” he says. “I found out how to divide my time between outside activities and staying current in the classroom. My UMaine experience helped point me in the right direction for the rest of my life.”
After graduating from Boston College Law School, Paul began his illustrious career, serving in a number of positions of increasing responsibility at Exxon Mobil before being named vice president and general tax counsel, overseeing a department of 185 tax lawyers and accountants in the United States and about 600 people worldwide. When he retired earlier this year, he was responsible for the worldwide tax activities of the corporation and its subsidiaries, including the payment of approximately $100 billion of taxes worldwide in 2006, as well as for tax planning, audit, appeals and litigation in the tax arena.
Paul’s involvement with UMaine continued in a way he never would have imagined. After his son Michael heard about the wonderful experiences his father had at UMaine, he decided to follow in his footsteps and attend the flagship University.
“It was the right place for him, too,” says Paul.
Michael Sullivan graduated from UMaine in 1992 and is a successful technology entrepreneur in the Boston area.
Paul and his wife Barbara also have a daughter, Kelley, as well as six grandchildren.
Proud of his achievements and grateful for his thriving career, Paul never forgot where it all began.
“I kept thinking back to my years at UMaine and I really felt what I had become was because of my experience there,” he says. “I wanted to give back to the citizens and residents of the state of Maine.”
His scholarship is doing just that — providing Maine business students with access to first rate academic programs and the opportunity to be involved in the exciting growth of the business school.
Calling the scholarship “an enormous gift that goes on and on,” Dean Mahon points out that generous supporters like Paul often become role models for students who remember the help they received and then decide down the road to return the favor.
“You have essentially a cross-generational gift. One generation steps forward and helps another and then that generation steps up and helps the next generation. It really is amazing the multiplicity that these gifts have over time.”
Paul says he has enjoyed his nearly 40 years with Exxon Mobil. He is particularly proud of The National Math and Science Initiative, a program sponsored by the Exxon Mobil Corporation to encourage new generations to pursue careers involving math and science so the U.S. can compete successfully in the global community of the 21st century.
“The future of this country depends on strong science and math curricula,” he says.
Paul also is concerned with the future of UMaine. He has agreed to help build support for Campaign Maine by joining the National Campaign Leadership Council, composed of nearly 100 distinguished alumni and friends from a broad range of professional fields, geographic locations and graduating classes. Through their membership on the Council, these individuals signal their commitment to ensuring a new vision for the University.
“I want to see more graduates of UMaine and more of the state’s business people give the support that the University deserves,” says Paul. “The citizens and residents of the state should be proud of the University and its accomplishments.”
He recalls noticing as a student the inscription above the Fogler Library entrance: Pride in the Past, Faith in the Future.
“Those words made an impression on me,” he says. “With a little faith and a lot of funding we can secure a feeling of pride in the University for future generations.”
Image Description: Barbara and Paul Sullivan
Image Description: (From left) Daughter-in-law Beth and son Michael Sullivan '92, Barbara and Paul Sullivan, daughter Kelley Runyan and husband Tom. Standing in front are grandsons Matthew, left, and Connor. Absent are younger grandchildren Ellie, Charlie, Caroline and Brigette.