Alumnus Spotlight: Dave Hilfman, Named USF Alumni Association 2018 Distinguished Alumnus, Soon to Retire from Commercial Airline Industry
By Keith Morelli
TAMPA (August 28, 2018) -- Throughout his career, Dave Hilfman has met success at just about every turn. Now, as the senior vice president of worldwide sales at United Continental Holdings prepares to retire, he has come full circle with recognition from where it all started.
Hilfman is among the impressive group of individuals named on the 2018 Distinguished Alumni list from the USF Alumni Association. The awards will be given out at a ceremony next month. Hilfman, who currently oversees a team of 800 sales individuals, graduated in 1982 with a degree in finance and credits his success to his days attending classes on what then was a relatively small campus.
"My education and experiences at USF played a huge part in my career as a business professional and airline sales executive," Hilfman said. "Between all my great professors and some truly progressive business classes for the time, I learned so much about finance, marketing and sales and that all helped me immensely in the real world.
"I remember like it was yesterday, walking into the brand new, world-class business school back in 1980 and thinking how I made a very wise choice in schools," he said. "I was right. Pursuing a business degree at USF does pay off."
A year before he graduated, he began his airline career with Eastern Airlines as a campus sales representative. He held sales positions of increasing responsibility with Eastern throughout the Southeastern United States until joining United Airlines in 1986.
He served as vice president of reservations and sales at United Airlines and vice president of multi-national sales and revenue programs during his career. Again, he credited his education as laying the groundwork for his success.
"In addition to my finance studies, I was fortunate to get involved in a litany of other activities at USF which really rounded out my education and was key in helping me get my first job out of college with Eastern Airlines in 1983," he said. "I was fortunate to be part of the new USF Alumni Association's ambassador program, which provided me with the opportunity to interact with our university administration executives and all our high-roller alumni and donors."
He said that experience as a USF ambassador taught him now to engage with top business executives, which later would become so important in his career.
"I also had the privilege of serving two terms as USF student body president and president of the Interfraternity Council," he said. Along the way, he learned how to prioritize, develop business plans and most importantly, strengthen his communication skills.
"That's essential if you want to achieve your full potential in the business world," he said. "It made a huge difference for me with Eastern, Continental and United Airlines."
Being named a USF Distinguished Alumnus was an unexpected topper to his long and successful career, bringing him back to where it all started.
"I was so honored to be selected as a 2018 Distinguished Alumnus award winner," he said. "You never expect something like that to happen but what a thrill, especially for a small town guy from Iowa. I'm thankful every day for my years at USF and am humbled to be recognized for my career in the airline business and my ongoing support of the university.
"Both have been extraordinarily rewarding."
Hilfman remains intertwined with USF activities and he plans to increase involvement when he draws his career to a close at the end of the year.
"I'm excited about all the amazing things happening at our university and its continued growth," he said. "My involvement with the USF Alumni Association will continue with unbridled enthusiasm, especially in light of my upcoming retirement. More time for my alma mater."