During the Union College commencement service on May 7, the 2023 President’s Award was presented to Ron and Vicki Biloff in celebration of their exceptional philanthropic generosity. Through the years they have provided student financial aid and enriched the lives of countless students. They have volunteered in numerous strategic initiatives and inspire a consistent, undaunted optimism for and commitment to advancing Union College’s future.
The Biloffs have been proud Unionites for more than 60 years, investing in the future of Union’s students by volunteering their time and expertise, through philanthropic generosity … and many countertops.
Both Ron and Vicki spent time in Union’s classrooms in the 1960s. “I wasn’t the best student because I worked about 60 hours a week,” Ron said. “I didn’t spend much time with the books.” At the encouragement of Cal Krueger, Ron left college after a few semesters to start his own company: Lincoln Laminating, Inc. With many late nights and much perseverance, he built his business into a multi-state countertop fabrication and installation company. When DuPont released Corian solid surface, Ron discovered new, better ways to fabricate and install it. DuPont hired him as a consultant and sent him around the country and overseas to teach fabrication seminars.
Ron and Vicki have been giving to Union for many years — even before the college established a development office to keep records. They are members of the W.W. Prescott Society in recognition of their outstanding lifelong giving. Throughout the years, the Biloffs have given in a variety of ways: gifts of stock, from their IRAs and even laminate materials.
The Biloffs’ primary giving focus has been scholarships. Their generosity has allowed many students who needed financial aid to graduate — 45 in the last ten years alone. Often, Ron and Vicki build personal connections with these students, providing mentorship, offering support, and even opening their home.
“We like to support students who would not be able to stay in school without help and get to know them,” said Ron. “Some years we might have two to five students we support. Over the years, these students have gone on to be nurses, teachers, pastors and administrators. The joy of seeing where all these kids have gone and what they are doing is far more rewarding than any dollars you can hold in your hand.”
“The Biloffs are the reason I’m able to graduate this May,” said Lena Ditgen, an elementary education major. “I’m so grateful for them. We meet up when they’re in town to catch up and talk, and they are always so hospitable. I remember one time it was really cold and I didn’t have a pair of gloves. Mrs. Biloff handed me the gloves off her hands, saying, ‘everyone needs a pair of gloves.’ They’ve helped me with more than just school; their generosity and kindness goes beyond, and they’ve had a huge impact on me.”
In addition to helping individual students, Ron and Vicki have supported Union College on a number of major projects, including the current Fit for the Future Campaign for expanded on-campus wellness opportunities. The Biloffs helped realize the Krueger Center for Science and Mathematics and participated in the Learning and Living Campaign, which modernized dorm rooms, classrooms and the Dick Building amphitheater. In fact, Ron and Vicki joined with Maranatha volunteers to renovate rooms in Rees Hall. Ron built a jig to help the volunteers fabricate cabinetry quickly, and Vicki made sure everyone had cool water and food in the summer heat.
The Biloffs challenged Union to dream bigger as members of the Campus Master Planning committee, which provides a vision for the college’s development over the course of several years. They have also donated countertops to several building projects across campus.
The couple takes each decision to support Union College to God in prayer. “I like to say that God still speaks in a still small voice, but sometimes we just need to turn on our hearing aids,” said Ron. “Sometimes I get a feeling that God wants us to help someone. I don’t know who they are really, but I get it done. And then it might be two or three weeks and I forget about it, until I get a message some way or another saying, ‘How did you know? I had just prayed about this that morning.’”
“It’s been such a blessing to be able to give to Union,” said Vicki. “I get more joy out of helping and supporting someone else than when I do something for myself.”
The Biloffs sold their thriving business in 2001 and retired. Now they enjoy traveling and volunteering around the Lincoln community. Union College isn’t the only beneficiary of their time. The Biloffs have been serving grilled cheese sandwiches at Matt Talbot Kitchen and Outreach once a month for 30 years. Vicki was a volunteer driver for the American Cancer Society’s Road to Recovery program, providing rides to and from appointments for cancer patients.
Vicki and Ron are passionate advocates for Lincoln’s youth. Both mentor school-age children through TeamMates, an organization dedicated to encouraging students to finish high-school. The Biloffs also support Youth for Christ Lincoln, the Lied Center for the Performing Arts, College View Church and the Lincoln Municipal Band.
“For decades, Ron and Vicki have given money, time, leadership and love,” said Vinita Sauder, Union College president. “We cannot thank them enough. They have been an answer to prayer for so many students.”