Making sure Merion Golf Club is completely up to par for the national golf championship June 13-16 is on the shoulders of Richard “Rick” Ill ’65, head of the club’s U.S. Open committee.
Ill, who previously served five years as president of Merion, began planning and preparation many months ago. Logistics include steps to manage the anticipated 25,000-plus daily spectators, road closure approvals, and medical staffing, as well as grooming and grounds work to ensure the historic 126-acre course in Ardmore, Pa., is in top order.
This year’s event marks the fifth time that the U.S. Open has been held at Merion. Ill describes his experience during the 1971 and 1981 championships and current preparations in the April 1 Philly.com article “What It Takes to Prepare Merion Golf Club for a U.S. Open.” He said that 500 volunteers assisted in 1981 and more than 5,000 are working this year.
A history graduate, Ill is chairman and founder of Triumph Group Inc., a global aerospace enterprise headquartered in Wayne with 63 companies in 73 locations worldwide. He holds an MBA from Drexel University.
“My success in business and at Merion have a lot to do with enjoying and working well with people,” says Ill. “I had the opportunity to build strong interpersonal skills through my involvement in Student Government and being president of my fraternity.” He also noted that playing on the lacrosse team developed his leadership skills.
Interaction with professors Al Gendebien, George Heath, Ed Coddington, and others in the History Department were pivotal.
“When a professor disagreed with me academically or politically on some issue, I had the opportunity to argue my point of view, learning to handle discourse and debate,” he says.
He noted that the fraternity adviser was Francis Zimmerman, professor of mechanical engineering, which gave him the benefit of interacting with someone outside the liberal arts.
Ill founded Triumph in 1993 and was chairman and chief executive officer through 2012. He is a director of P.H. Glatfelter Company and Mohawk Industries and serves on the board of Drexel University and of Baker Industries, a nonprofit work rehabilitation program employing an overlooked and underutilized workforce population. He was vice chair for the Philadelphia area United Way Campaign cabinet in 2008 and 2009.
Named Ernest & Young 2009 Philadelphia Entrepreneur of the Year, Ill was a runner-up in its national competition. In 2011, the Mustang Scholars Foundation presented him with the Man of the Year award. The nonprofit endows scholarships to economically disadvantaged young men and women of promise to attend Valley Forge Military College.