Justin DeLille has built a successful career in Northwest Arkansas — even if it has been by accident.
Since living in Northwest Arkansas in 2007, DeLille has made a name for himself as a corporate fundraiser, first for the Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville and later for Little Rock-based Arkansas Children’s Hospital.
Since April, DeLille, 38, has settled into his new job working in the Broyles Athletic Center at the University of Arkansas, working as a senior account executive at Razorback Sports Properties/IMG College.
IMG, which represents more than 200 colleges and universities across the country, is the multimedia rights holder for the UA’s athletics department, so DeLille is part of a team that helps secure support for the Razorbacks in a variety of ways, including corporate sponsorships, signage, at-event hospitality, radio and television programming, official athletic website advertising and game programs.
But the corporate world wasn’t originally part of DeLille’s plan. When he attended college at the UA, his ambition was to pursue a career in the medical field. He earned his degree in microbiology in 1999, then added master’s degrees in molecular biology (2001) and business management (2002) from the University of Florida.
DeLille then spent five years in Little Rock in a business development role working for the UAMS-affiliated Center for Toxicology and Environmental Health, a science-based environmental consulting firm established to provide toxicology and human health consulting services to the public and private sectors.
“It looks like on paper that I have a strange career path, but the common thread has always been people and relationships,” said DeLille, a member of the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal’s Forty Under 40 class of 2009. “The ability to keep building relationships and be a brand ambassador for the Razorbacks is really a dream come true for me.”
After their son was born, DeLille and his wife decided to return to Northwest Arkansas. He thought his business acumen might make a good fit for a job opening he found at the Walton Arts Center.
“I didn’t know much about the arts side of it, but Terri Trotter [then the chief operating officer] wanted to take things in a different direction by hiring someone that didn’t look like anybody else there,” DeLille recalled. “We decided to do a three-month trial and I ended up being there five years.”
DeLille was ultimately elevated to WAC’s director of development in 2010, and held the job until he accepted an offer to become a senior development officer with the Arkansas Children’s Hospital Foundation, the hospital’s private fundraising arm, in 2012.
The job kept him in Northwest Arkansas, but just a few months later, DeLille was tapped to become director of corporate giving, overseeing the foundation’s statewide program. He was told that would entail moving his family to Little Rock, but DeLille proved to be a skillful negotiator.
“I said, ‘I’m happy to run your corporate programs, but I’m going to do it from Northwest Arkansas,’” he explained. “I didn’t want to uproot my family.”
DeLille said he wasn’t pursuing a job change when he was approached by David Shoemaker, the general manager of Razorback Sports Properties, and a part of DeLille’s business network.
“The more he talked to me, the more it sounded like an opportunity I could not pass up,” DeLille said. “It’s very little travel. My son just turned 9, and he’s only going to be young once.”
He said his current job and his work with ACH both involve a lot of passionate supporters.
“You really can’t talk to somebody that doesn’t have a story about Arkansas Children’s Hospital or has been impacted by it,” he said.
DeLille became a Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE) — a stamp regarded in the industry as that of a competent fundraiser — in 2014. The professional designation is held by just 43 other professionals in Arkansas.
He is a past board member of the Single Parent Scholarship Fund of Northwest Arkansas, and remains involved with the organization.
He and his wife both enjoy cooking and following the activities of their son, who is already playing competitive soccer.
As for the next 10 years? DeLille launched one accidental career in Northwest Arkansas, so it would be difficult to predict where his career path will lead next.
“I really have no idea what I will be doing in the future,” he said. “Hopefully something fun and meaningful.”