Anna Billingsley, the driving force behind many of UMW’s publications, is one of 11 women receiving the Girl Scout Commonwealth Council of Virginia’s 10th annual Women of Distinction Award.
The award honors women who exhibit a high level of professional or volunteer achievement and leadership skills. Award winners are noted for having a significant impact on the community through their accomplishments and enhancing community life through volunteer or professional activities. To be eligible, recipients also must reside in the Rappahannock Community, Caroline, Fredericksburg, Stafford, King George or Spotsylvania areas.
Billingsley has been involved with this event’s planning since it began 10 years ago. She helped choose the other recipients, and was surprised to hear of her own nomination.
“It is moving to me to have this honor,” said Billingsley. “I know how qualified the other recipients are.”
She has previously received awards from the Virginia Press Association and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education.
As director of publications and design for the university, Billingsley oversees all university-sponsored publications, including the alumni magazine UMW Magazine.
Billingsley attended the College of William & Mary for her undergraduate degree, and received her master’s in journalism from American University. She has written for the Ledger-Star in Norfolk, the Richmond News Leader, the Richmond Times-Dispatch, and Fredericksburg’s daily newspaper, the Free Lance-Star.
Billingsley came to the university six years ago after working for the University of Richmond’s alumni magazine and revolutionized UMW’s alumni magazine, then called MW Today.
Until her arrival, the magazine had used the same layout for 23 years. Billingsley changed the black and white publication to full color, nearly tripled its size, and changed the title.
She also taught several of the university’s journalism courses, pulling from her broad background in journalism.
Billingsley said that working in higher education has been the most rewarding part of her career thus far.
“I’m in the best place in the world,” said Billingsley. “Working in higher education is so rewarding.”
She has recently received thanks from an alumna, who felt more connected to her alma mater than she ever had before after having an article published about her professional life.
A gardener whose work was highlighted in an issue was also thankful for Billingsley’s articles in the UMW alumni magazine. She told Billingsley on campus that she had never been as touched as she was then.
“That’s an amazing feeling,” Billingsley said.
George Farrar, associate vice president for university relations, works closely with Billingsley.
“She publishes a great magazine,” said Farrar. “For many alumni and friends of UMW, the UMW Magazine is their source for what is going on at the university, and in that regard she has a huge impact on the public image of UMW.”
In the future, Billingsley says she has no plans to leave the arena of higher education even though she never expected to enter it in the first place.
Content with her career, Billingsley only has personal items to check off of her bucket list.
“I’ve checked off more than I haven’t,” said Billingsley. “But I still want to write a best seller. And I really want to meet Caroline Kennedy. She’s my generation’s Sasha and Malia Obama.”
Billingsley lives in Fredericksburg with her husband Rob. Their two daughters have left the nest, but she keeps busy by running marathons.
Photo by Marie Sicola