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Sellers (BS/ Adv ‘88): Building a Culture of Giving

FuelantropicTim Sellers, partner at Memphis ad agency inferno and a member of CCI’s Board of Visitors, recently created an endowed scholarship for UT advertising students by making a major gift to CCI. “Our company interviews, hires and develops many young, talented people,” said Sellers. “The process gives me insights into a number of the great educational institutions throughout the South and across the country. It has also made me keenly aware of how well prepared I was when I graduated from UT.”

Sellers explained that his gift was made with the goal of helping provide future generations of CCI students with the same advantages he had.  “DeForrest Jackson (an advertising professor at UT until his retirement in 1996) instilled in me a strong work ethic, a desire to pursue answers and challenged me to think strategically,” said Sellers. “He demanded accountability, hard work and passion while at the same time motivating me without intimidation. When I graduated, I found employers had great respect for UT’s advertising faculty and for the creative strategy skills they engrained in their students. It was a clear point of difference between UT graduates and those from their peer universities.”

After graduation, Sellers spent five years as an account executive with an ad agency, focusing primarily on business-to-business accounts. He later moved on to the client side as a product and brand manager.  There he was exposed to the realities of clients’ challenges and needs.

In 1999, Sellers started inferno, and, with his partners, built a strong brand and an even stronger group of people. Sellers credits the success of his agency to hiring the right talent. As a current member of CCI’s Board of Visitors, Sellers has a clear understanding of what’s going on in the School of Advertising and Public Relations and the leadership within the School and College. “These are exciting times for CCI and UT,” remarked Sellers. “Our family was enthusiastic about being a part of the continuation of excellence and Tim Sellersare happy we had the opportunity to give back.”

“We are very grateful to Tim and his family for investing in CCI’s future,” said CCI Dean Mike Wirth. “As the cost of getting a college degree continues to rise, scholarships become increasingly important and are a great way to pay it forward.”

The timing of the gift coincided with inferno’s 15th anniversary and the attainment of a major milestone for the agency.  inferno has developed a culture of giving back by establishing a program called Fuelanthropic.  Through this program the agency has provided pro-bono hours to many non-profits and offers its employees a unique vehicle for giving back to causes that ignite their passion.  Each employee is given 40 hours of paid leave to accomplish his/her own acts of giving.  Some use their time incrementally throughout the year, while some take the week to volunteer at summer camps or support other outreach activities. Everyone participates in quarterly luncheons where they share their experiences and celebrate their culture of community service. 

ProclamationA wall in inferno’s office is devoted to the Fuelanthropic initiative so that employees can share their photos and fun facts about their philanthropic activities with their co-workers.  The major program milestone reached this year was the attainment of $1 million dollars in billable time and employee leave donated by the firm. The accomplishment was so noteworthy that City of Memphis Mayor A. C. Wharton, Jr. and Shelby County Mayor Mark H. Luttrell, Jr. proclaimed Thursday, September 25, Fuelanthropic Day as a way to recognize the agency for its service to the community.