May 18-24, 2001
Back Issues
Waters' mission runs deep
Two graduates honored for their service to humanity
Student aids the homeless

Mellon winner redefines "Jim Crow" era

Pre-med student shares his passion for music
Fast-track grad driven to help his family
Student leads effort to install Braille on Lawn room doors
Creative recycling: Students convert crate into studio
Lawson lives richly
Can you go home again? Issues facing international students
Education delayed but not denied
Weaver finds election laws discriminatory
Quilter gets A+
Students to go abroad on Fulbright scholarships
Weddle will research Peruvian women
Graduate rich in lessons learned
Anthony defender of public good
Affinnih plays her cards strategically
After earning degree in two years, graduate going for two more
Student develops new sign language system
Student trio pushes for late-night joe
Tillman Breckenridge
Stephanie Gross
Tillman Breckenridge

Fast-Track grad driven to help his family

By Ida Lee Wootten

When Tillman Breckenridge was 15, he set an unusual goal for himself: to improve his parents’ lives.

A 10th-grader at the time, Breckenridge resolved to move his parents from the rapidly deteriorating Virginia Beach neighborhood where he spent much of his youth. He decided to accomplish that by focusing so seriously on education that he would graduate from college in two years and get a good job.

Not only did he graduate from the University in two years, but on May 20, at the age of 22, he will receive a law degree from U.Va. and will soon join one of the nation’s top law firms in Chicago.

Though he put himself on a fast track, he has no regrets as he gets closer to his goal.

The Breckenridge family moved to the College Park section of Virginia Beach in 1983. Over the years, the neighborhood deteriorated, becoming “a large drug-distribution point,” Breckenridge said.

“My father grew up in Chicago’s Southside and fought in Vietnam. He’s heard more than his share of gun shots in his life. My mother grew up with none of that and shouldn’t have to get used to it. I want to move my parents to a place where they no longer will hear shots,” he said.

Breckenridge entered U.Va. with approximately 112 years’ worth of college credit through Advanced Placement courses and exams. He earned a B.A. in psychology in two years with a good grade-point average. But he didn’t keep his nose in the books all the time: he acted with the First-Year Players, served as sports writer for the student newspaper and worked at the U.Va. Aquatic and Fitness Center.

While in law school, Breckenridge remained active in the University community. He served two years on the University Judiciary Committee, becoming the vice chair for trials. He has also been active in the Student Bar Association.

While Breckenridge believes it’s best for students to take their time in college to explore the many possibilities available, he has no regrets about his path.

“Though I did it quickly, I don’t think I’ve missed a thing. The University has given me a lot, and I have given a lot back,” Breckenridge said.

“I was a law student, but I really led twso lives. Each could be an oasis from the other,” he added. “There was ‘Law Tillman,’ which is pretty much how everyone knows me now. But also, there was ‘College Tillman.’ All my friends from college were still around for my first two years of law school. For those first two years, I got a chance to be a college kid on occasion. So, I don’t really feel like I’ve cheated myself out of the college experience by finishing early. I got the best of both worlds.”

Although Breckenridge has school loans to repay, he is optimistic that he can help his family move soon. His mother started an insurance agency, which is growing and generating revenue, and he expects to contribute substantially to the household.

“My parents have worked excruciating hours for little reward ever since I can remember. I would like to see them relax a little more and take a vacation or two,” he said. 



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