Pillars of the Community

Emily Pillars

ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT Emily Pillars (BSM ’97)

PwC partner Emily Pillars (BSM ’97) doesn’t back down when challenges arise. Instead, she meets them head on with a positive energy that’s contagious.

“Let’s not think about all the problems on the way, but think, ‘We want this solution, how do we get there?’” says Pillars. “The answer’s not ‘no.’ It’s ‘Let’s figure out how to make it yes.’”

That attitude — plus her intense drive — has served her well in the 25 years she has spent in the business world. Pillars began working as an auditor at Coopers & Lybrand in Dallas directly after graduating from the Freeman School. She became partner in 2012, a pinnacle of achievement at the large global professional services firm.

She is now an assurance partner with PwC’s asset and wealth management practice in Charlotte, North Carolina, where she serves two large asset wealth management clients that have investments in real estate, debt, credit funds and alternatives.

Until she moved to Charlotte in 2021, Pillars co-ran PwC’s financial services audit practice in San Francisco. There, she was named one of the most influential women by the San Francisco Business Times.

Pillars has met the challenges that have come her way with aplomb. In 2005, she was up for a promotion to senior manager at the busiest time of her year at the same time her husband was undergoing a bone marrow transplant. She compartmentalized, supporting him in his chemo treatments and working to achieve her promotion.

How did she get through it?

“Honestly, just sheer drive and willpower, plus support from family, friends and co-workers,” she says. “I said, ‘We’re going to get through this. It is not acceptable that this is going to take us down.’”

Her husband has been cancer-free ever since — and she got the promotion.

In addition to her busy schedule, Pillars also finds time to give back. In July, she became co-chairman of the board for Girls Leadership, a national nonprofit that teaches girls to exercise the power of their voice. “The organization’s mission is close to my heart,” she says.

Before that, she helped run PwC’s San Francisco Women Inclusion Network, a role that enabled her to help mentor colleagues to achieve success in their own careers. “It’s always been something I’ve been really focused on and driven by,” she says.

Originally from California, Pillars followed in the footsteps of her father, Dr. Vincent Hamilton (A&S ’68), to attend Tulane. It was legendary business professor Beau Parent’s accounting course that cemented her drive to go into the field, and she praises the education she received at Freeman for allowing her to hit the ground running immediately after she received her degree. In 2021, she established the Pillars Family Scholarship Fund to enable students to enjoy
that same transformative experience regardless of their ability to pay.

“There is a lot of innovation and creativity in the world, and I wanted to be able to finance that. And PwC has a match, so they doubled my impact. I loved Tulane, and I wanted to create something to open up a Tulane education to students who are hardworking and qualified.”

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