When Elliot Spillers enrolled at The University of Alabama, he was like any other college
freshman, excited to start college,
make new friends, and try to make
a difference, but deep inside he felt
something was missing.
“I was searching for something, but
I didn’t know what I was searching for—
I knew that the way that I could find it
was through a spiritual connection that
I hadn’t tapped into just yet,” he says.
As a freshman, Spillers never
dreamed he would become SGA
president, but he knew he wanted
to be involved and make a difference
“I wasn’t sure if SGA was a route or
not,” says Spillers. "I knew the vision
that I saw for The University of Alabama.
It was something that I felt, but I didn’t
know exactly how to do that."
Spillers never dreamed he would
make history—that is—until he ran and
lost two elections—once his freshman
year for senator and the second his
sophomore year for SGA's VP of student
Those losses prompted Spillers to
do some soul searching. “I felt I was
being called to lead this campus, but I
questioned how I was going to do that.”
On March 15, 2014, Spillers woke up
at 3 a.m.
“I got a vision from God that
showed me standing at The University
of Alabama,” says Spillers. “And I was
speaking to a crowd.”
Nearly one year after that vision,
this business major at the Culverhouse
College of Commerce made history.
Spillers was elected president of UA’s
Student Government Association. He
defeated the Greek candidate, a feat
that has not been accomplished since
John Merrill, now Alabama’s secretary
of state, won the seat in 1986. He
made history because he is the first
minority student to win the seat since
Cleo Thomas in 1976. And the election
brought the largest student voter
turnout since 2009 with 14,931 ballots
“Our campaign was comprised of
students from all backgrounds across
campus: international students, Greeks,
minorities, women, athletes,” says
Spillers. “We had a diverse realm of
students. This was a collective effort.
We made a strong team and together we
made it happen.”
Spillers credits the courage of
students, professors, mentors and God
for his success.
“A lot of different people stood up
on faith and courage and came out to
support me,” he says, “which is why they
are the heroes of this entire campus and
As for mentors, Spillers knew who he
had to call for advice.
“When I didn’t win for VP of student
affairs I needed some guidance,” Spillers
explains. “I needed to go to someone who
was coming from a similar standpoint
and had the expertise, so I called Mr.
Cleo Thomas. I asked him what he did
that made him successful in running
for president. I remember him talking
about the SGA and how disheartened
he was that no minority had ever won
since he did in 1976. But he gave me the
inspiration to keep going. He praised me
for having the confidence to run.”
Was this Culverhouse business major
meant to lead UA’s students?
The summer between his freshman
and sophomore years he attended a
retreat through Church of the Highlands.
And THAT was the turning point
for Spillers. It was then that he had his
“I found God,” he says definitively.
“It was very enlightening for me. At that
retreat, I got a vision from God. I saw
a wide view of campus—I was looking
down from Denny Chimes to a crowd. I
questioned, ‘what does this mean?’ I felt
I was being called to lead this campus,
but I questioned how I was going to
Spillers went abroad after losing the
race for VP of student affairs that same
summer. He went to Oxford University
and studied British literature and fine
arts through the Honors College.
“It was that summer at Oxford that I
met Mark Hammontree,” says Spillers.
EPIPHANY OF A PRESIDENT
IS ELLIOT SPILLERS DESTINED TO LEAD UA STUDENTS?
BY EDITH PARTEN