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Kirk Tolliver is standing in a lobby

Dedicated People

Tolliver’s importance to the university can’t be overstated

Kirk Tolliver, associate director for payroll and compensation

With all respect given to those at the top of the totem pole, Kirk Tolliver may be the most important person at Purdue University Fort Wayne — at least to everyone who gets paid.

For 23 of his 35 years at the school, Tolliver has served in Human Resources and Office of Institutional Equity, most recently as the associate director for payroll and compensation. He’s the numbers guy who makes sure everything is accurate, and paychecks are delivered on time for more than 1,700 employees.

That may sound like an unstimulating job, and it should be, but Tolliver loves it. There are always new parts of the puzzle to place when dealing with budgets and forms.

“It’s a little bit different every day because we do a lot of problem-solving,” Tolliver said. “I get involved with the more unique situations. As long as people are different, then the job is different every day.”

Though regarded as one of the most affable people on campus, Tolliver knows most employees reaching out to him are doing so because they are unhappy. But he is usually the right person to call because he can fix the problem, and he loves helping.

“It’s a different lifestyle,” Tolliver said. “You have to learn to say, ‘I’m sorry,’ a lot, and ‘We’ll work to make it better.’ It’s stressful, but I have a good group of people who work for me who make things a lot easier.”

There are two support staff members on the payroll side, Christi Hall and Elizabeth Miller, and a professional staff member, Pooja Singh, on compensation. Tolliver is also responsible for compiling various reports for the Department of Labor, Purdue University, and various agencies around the PFW campus like the Office of the Bursar.

To lay people, it may sound dull as balancing a checkbook, but that means Tolliver’s staff is on top of things and there are few surprises.

Outside of work, Tolliver’s life can afford to be more interesting. On New Year’s Day, he married limited term lecturer Donna Rowland and combined they have 10 children and five grandchildren.

He’s also approaching 500 Red Cross plateletpheresis donations, which help patients undergoing chemotherapy. When Tolliver’s mother received a lung transplant in 1993, he started the two-hour process as a way to give back, and there’s no idea how many people he has helped. His initial goal was 100. 

Tolliver’s favorite hobby is geocaching, maybe better known as treasure hunting with satellites. It’s an outdoor recreational activity in which participants use GPS devices to hide and seek containers, called "geocaches" or "caches,” at specific locations. says there are almost 1,200 such items around Fort Wayne, including on the PFW campus.

While finding more than 800 of those in Allen County, Tolliver has also hidden a few. 

The object is to find an item, sign the logbook at the hiding spot, and then post about the experience on social media — without giving away too many clues. Items cannot be buried, must be at least 1/10th of a mile apart, and participants are supposed to ask for property owners’ permission before placement. 

Tolliver said he’s found more than 1,400 items in 24 states, Mexico, Grand Turk, and the Bahamas.

“One of the things I like about this is I get to see so many places, like cemeteries, for example,” Tolliver said. “I never noticed how many cemeteries there are before.”

He started in 2009 after reading an article and learning of an item located a few blocks near his home. A short walk later, he was hooked.

“It gets me outside at all times of the year,” Tolliver said. “One of the challenges is getting one for each calendar day of the year. If you have to get Feb. 29, you have to get it that year or wait another four years.”

So far, he has found items on 285 dates, including Feb. 29. Besides serving as a location for his career — and sometimes his hobby — Tolliver said he loves PFW's family atmosphere. He’s been here for the 25th-, 40th-, and 50th-anniversary celebrations, and the 60th is coming up in 2024.

“It’s still a great place to work,” Tolliver said. “I’ve grown up with the place and met some tremendous people over the years, really fascinating people. When I retire one of these days, and I don’t know how soon that’s going to be, I’ll miss the people because I enjoy meeting them.”