Scott Lilja, 58, senior VP of member services for the National Independent Automobile Dealers Association (NIADA), passed away May 3, 2020 after a long battle with multiple myeloma.
His lengthy career in the auto industry earned him many accolades, including induction into NIADA’s prestigious Ring of Honor in 2002.
He earned that distinction during his tenure as vice president and chief operating officer of NADA Used Car Guide, responsible for corporate strategy, alliances development, new market development, budgeting/forecasting and major account development.
He joined NIADA in 2009, overseeing member services and the association’s industry partnerships.
Lilja was well-known and respected nationwide in the automotive retail and wholesale industries, and was a regular speaker, moderator and panelist at industry events.
Throughout his career, Lilja forged strong alliances and built countless friendships.
“He was a smart man and such a kind guy,” his sister, Amy Griffith, said. “He was a great mentor for so many people in the business world, but also to his nieces and nephews. He always knew what to say to help you keep going. Scott was a force of nature, that’s for sure. He was so strong and so positive. He just took every challenge and met it head on with no hesitation and no fear.”
A native of Minnesota, Lilja attended Macalester College in St. Paul, earning degrees in political science and economics with honors and a master’s degree in business administration.
He played football for the Scots and was named academic All-America in 1982. He was a member of the 1980 team that ended Macalester’s then-record 50-game losing streak with a victory over Mount Senario College.
He was also a devout Lutheran – a member of Frederick Evangelical Lutheran Church in Frederick, Md. – whose strong faith helped him through his battle with cancer as well as a two-year recovery from severe injuries suffered in a car accident in 2005.
“It’s always tough to lose such a great friend and close colleague,” NIADA CEO Steve Jordan said, “but I’ll forever remember how Scott was always so positive and inspiring in the face of repeated adversity. He will be greatly missed by Team NIADA and the auto industry he loved so much. I’m comforted in knowing he believed that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. Scott fought the good fight and finished his race strong.”
Lilja is survived by his sister, Amy Griffith (John), nephews Patrick and Jack Griffith, and nieces Kirsti and Katie Lilja.
He was preceded in death by his parents Thomas and Jo Ann Lilja, wife Linda Lilja and brother Eric Lilja.
Burial will be at St. Timothy’s Cemetery in Maple Lake, Minn., at a date to be determined. A memorial/celebration of life will be held at a later date.