John Hillen Appointed as New James C. Wheat Chair in Leadership

Dr. John Hillen

Hampden-Sydney College and the Wilson Center for Leadership in the Public Interest recently named Dr. John Hillen the new James C. Wheat chair in leadership. 

Established in 1993, the Wheat professorship enables students to learn about both the theory and the practice of leadership under the guidance of visiting leaders and active executives from various fields.

The interdisciplinary approach to teaching leadership at the Wilson Center is what’s currently needed, Hillen said. 

“Too many institutions suffer from overly specialized expertise in their leaders, which does not necessarily translate into the strategic sagacity, broad-minded vision, and ethical foundation that should buttress all leaders,” he said. “In the finest traditions of liberal arts education, we will teach those skills to our young men to prepare them to be in the front ranks of their communities and organizations.”

Hillen’s career began as an Army reconnaissance officer and paratrooper. During his 12 years of military service, he was awarded the Bronze Star for his role in Operation Desert Storm. In 2005, Hillen was Senate-confirmed as assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs. In 2007, Hillen joined the Chief of Naval Operations Executive Panel. He received the Navy’s Meritorious Public Service Award in 2017. 

Hillen has been heavily involved in leadership education for over 20 years. From 2013-2019, he served as the executive-in-residence and professor of practice in the School of Business at George Mason University. At GMU, he taught courses on strategy, leadership and management. Hillen also served as a trustee of Hampden-Sydney College, during which he received the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Medallion in 2016 and was awarded an honorary Doctor of Law degree from the college in 2019.

Before teaching at GMU, Hillen was president and CEO of Sotera Defense Solutions, Inc., a company he took public in 2009. Hillen is currently the CEO of EverWatch Solutions, a mid-sized defense technology firm. 

Hillen has written several books on international security and leadership, including “What Happens Now? Reinvent Yourself as a Leader Before Your Business Outruns You.” He has also published articles in dozens of journals, including Foreign Affairs, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Forbes magazine and Washington Technology.

Hillen was named to WashingtonExec’s “Top 25 GovCon Execs To Watch” list in 2018 and 2016.

Hillen assumed his new role July 1, and will teach on occasion at Hampden-Sydney while continuing to lead EverWatch. A celebration in his honor will be held in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 9.

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