23 March 2011 

Marie Tillman Visits Military Scholars at Harvard

WRITTEN_BY  Jennifer Werdell
"It seems that more often than not we know the right decision long before it’s actually made. Somewhere inside, we hear a voice, and intuitively know the answer to any problem or situation we encounter. Our voice leads us in a direction of the person we wish to become, but it is up to us whether or not to follow."*

In deciding whether to commit to a life of public service, many come to this turning point, facing down the question of how they might balance personal interests and public-mindedness. Those choosing military service face an even weightier choice, putting their relationships, their personal safety, and potentially their own lives at risk. Pat Tillman is one of thousands of who made this difficult choice after September 11th, giving up a successful and lucrative career in the NFL to join the Army Rangers and deploy to Iraq and then Afghanistan. And, as many know, in the words of his wife Marie, he did not come back safely.

One would not expect Marie Tillman, who visited CPL as a guest of the Dubin Program for Emerging Leaders, to extol any virtue of military service. However, through the Pat Tillman Foundation, of which she is the founder and Board chair, she has invested in over 110 veterans and their families by providing more than $1.3 million in educational scholarships and support. On March 2nd at the Harvard Faculty Club, Marie explained eloquently how she arrived in this unexpected position, wanting not only to make meaning in her own work but also to pay tribute to the commitment to service that she and Pat made together many years ago.

During the Faculty Club event, Marie and her program director, Hunter Riley, also engaged four Tillman Military Scholars from the Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard Business School in dialogue about the value of military service. Brett Gibson (HBS ’11), Kate Glynn (HKS ’11), Regan Turner (HKS and HBS ’13), and Joel van Brunt (HKS ’11) shared their personal perspective on entering the military and transitioning back into student life with a mixed audience of ‘civilian’ students and active and retired military personnel. Many acknowledged the deep sense of community they felt as part of a military “family,” as well as the many leadership opportunities their service afforded them at an early age.

Regardless of whether one’s own public service trajectory includes the military, Marie’s and the students’ message of finding purpose and creating social impact resonated loudly, echoing Pat’s own words:

"I am not sure where this new direction will take my life though I am positive it will include its share of sacrifice and difficulty. Despite this, however, I am equally positive that this new direction will, in the end, make our lives fuller, richer, and more meaningful. My voice is calling me in a different direction. It is up to me whether or not to listen."*

* Quoting Pat Tillman, as published by Jon Krakauer in Where Men Win Glory and presented by Marie Tillman.