Eric Van Der Hyde, ’08, first saw the Jepson School of Leadership Studies as an eighth grader. A small town native, Van Der Hyde had grown up on a dairy farm in rural Virginia, an upbringing that instilled him with not only a strong work ethic but also a desire to do something different. He visited his aunt and uncle in Richmond to learn more about what it took to get into a good college, and on that trip, he saw the University of Richmond.

“The Jepson School was actually a draw for me from the beginning—it started with a fascination with leadership,” said Van Der Hyde. “I saw it initially as a leadership ‘training’ school, and that got my attention. As I progressed through my time at Jepson, I came to understand and value the study of the concept of leadership.”

Van Der Hyde’s experiences at the Jepson School and in the Bonner Scholars Program married his work ethic with a commitment to public service. He remembers how taking Dr. Thad Williamson’s class on social justice “opened my eyes to the opportunities we all have to collectively help our neighbors and understand our different perspectives.”

As a student, Van Der Hyde, along with fellow Bonner Scholars, co-founded a student organization that aimed to serve marginalized communities impacted by natural disaster and to foster a dialogue around the underlying social issues affecting those communities. The group would become known as The SEEDS Project, an organization that is still active on campus today.

One of Van Der Hyde’s most impactful experiences at the University of Richmond would be his Jepson internship in May 2007. Through this internship in financial planning, Van Der Hyde came to understand how his dedication to service would become an instrumental component of his professional life.

“At that time, the national savings rate was the lowest it had been since exiting the Great Depression, and the US and global economy were about to enter the Great Recession. I had firsthand exposure through my internship to the importance of having a sound financial plan. I also came to understand the value of an advisor to individuals and families who had the ability to move them to take action on their intentions.”

Now a financial planner for Northwestern Mutual, Van Der Hyde has not lessened his commitment to community service. He describes his career as “one of servant leadership—it is a constant focus on helping others succeed in achieving the goals they have for themselves, their families, and their communities.”

Helping his clients achieve their goals is not always as clear-cut as that sounds. Van Der Hyde describes complex planning situations in which the answers aren’t always straightforward. Yet as a planner, Van Der Hyde’s role dictates that he confidently guide his clients through these scenarios. For that, he draws upon his background in ethics.

“I used to think of ethics as black and white. That changed when I took a course at Jepson on ethics in healthcare,” said Van Der Hyde. “I remember thinking just how difficult it seemed to come to the 'right' thing to do—and realizing that there is a lot of gray area in ethics.”

Again and again, both Van Der Hyde’s career and personal life appear to trace back to his roots in service, ethics, and leadership. The experiences he had at the University of Richmond drive his involvement in the Richmond community through non-profit board service and volunteer and financial support. And while his career may not be dairy farming, he clearly has not lost the taste for hard work.