“The legs of a man could be gone and he would still ask for a cigarette,” Dr. E. Bruce Heilman told a capacity crowd at University of Richmond’s Ukrop Auditorium on Nov. 27. In his lecture “Why They Never Talked About It,” Richmond’s chancellor and president emeritus recounted the bloody battle for Iwo Jima, as told to him by a fellow World War II Marine.

Heilman vividly described the wounded’s anguished screams of pain, the nauseating stench of the dead, and the onerous guilt many Marines felt for surviving when their comrades perished at Iwo Jima. The national spokesperson for the Greatest Generations Foundation also shared leadership and followership lessons he learned as a U.S. Marine.  

“We all have fear,” Heilman said in response to a Jepson School of Leadership Studies student’s question about how military leadership guides people in adverse, even life-threatening, situations. “But we have a commitment to overcome it.

“You fight because you would be embarrassed for your fellow Marines or Army or Navy people to see you back off. It’s part of being a team. You’re never too tired to do one more thing.”

For several years, Heilman discussed military leadership in a Theories and Models of Leadership class at the request of Jepson professor Al Goethals. This year was different.

“When he shared the title of his talk,” Goethals said, “I realized its significance and wanted to open the talk to a broader audience.” And so Goethals moved his class to Ukrop Auditorium, where approximately 225 people, including his students, UR staff and faculty, and community members, attended Heilman’s lecture.

During their next class, Goethals and his students discussed leadership theories related to Heilman’s presentation.

The Jepson School has long promoted an experiential education curriculum that involves students going into the community for service learning, research, and internships. Bringing experts to campus to speak to classes—and often to a broader audience—is another form of experiential education embraced by Jepson faculty.

On Nov. 28, Dr. Thad Williamson welcomed Richmond mayor Levar Stoney to his Leadership in Political Contexts class, just hours before Stoney gave his Jepson Forum presentation, “The Reality of Voter Disenfranchisement.”

Williamson, who headed the city’s Office of Community Wealth Building under Stoney’s predecessor and then served as a senior policy advisor to Stoney, wanted students to consider the unique challenges of local government leadership.

“The mayor’s office interacts with people regularly,” Williamson said. “You’re on the front lines of service delivery. It’s apparent when you do and don’t get things done.”

Stoney acknowledged as much when talking to students: “I ran on being a change agent, making Richmond a more just, inclusive place. In order to do that, you have to break some china. I’m not here to protect the status quo.

“I have to play a central role in telling people what I’m doing. I use social media and regular media. I go into neighborhoods and engage people. I hold public town halls. I visit all 44 Richmond public schools. We have to do multiple things at the same time. We have to chew gum and run.”

The opportunity to interact with leaders such as Heilman and Stoney is central to a Jepson education and to the School’s outreach to the greater community.

“It’s one thing to read about mayoral politics and have conversations in an academic setting,” said Connor Frascati, ’20. “But it is an entirely different experience to connect face-to-face with a leader like Mayor Stoney and get direct access to inside knowledge of the political process.”

View Dr. Heilman's Nov. 27 lecture, "Why They Never Talked About It."

View Mayor Stoney's Nov. 28 Jepson Forum presentation, "The Reality of Voter Disenfranchisement."