2023 Tillman Scholar

Brian Hopkins

University of Pennsylvania

“Prioritizing mental health and taking care of ourselves physically, mentally, and spiritually is the key to becoming our best selves for our loved ones, the mission, and the nation.”

As a native New Yorker, the attacks on the World Trade Center, first in 1993 and again on 9/11, shaped Brian’s decision to serve as a Navy explosive ordnance (EOD) disposal technician. Brian had never heard of an improvised explosive device (IED) before February 26, 1993, when his mother was evacuated after a vehicle-borne IED was detonated beneath the Twin Towers. 

When he learned that Navy explosive ordnance disposal technicians were trained to render safe explosive, chemical, biological, and nuclear threats, Brian left college early to enlist. Brian felt responsible for protecting his family, city, and country from these explosive hazards. He was deployed overseas when New York was attacked again on September 11, 2001. Brian deployed overseas eight times over the next ten years, enabling access for special operations forces, clearing explosive and improvised hazards, and disrupting IED threat networks. Brian also learned firsthand about the struggle of post-traumatic stress and became a mental health advocate within the Navy EOD community. 

As Brian transitions from active service, he aspires to continue serving others. He is currently pursuing an M.B.A. at the Wharton School to accelerate his near-term goal of becoming a product manager within the sports industry, positioning him to develop products that  promote active lifestyles via digital platforms. Brian intends to pursue an operations management major to develop a better understanding of operational strategies, product development, innovation and data analytics. Brian’s long term goal is a Director of Strategy position in sports management that utilizes his leadership, team building, and strategic planning skills to contribute to the success of a sports organization.