2020 Tillman Scholar

John Keyes

Harvard University
M.P.P. / M.B.A.

“Those in more fortunate positions have a duty to the disenfranchised; stand up for the powerless and protect them from exploitation.”

After hearing about abused women and children hurriedly leaving their homes in fear for their lives with their belongings in nothing but trash bags, a young John Keyes decided he would always stand up for the less fortunate. Organizing what he called “Cases for Kids,” John collected more than 250 pieces of luggage from privileged families to donate to the women and young children retreating from these horrendous situations.

John’s desire to protect the powerless led him to enlist in the U.S. Navy, where he deployed to combat zones throughout the Middle East, Arabian Peninsula and Africa in support of Operation New Dawn and Operation Enduring Freedom. In each disparate geographical location, John witnessed a similar scene: the disenfranchised being exploited by the more powerful and authoritarian agents of their region. John was inspired to see that in each and every situation the impoverished never gave up the fight against their abusers, and neither did John.          

After 13 years in Naval special warfare, John hopes to incorporate what he learned overseas with best management practices and data-driven solutions, and expand his impact potential by addressing systemic inequality in large institutions. An avid sky diver, John enjoys instructing as a certified coach and  Tandem Master and volunteering his time to mentor those who are contemplating a life of service.