2024 Tillman Scholar

Robert Wilson Villanueva

Northwestern University

“True success cannot be achieved on your own. I want to nurture Gold Star children’s passions beyond classrooms – ensuring dreams flourish – a lasting echo of our fallen heroes’ enduring legacy.”

A native of the Philippines, Robert immigrated to the U.S. at a young age. He joined the Navy in 1999, inspired by his family’s sacrifices and prior military service. After graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy, his affinity for a team-oriented, warrior-like culture and solving complex problems led him to a career in Naval Special Warfare. 

After 20+ years of active-duty service and several deployments in support of both the Global War on Terrorism and Overseas Contingency Operations, Robert learned the most critical leadership lesson – success depends on others. When he transitions from the military, Robert wants to remain a servant leader in business, ensuring others can fulfill their dreams and succeed. He is pursuing an MBA from Northwestern University Kellogg of School of Management. Robert intends to leverage his rich experience and network – magnified by his enrichment at Kellogg to start a non-profit organization that focuses on the development of Special Operations Forces Gold Star children outside of the classroom in pursuit of their passions, such as athletics, arts, STEM, culture, and community service. 

His goal is to help these children realize their ambitions, not only assisting them in building a solid foundation for life but guaranteeing that their talents, abilities, and warrior spirit are not lost due to a lack of resources. Having known many teammates who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our country, Robert strives to honor our fallen warriors by investing in the development of their children, who will carry on their parent’s legacy as the leaders of the future.