Pat Tillman Foundation can’t fulfill its mission to empower military veterans and their spouses without the generosity of our supporters across the country. Nationwide, nearly 350 Tillman Scholars are striving to impact our country and communities through their studies in medicine, law, business, policy, technology, education and the arts. Every “Tillman Tuesday,” we are committed to highlighting the individual impact of a Tillman Scholar, focusing on their success in school, career and community—all thanks to your support.
In this week’s Tillman Tuesday we catch up with 2012 Tillman Scholar Tim Hsia who served active duty with the Army from 2004 to fall of 2010. Hsia has been deployed twice. His first deployment was in 2005 for three months as an Infantry Platoon Leader for a Stryker unit followed by a Logistics Officer for a Stryker squadron in 2007 for 14 months. Throughout his deployments, Hsia learned a lot about adversity, grit and how to keep things in perspective. All of these lessons have made him a better person today. Hsia attended graduate school at Stanford University from 2010 to June 2014 where he earned his JD and MBA. He currently lives in downtown San Francisco where he works for the startup Pocket, and recently co-founded his own organization Service to School.
You applied to West Point in 2000, what was the motivation behind that decision?
“I consider myself a lifelong student of military history. There’s something about the appeal of military history, which ultimately drew me to West Point. The attacks of September 11th happened during my sophomore year. Looking back it truly felt like America had ended its wars at that time.
After I graduated from West Point, I was on active-duty from 2004 until the fall of 2010. During that time I blogged for the New York Times and helped jumpstart the At War blog. It was great challenging myself and learning what I could do while being part of history.”
After serving six years active-duty in the Army, you decided it was time to focus on something else. How and why did you decide your time in the military was finished?
“I left active-duty due to family reasons and also because I wanted to explore other opportunities. I applied to graduate school, though at first I didn’t really want to go back to school because like every young person I thought I didn’t need additional schooling. I luckily got accepted to Stanford and earned my MBA and JD. I discovered incredible learning is not just done inside the classroom, but also outside of it by events, friendships, clubs, internships, etc.”
What drives your motivation to help other people?
“I think it’s a result of my West Point, Army experience, and being aware that so many people have at one time or another helped me. You’re in charge of taking care of your soldiers, so that sense of service has just always been instilled in me. With the Pat Tillman Foundation, I love being part of a bigger community and having a network of veterans that are driven, embrace leadership, and want to make a positive impact on the world. With Service to School, we have a great and simple mission, and that’s around helping veterans maximize their Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits.”
In the past you’ve mentioned your military experience has helped you realize the importance of being a good person, husband, father, neighbor, and servant to the nation. Was there a defining moment that you came to this realization?
“So many people have helped me in my life…high school coaches, West Point professors, fellow classmates, fellow Tillman Scholars, etc. People have been helpful to me throughout my life and I’ve always felt it’s great to reciprocate that. It’s the Summa Cum Laude of all the veterans. If you realize all that people have done for you, you should be doing the same for others. I’ve just always felt it should be done in kind.”
Why did you apply to be a Tillman Scholar?
“My friends Adam Potter and Sai Williams were both Tillman Scholars at Stanford and they both told me about the scholarship and said how great the scholar community is as a network. Every veteran knows who Pat Tillman was but Sai had spoken very highly of Marie, the purpose of the foundation and the type of individuals they seek to represent as Tillman Scholars. Both Adam and Sai are really great role models and they gave good insight on what the foundation meant and what being a scholar meant…which is what Tillman Scholars are all about. It’s about veterans helping veterans and sharing knowledge. The Tillman Scholars are great mentors and advocates.”
At the time, when you received the call from the foundation’s executive director and Pat’s brother-in-law Alex Garwood and Tillman Scholar Rudy Rickner that you had been selected as a Tillman Scholar, what was your first reaction?
“It certainly was unexpected, but it was awesome because of the sense of community that both Rudy and Alex conveyed. It was communicated to me that I was going to be joining a family and I felt like part of that community just as I would in the military where you’re part of a community. The affirmation in being a Tillman Scholar has a tendency to make conversations that much easier. Having a common community just bridges that trust for someone to be able to talk to you.”
You joined a web start-up called Pocket after graduation. Tell us about the company’s mission and your role?
“I joined Pocket this past summer after I graduated Stanford in June 2014 and I work on Business Development and Partnerships. Pocket lets you save/capture articles and videos you find on the web or on apps so that you can consume it across devices and platforms. The content you save on Pocket automatically syncs across all your devices. Additionally, when you have Pocket you can view your content offline when you don’t have a data connection. I consider myself a voracious content consumer and the product really resonated with me while I was a student. In my role, I work on partnerships with publishers, software companies, and hardware companies.
The company is doing well and provides a really useful service that Pocket’s users are very attached to as evident of its really high ratings in the App stores and really positive press coverage. The internet needs a save button and Pocket provides that service. One can download the app in the app store or download a browser extension at www.getpocket.com.”
Recently, you also started an organization called, Service to School, with fellow Tillman Scholar Khalil Tawil. How did the idea come about?
“We came up with the mission as a result of other veterans helping us. My veteran network was helpful with my application package when I was applying to be a Tillman Scholar, and so we wanted to expand that kind of community. The goal of Service to School is to ensure that veterans’ GI Bill benefits are maximized and that they receive the application resources and guidance they need to get into the best schools possible. Service to School is a free service for veterans. No other organization previously existed to do what we do and that seemed like a missing gap as far as veteran’s assistance. Our number one priority is helping enlisted veterans get into institutions.
We try to tell every veteran that we successfully help get into a school that they should apply for the Tillman Scholarship. At Service to School we seek to emulate the selflessness, community, and mentorship ethos that the Pat Tillman Foundation embodies.”
How has being selected as a Tillman Scholar impacted your life?
“Some of my closest friends are Tillman Scholars, and it is great knowing people are supporting you and you’re part of that community. The Tillman Scholar family is so selfless and they realize it’s more than just about them.
I think a major part of what makes being part of the Tillman Scholar family so special is that it stems from the values they stand for and the actions they’ve taken. The Pat Tillman Foundation is very special because it turned something tragic into something incredibly wonderful. The leadership example set by Marie and the Tillman foundation is something that every Tillman scholar seeks to emulate. I believe you are who you surround yourself with, and being a Tillman Scholar you realize how fortunate you are and that it’s important to carry on an incredible legacy.”
Clearly, you are very involved and passionate about giving back, so when you do have some free time, how do you spend it?
“My number one priority is being a great dad. For fun, I like to run and workout. I’ve done a fair number of half marathons since moving to San Francisco. I really enjoyed going on a swim from Alcatraz to San Francisco with a group of local veterans. This swim was sponsored by the Vietnam Veterans of Diablo Valley and the Nadadores Locos Swim Club. The swim is about 1.25 miles but could be longer depending on that day’s currents. The Alcatraz swim was amazing because I got to do it with a community of veterans and coincidentally a business school classmate happened to be the kayaking volunteer who accompanied me on my swim. I’m really looking forward to the upcoming swim in the summer and doing it again.”