Born and raised in St. Louis, Dave Hilliard graduated from Saint Louis University with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology in 1971. Since then, Dave has dedicated his life to improving the lives of young people from disadvantaged circumstances. With his strategic vision and entrepreneurial spirit, he has grown a small camp in Eureka, Missouri, into the nationally recognized youth development agency, Wyman Center, which is enabling tens of thousands of teens from disadvantaged circumstances across the nation, to lead successful lives and build strong communities.
In his first year as the Assistant Director of then named Camp Wyman in 1971, Dave promptly demonstrated his dedication to Wyman’s programs and their success. He contributed to the camp in all possible ways, from installing winter water lines to finding new sources of income for the organization. Then, in 1975, Hilliard was hired as Executive Director. In this position, Dave focused on learning and using entrepreneurial skills and approaches to sustain the organization’s mission. Through the late 80s, he strategically diversified revenue streams to sustain the mission, and attracted, developed and retained very talented staff.
The 1990s were a time of innovation and discovery for Wyman. With stable revenue and talented staff, Dave began to experiment with increasing scale, impact, and audience. This experimentation led Dave and the board of trustees to make some fundamental changes to the organization. Believing academic and character education are key to breaking the cycle of poverty, Wyman transitioned from short-term recreational programs for all youth, to long-term evidence-based programs that support the development of teens at risk. Programs were adapted to help teens develop leadership and life skills to enable them to thrive in life, work and learning. The transitions were based in part on ideals and formation processes Hilliard himself experienced through 8 years of Jesuit education.
Into the new millennium, Dave continued to establish a mission-driven; outcome focused social enterprise that is sustainable and growing. Under Dave’s leadership, in 2010, Wyman established a national network of licensed, certified partners to replicate Wyman’s programs into the lives of teens at such a scale, that the nation’s youth and their communities are positively impacted by the program’s proven outcomes. Today, Wyman’s National Network is made up of 47 partners in 31 states and D.C reaching 46,000 teens annually.
Through the last 40 years, Dave’s role has been to inspire all stakeholders to keep Wyman’s mission as their North Star. To do that requires establishing competence, trust, alignment, continuous learning, performance management systems and enthusiasm. Dave has been consistently successful in getting people to enroll with their minds, hearts, hands, time and means in the shared vision and common cause of the ever-emerging and changing next leg of Wyman’s journey.