By Scott Westerman

(Editor’s Note: Originally published on 08/15/2011 at Rerun today to honor that today is John Hill’s last day at the MSUAA.)

To everything, there is a season.” And for the last three years Spartan Seasons at MSUAA have been enriched by our extraordinary Director of Alumni Career Services, John Hill.

John, along with his partner in excellence, Dave Isbell, transformed the concept. In the old days, career services was about polishing a resume and giving you contact information for corporate Human Resources people.

John and Dave changed all that. They had this crazy idea that we Spartans ought to have careers we truly enjoyed. And so they created a culture of re-invention. Connect with MSUAA’s Career Services team and we help you discover those things about which you are most passionate. What would you do if you were working for love and not for money? And how can you best showcase your talents and experience to create an opportunity to be paid to do precisely that?

This was the heresy that John Hill and Dave Isbell began to preach: That you ought to be able to define the American Dream in your own terms and live it.

It’s a funny thing about paradigms. Once you break one, you start to think about breaking others. John began to realize that the concept of networking in the new millennium went well beyond swapping business cards and making phone calls. And so it was that he became a pioneer in leveraging something called “Social Media” as a career building tool. His notion that we all can create our own personal brand and promote it across multiple communications platforms germinated during his years as a Communication Arts & Sciences Major at Michigan State University. In the internet age, those platforms included the nascent networks that were growing at places like Facebook and Twitter.

And then came LinkedIn.

John Hill was among the first to realize that LinkedIn was a game changer, a place that would totally blow up the concept of the resume and rebuild it as a living breathing expression of our professional beings, complete with near-real time references and recommendations, and circles of interest where we could connect with others who shared our passions. John naturally launched the MSUAA LinkedIn group and helped it grow to be come one of the largest University outpost on the network.

But that was only the beginning. For John, the idea that everyone has the ability to contribute to our combined good fortune became a religion. He taught social media skills to literally tens of thousands of seekers across the country. In Michigan alone, we can trace 9,000 new job opportunities directly to John and Dave’s diligent work. These are not just MSU Alumni. Many were displaced by the shifting sands of our automotive manufacturing culture, people who found new ways to contribute and earn a living, doing something they loved because their paths converged with the MSU Alumni Association.

John has also been a tireless supporter of our great state. From the beginnings of our evolution away from smokestacks and toward ideas, Michigan has had a bad rap. We were painted as yesterday’s fish, when, in fact, our natural resources and our resilient attitude were exactly the winning formula for America’s sustainable success. In his every speech, John preached making magic right here at home. He inspired MSU students to stay here and to launch the new businesses that will drive the economic engine of our state, our nation and the world. And when he visited our far flung Spartan outposts, he was ever the Michigan cheerleader, inspiring expats to think about coming home and taking part in our renaissance.

At the center of his many gifts, John’s greatest love is for his family. Heather, Sean and Conner fired his determination to live the Spartan ethic of making the world a better place for all of us. With a love that runs that deep and idea so bold, it became inevitable that John Hill would ultimately express his singular skills on a larger stage.

John was the key player who constructed our ground-breaking partnership with LinkedIn, an agreement to work together to discover how MSU and the world’s most important career development engine can work together to empower an international work force. As he got to know the LinkedIn team and they began to learn more about him, it seemed like a marriage made in heaven.

He came to me several weeks ago to say that he had been approached to consider becoming LinkedIn’s Educational Evangelist. They wanted him to come west and interview for a gig that would be created especially for John. This didn’t frighten either of us. The last three gig’s John has had didn’t exist before he invented them. And for me, graduating one of MSUAA’s finest to enter the ranks of a world changing organization is the ultimate measure of our team’s success.

So we worked together to prepare. LinkedIn loved John’s ideas and the details of a new job began to crystalize.

Last Friday night, Henry Balanon and I met John and Heather for dinner at Claddah’s Irish Pub. John was struggling with his decision. He had received the offer that we all dream of and had a chance to, once again, help take an organization to an entirely new level. But his roots at MSU were deep and he felt his work here wasn’t yet complete.

Henry and I have both known that feeling. There is a hurricane of conflicting emotions involved with making a career change, even when the balance sheet points you in a specific direction. But as John and Heather talked about the pros and cons, it was clear that his destiny lay in Palo Alto. And we told him so.

There is a modicum of peace that comes with making a decision. And we could sense that on John’s face as he fired up his Droid to let the LinkedIn team know he was coming on board. The four of us raised our glasses and toasted John and Heather and the amazing University that had made all of this possible.

It is said that nobody is irreplaceable. MSUAA has become a magnet for great talent who share our vision of adding Spartan value to Spartan lives for a lifetime. The culture that John Hill and Dave Isbell have created will endure and evolve to meet the changing needs of our half million Spartans worldwide. But whenever we see someone in a sweater vest, whenever we click on the LinkedIn URL, we will remember John Hill’s singular contributions to the MSU legacy.

With gratitude.


Scott Westerman is the Associate Vice President for Alumni Affairs and Executive Director of the Michigan State University Alumni Association.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: