Committed to Service
At Luther, Eli Williamson ’02 studied communications and linguistics and minored in Africana studies. According to Eli, Luther not only provided him an education, but a launching pad for a lifetime of service.
Serving the U.S. and Veterans
Initially, that cause for Eli was the U.S. military. He served the country for 10 years as a psychological operations specialist and as an Arabic linguist. His next round of service began after leaving the military when he co-founded Leave No Veteran Behind, a nonprofit social venture that employs veterans. While serving as their executive director, Eli implemented debt relief and transitional employment programs, workforce skills training, and community service opportunities for veterans making the transition from military to civilian life.
“How can we make sure that they’re getting their needs taken care of, their family’s needs taken care of, but more importantly, they can be seen as assets when they return to the communities,” he says.
For a number of years, Eli also served veterans as the director of veterans programs for the Robert R. McCormick Foundation where he led the foundation’s grantmaking in support of Illinois veterans. He led efforts to improve veteran outcomes in the areas of employment, behavioral health, and navigation of services.
Now, Eli still serves as the president of Leave No Veteran Behind and owns and manages a consulting practice through which he advises high-net-worth individuals and institutions who want to invest their resources for positive social change. He is also working on his master’s degree in nonprofit management at DePaul University.
I remember very fondly, two of my professors, Guy Nave and Novian Whitsitt, would ask very specific questions around if you get an education here what are you going to do next? It had everything to do with, how are you going to leverage this education for a cause, something bigger than yourself.Eli Williamson '02
Why He Chose Luther
Eli’s parents attended Luther and introduced him to the school. “I was also interested in the music program and received a scholarship,” he says. “Some of my other co-curriculars included basketball and the Black Student Union.”
Eli still maintains the friendships he made with his peers and professors at Luther and feels they’ve only improved since graduation. “I hope that all current students truly appreciate this moment in time. Take stock of where you’re at so you can see how far you’ve come after 20 years. Perspective is invaluable for continued success.”