Those who believe the path to success is paved with gold ought to meet Steve Wills. The new chair of the Board of Trustees of The Hun School, Mr. Wills is a roll-up-your-sleeves type with an affable, can-do spirit. Currently the chairman or C-suite leader of three companies, he has come a long way from his humble Kentucky roots, where he grew up a hollow, or dirt road, away from country music star Loretta Lynn.
“I come from a family of coal miners,” says Mr. Wills, whose father joined the Air Force instead of heading into the mines. “My father was stationed in Liverpool, England, where he met my mother.” While the two initially settled in Kentucky, where Mr. Wills grew up hunting for crawfish, the family eventually moved east—to Levittown, Pennsylvania. “My father was an electrician and my mother worked in retail, but they always pushed education.” It’s what led Mr. Wills to college, making him the first person in his family to seek higher education.
That go-getter spirit has served him well ever since. Mr. Wills serves as chairman and CFO/COO of Palatin Technologies, Inc., chairman of MediWound Ltd., both biopharmaceuticals, and chairman of Caliper Corporation, a psychological assessment and talent development company. It goes without saying that he’s not one to rest on his laurels. “You won’t find me sitting…I don’t sleep much,” he says with a light-hearted laugh.
Despite his professional demands, Mr. Wills feels strongly about giving back to the community that gave so much to his family. All three of his children—Brian Wills ’07, Kaley Wills ’13, and Brent Wills ’18—attended The Hun School and it’s a place where he feels at home. “I got involved in the very beginning, looking to see where my core competencies could be beneficial,” he says. He first served a two-year term on the Parents Board, and, because of his skill set, was selected to the Board of Trustees and specifically the Finance Committee. He has served on the Board of Trustees now for four years and assumed the role of chair in September. “The more I got involved, the more I enjoyed it,” he says.
“As the parent of three Hun graduates, Steve loves the School, and he knows it thoroughly, from the strengths of our culture down to the details of our financial statements,” says Jonathan Brougham, headmaster. “He has an innovative mindset that keeps our vision pointing forward, and as a successful executive and board leader in the business world, he brings a deft touch and wise perspective to our governance process.” Mr. Wills’s tireless dedication does not go unnoticed. “He is there for us day and night. I am amazed at how much time and energy he devotes to Hun in the midst of a very busy life,” adds Mr. Brougham.
“The role of the Board of Trustees is to provide governance of the School,” says Mr. Brougham. “They’re responsible for general policies, strategy, fundraising, and financial oversight,” he adds. That fiduciary responsibility is taken very seriously by Mr. Wills. “I’ve raised approximately $800 million in my career,” something that he believes can serve the School well. “We’re far behind in our endowment and we’re limited when it comes to expansion. If you have $100 million and 100 acres, of course you can do well, but look at what Hun has done (without that). We’re still ahead of the wave, but we have to keep working.”
Mr. Wills is especially excited about NextTerm, which he sees as a gamechanger. “We’re giving them additional experiences; facilitating the journey for students to be the best they can be. It’s going to very impactful.” Experiences are something close to his heart as he celebrates his upcoming 30th anniversary with his lovely wife, Gwen. “We’re each coming up with 15 things we want to do,” he explains. One thing he certainly won’t be doing is retiring. “I can’t retire. I like being busy.”
Lucky for The Hun School.