By Chris Ghaffari, ’12

On April 5, 2012, the Ivy Leadership Program welcomed its most prominent speaker to date, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency David Petraeus, for a very special evening session. The event capped the robust pilot year of the Club’s Leadership Program—an ongoing dialogue with distinguished leaders from a wide range of fields.

In a club-wide reception on the terrace, some 200 members and guests greeted the Director before his keynote remarks. Among them: all of Ivy’s junior and senior members, Board members and their partners, Princeton ROTC (Reserve Officers’ in Training Corps) cadets, and several members of the newest Ivy section—sophomores—who were selected by lottery. Also in attendance was former governor of New Jersey Christie Whitman, whom the Program hosted for a leadership session in December.

Over cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, Director Petraeus mingled with club affiliates young and old. He cracked jokes at his own expense and swapped Army stories with another Program speaker, Professor Paul Miles of the History Department. Director Petraeus listened as much as he spoke. He even posed for a biceps-bared photo with senior rower Andrew Lewis.

The session following in the Great Hall had a similarly congenial flair. With the room packed to capacity, seniors Greg Colella and Mika Devonshire moderated a relaxed conversation with the Director. He thoughtfully fielded questions on Afghanistan, Iraq, the crisis in Syria, and Iran’s nuclear program.

He reflected on his time in the Army and at Princeton, suggesting that the best leaders relish taking the road less traveled. Aligned with this approach was his comment “When people told me that coming to Princeton for graduate work was a sure way to sink my military career,” he explained, “I knew it was the right choice.” He displayed the true grace and humor of a leader throughout.

At the conclusion of the talk, the Director was met with a rousing ovation. Former undergraduate president Caroline Shifke announced that the Ivy Board had elected him an Ivy Fellow and presented him with a “military” medal of Ivy’s own: an emerald-studded, gold ivy leaf hung from a ribbon of Ivy colors.

Director Petraeus imparted to Ivy’s sons and daughters the essence of the Program’s findings on leadership thus far: distinguish yourself, but never forsake your duty to the people around you who are indispensable. They are words for every Ivy member to live by; and a great culmination of the year’s intensive inquiry on leadership.