Before presenting at the George G. Spaulding Distinguished Executive Speaker Series at the College’s School of Business, Rear Admiral Dan Fillion ’84 passed out a one-pager titled “Committed Not Just Involved,” detailing his leadership philosophy:

• When the farmer grabs an egg for
  breakfast, the chicken is involved.

• When the farmer decides to have
  bacon, the pig is fully committed.


Fillion experienced his philosophy firsthand at the College of Charleston.

When he entered the College in 1975, Fillion decided two of his five classes weren’t for him, so he just stopped going. His girlfriend told him that he might want to go to the registrar’s office to drop the classes, but he said they would figure it out. Well, the College did figure it out and awarded him two zeros along with one year of academic probation.

Fillion returned home to Goose Creek, S.C., and got a job working construction. At night he took courses at Trident Techical College and what is now Charleston Southern University, but it wasn’t until he set his sights on becoming a naval aviator in 1982 that he became fully committed to getting his degree from the College, and he did so just under the wire: The cutoff age to enter naval aviation flight school was 25, and he was 23.

“Fortunately, the College bent over backwards to support me,” says Fillion. “I had a big course load, which taught me a lot about time management. Each week my adviser met with me to make sure I stayed on course.”

Fully committed, Fillion graduated with a B.S. in business administration and entered flight training that August at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla. The celestial navigation and astronomy classes he took at the College proved highly useful twice in his career – first, easing him through navigation ground school and later giving him the opportunity to be the navigator on the USS Nimitz, a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.

“To this day, I can navigate by stars and shoot sun lines,” he says.

Fillion’s career also includes serving as commanding officer of helicopter squadrons in Japan and San Diego and as commander of the USS Wasp, an amphibious assault ship, and Expeditionary Strike Group Three. In Washington, D.C., his business degree really became useful when he was appointed to help manage a multibillion-dollar account for the assistant secretary of the Navy Financial Management and Comptroller.

In 2013, Fillion was promoted to admiral and assigned as director of planning, policy and strategy at the U.S. Southern Command. Today, he is the budget officer for the Navy’s $39 billion manpower account.

“What I learned has paid big dividends,” says Fillion. “Business acumen is valued in the corporate navy, but what I really learned from the College is that success doesn’t come easy. You really need to work at it. Thanks to CofC, I became ‘committed not just involved’ early in life. My experiences at the College of Charleston certainly contributed to where I am today.”

Featured image of Dan Fillion by Mike Ledford.