Assistant Secretary of the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS)
U.S. Department of Education
BSME ’58

“We work for what we get but we live for what we give.”

The Honorable John H. Hager is the Assistant Secretary of the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) for the U.S. Department of Education. He earned his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Purdue University in 1958 and his master’s degree in business administration from Harvard University in 1960. Mr. Hager was also a member of the ROTC program at Purdue and served in the U.S. Army and the Army Reserves, rising to the rank of captain.

Mr. Hager began his post-service career at the American Tobacco Company in 1961 and quickly rose to the ranks to the position of executive vice president. After a near-fatal bout with polio in 1973, he rebuilt his life and his career with the company. Mr. Hager retired as senior vice president of the Leaf and Specialty Products Division of American Tobacco when the company was sold in 1994 and expanded his community service role.

Mr. Hager was elected lieutenant governor of Virginia in 1997 and served in that position for four years. During this time, he served as an advocate for improving education, transportation, and a more streamlined government. Mr. Hager received national recognition for his work as chairman of Virginia’s Disability Commission and was a role model for the disabled. He also worked with the state’s Drug Task Force and DNA Task Force. In all, Mr. Hager served as chairman or vicechairman of five active state commissions, as well as a number of civic, charitable, and community efforts.

After his term as lieutenant governor, Mr. Hager served as Virginia’s Director of Homeland Security from 2002 to 2004. Mr. Hager’s efforts in increasing the state’s emergency preparedness and homeland security established Virginia as a model that other states followed.

Mr. Hager has been a civic leader throughout his life, serving as president or chairman of over 30 boards and commissions in Virginia. He holds honorary degrees from Averett University, the University of Mary Washington, and the University of Northern Virginia. Mr. Hager was a recipient of the Outstanding Young Men of America award in 1976, the Alumni Citizen Award from the Purdue Alumni Association in 1987, and the Lettie Pate Whitehead Evans Award for Distinguished Volunteer Service in 1997. He was selected to participate in the Old Master Program at Purdue in 2006 and was a recipient of the Purdue College of Engineering’s Distinguished Engineering Alumnus Award in 2007 for his outstanding contributions as an industry, government, and community leader.