January 13, 2013

Ambitious Fundraising Looms for First Leadership Center Director

Gregory Werkheiser, the first director of the National Center for Service and Innovative Leadership, headed a social-entrepreneurship program at George Mason University.

Gregory Werkheiser has worked in education, business, and government—and he’s eager to get people from all three fields talking more to each other about effective ways to run organizations.

That goal drew him to his new job as the first head of a center that will offer leadership training to people involved in volunteerism and national service.

Mr. Werkheiser, 39, says the National Center for Service and Innovative Leadership—located in the Presidio, a former military post in San Francisco that is now a national park—will offer a “shared home” to leaders in a wide variety of public-service roles.

“For the first time we’ll have a collaborative space where leaders can come together,” he says. “I’m fascinated to see what folks in social enterprise can learn from leaders of military service, and vice versa.”

Eye on Development

The center was created by the Presidio Trust, a federal agency charged with preserving and repurposing the 1,491-acre national park, which lies in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge.

When fully realized, it will offer leadership training; bring together nonprofit, government, and business leaders for discussions; and establish a research program to highlight successful approaches to solving community problems.

One of Mr. Werkheiser’s main responsibilities is to raise money to renovate Fort Winfield Scott, a Presidio facility that houses the new center.

He says the campaign’s initial goal is $50-million for the first stage of a project that will eventually transform up to 21 buildings into classrooms, offices, lodging, dining, and recreational facilities.

The Presidio Trust has spent $15-million on capital improvements to the site, but Congress has been phasing out federal spending on the project and will provide no money next year.

Mr. Werkheiser left a position as managing director of the Center for Social Entrepreneurship at George Mason University, where he supervised a master’s-degree program in social entrepreneurship and the Social Innovation Program, a global institute for undergraduate and graduate students.

He will also be able to draw on a wide range of other experience. He co-founded a law firm that focused on preserving cultural heritage, held several federal government positions, and ran unsuccessfully for the Virginia House of Delegates.

“I’m passionate about multiple traditions of American leadership and service,” he says. “American leadership and service continues to inspire the world, but we must do better.”

Education: Bachelors degree, government, College of William and Mary; law degree, University of Virginia

Career highlights: Managing director, Center for Social Entrepreneurship, George Mason University; created and led college and high-school civic-education programs at the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership, University of Virginia; chair, Virginia Commission for National and Community Service

Salary: Declined to disclose

Books he's reading: How to Create a Mind: Secrets of Human Thought Revealed, by Ray Kurzweil; Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power, by Jon Meacham

Send an e-mail to Suzanne Perry.