Chris Irwin, Director of Partnerships for the Navy SEAL Foundation, spoke via Zoom on Friday, December 11, 2020, with over 50 students enrolled in a Foisie Business School graduate course on teamwork.
During a 20-year career as a Navy officer, Irwin completed Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training and led numerous special operations units. His military awards include two Bronze Stars with Combat “V” Distinguishing Device for Valor, among others. Following his military service, he was president of Kill Cliff Inc., a healthy sports drink company, where he helped establish the first corporate Official Partnership with the Navy SEAL Foundation. It also became the #1 fastest growing beverage company in America on the Inc. 500 in 2015. Through his tenure, Kill Cliff raised and donated nearly $600,000 in cash, event sponsorships, and product equivalencies for the members of Naval Special Warfare and their families. In 2018 he joined the Navy SEAL Foundation as a full-time staff member.
“Teamwork is essential to the project-based learning WPI is famous for, so having a guest who understands elite teamwork was a natural fit,” said course instructor Brent French. “The positive impact he’s made in the military, as an entrepreneur, and in the nonprofit space is an inspiration to us all.”
Irwin's topics included trust, problem solving, resiliency, and purpose. Graduate student Dan Walker '22 (MS, Business Analytics) said his story about being willing to do the small things that need to be done and periodically emptying waste bins at Kill Cliff resonated, and that on effective teams “no one is above anything if it’s needed to accomplish the mission.” Leigh Whitehorn '21 (MS, Management) added that “Chris exceeded my expectations and this was a great end to a tough [due to the pandemic] semester.”
The session was also attended by several FBS faculty members and staff and the co-CEOs of Next Jump (Charlie Kim and Meghan Messenger) along with key members of its leadership team (www.nextjump.com). Next Jump’s presence was welcome since students had read case studies about its unique approach to building elite teams and building organizational culture.
If you are interested in learning more about the Navy SEAL Foundation please visit https://www.navysealfoundation.org.