The David F. and Constance B. Girard-diCarlo Center for Ethics, Integrity and Compliance at Villanova University School of Law presented the Honorable Thomas J. Ridge, on Wednesday, April 15 in the Arthur M. Goldberg Commons. Ridge, the first Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and former Governor of Pennsylvania, focused his speech on issues of ethics in government.
As CEO of Ridge Global, Tom Ridge leads a team of international experts that help businesses and governments address a range of needs throughout their organizations. He also serves as a partner at Ridge Schmidt Cyber, a cybersecurity firm, founded with former White House Cybersecurity Advisor Howard A. Schmidt.
Following the tragic events of September 11th, 2001, Tom Ridge became the first Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and, on January 24, 2003, became the first Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The creation of the country’s 15th Cabinet Department marked the largest reorganization of government since the Truman administration and another call to service for the former soldier, congressman and governor of Pennsylvania.
Before the events of September 11th, Tom Ridge was twice elected Governor of Pennsylvania. He served as the state’s 43rd governor from 1995 to 2001. Known for his commitment to high standards and results, Governor Ridge delivered on his promise to make Pennsylvania "a leader among states and a competitor among nations." His aggressive technology strategy helped fuel the state's advances in economic development, education, health care and the environment.
Born in Pittsburgh's Steel Valley, Ridge was raised in a working-class family in veterans' public housing in Erie. He earned a scholarship to Harvard, graduating with honors in 1967.
After his first year at Penn State University's Dickinson School of Law, he was drafted into the U.S. Army, where he served as an infantry staff sergeant in Vietnam, earning the Bronze Star for Valor, the Combat Infantry Badge and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry. Ridge earned his law degree from Dickinson upon his return and was in private practice before becoming assistant district attorney in Erie County.
Tom Ridge was elected to Congress in 1982. He was one of the first Vietnam combat veterans elected to the U.S. House of Representatives and was overwhelmingly reelected by Pennsylvania voters five times.
Throughout his public and private sector career, Ridge has received numerous honors, including the Woodrow Wilson Award, the Veterans of Foreign Wars’ Dwight D. Eisenhower Award, the John F. Kennedy National Award, the Ellis Island Medal of Honor, the American Bar Association’s John Marshall Award, the National Guard’s Harry S. Truman Award, the Pennsylvania Wildlife Federation’s Conservationist of the Year Award, U.S.-Mexico Chamber of Commerce’s Good Neighbor Award, the American Cancer Society’s prestigious National Medal of Honor, the Mister Rogers Award, the Champion of Public Television Award, the Intrepid Freedom Award and the Esperanza Leadership Award. He has also been awarded honorary degrees and awards from many national and international academic institutions.