Anne Gibbon
(d.school fellow 2013-2014)

Fourteen years in the military took Anne Gibbon from her undergraduate studies as a Naval Academy midshipman to an internal think tank at Naval Special Warfare, a highly secretive and elite group that oversees the nation’s SEAL teams. The former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mullen, recognizing her value to the Navy, told the normally rigid personnel system to create a job opening there for her twice. But talk to Anne and you’ll find that she wants to make one thing clear: There's more to her than her military training and experience.

Anne is the granddaughter of a Mexican immigrant who came to the U.S. with “less than nothing and three kids to feed." Her father became an entrepreneur, taking over his father's gas station. But “the boss’s daughter”, as Anne came to be known among the staff, wanted more. So, she joined the military to give back to a country that she felt had given her family so much.

As an undergraduate at the Academy, Anne rowed Division I crew, setting the school's 2K erg record. After graduating in 2003, she served as a navigator aboard the missile frigate USS Reuben James FFG-57.

Later, as a leadership instructor at the Naval Academy, Anne would call upon the lessons she learned from her most influential teachers: the somewhat grizzled men in the chief's dining hall.

"Officers set a vision," Anne says, "but it's the senior enlisted that make things happen."

Anne was also the first woman to box at the Academy, and practiced her boxing while on board the Reuben James, sparring with her sailors on the back of the ship. She went on to knock out two opponents, eventually winning her weight class at the National Amateur Boxing Championships in 2007.

After more than three years of service aboard the Reuben James, the Academy drew Anne back. She served as the flag aide for Vice Admiral Jeffrey Fowler, who was then the superintendent of the Academy.

In a role that requires young officers to grab luggage one minute and converse with the Secretary of the Navy the next, she served for more than a year as his right hand — a role that placed her in direct contact with the world’s top leaders, including Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, and President George W. Bush. Anne then served for three years as the assistant director at the Stockdale Center for Ethical Leadership, a research and innovation hub that seeks to augment the training of the military’s rising leaders.

During her time at the Stockdale Center, Anne struggled to apply design thinking to reinvent the curriculum. While the Director of the center backed her efforts, the highly structured environment was not set up to assimilate creative disruption.

Anne eventually acquired a mentor in the form of Captain Wayne Porter, a co-author of the 2011 report, A National Strategic Narrative. Working with Porter, said Anne, “changed my life.”

Follow Anne on Twitter at @AlcinoeSea.

Whiteboard Ink:

There's always room for one more designer

The lives under the labels

Related Links

Midshipmen Help Keep Faith Alive in Nigeria

Lt. Anne Gibbon, Trident (DCMilitary.com)

"Officer Doesn’t Break When Punches Are Thrown" Martha Thorn, Trident (DCMilitary.com)