Tony Cucolo – Interim Executive Director
In this role, Mr. Cucolo is responsible for working with all academic and health institutions in the areas of leadership development for undergraduate and graduate students, leadership development programs for mid-level and senior campus leaders, and the establishment of an executive level leadership institute. Additionally, he is responsible for the coordination and integration of veterans’ affairs and veterans support activities across all institutions. He serves as the system’s liaison to campus ROTC programs and is also a member of UT System’s Department of Defense Advisory Group.
Mr. Cucolo served more than 35 years in the U.S. Army, retiring at the rank of Major General in September 2014. Before joining the UT System, his final tour of duty was spent leading the US Army War College, an accredited institution for strategic studies, whose student bodies include senior US and foreign national security professionals preparing for leadership positions at the strategic level of the government and the military.
While serving as a General Officer for the last eleven years of his military career, Mr. Cucolo led Soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq, led analysis teams in combat zones and on natural disaster recovery efforts such as Hurricane Katrina, commanded the largest Army base east of the Mississippi, developed the $35B equipment program for the Army, served as the US Army’s Chief of Public Affairs, and was the Commandant of the US Army War College. In the eight months since his transition to civilian life and joining the UT System, he was the senior advisor to a strategic studies group and a mentor to three executive leader development courses.
Commissioned a Second Lieutenant of Infantry in 1979, he served worldwide leading organizations varying in size from 100 personnel to 22,000, commanding units from company through division level, and spending over half of his career directly leading operations. Most notably, three times in the last 20 years of his service he led organizations in significant high risk confidence-building efforts between ethnic and religious antagonists. In Bosnia, he encouraged Muslim, Serb, and Croat leaders to reach agreements on a range of issues, bringing stability to a hotly contested region. In Afghanistan, he led initial tripartite efforts between U.S., Afghan and Pakistan military leaders. In Iraq, as commander of U.S. forces in the seven provinces north of Baghdad, he successfully initiated a grass-roots effort to build confidence between Iraqi Arabs and Iraqi Kurds along their disputed ethnic fault line crossing that country from Syria to Iran.
Mr. Cucolo had four assignments at the Pentagon: three with the Army Staff at varying times in Congressional Activities, Public Affairs, and Program Analysis, and one tour with the Joint Staff from 2001-2003 in the Operations Directorate immediately after 9/11, and then in the Strategy and Policy Directorate working European issues. His professional military education includes the US Marine Corps Amphibious Warfare School, the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, and the U.S. Army War College.
He earned a bachelor’s degree from the United States Military Academy at West Point and a master’s degree from the University of San Francisco. Among his awards are three Distinguished Service medals, the Bronze Star, the U.S. State Department Superior Achievement award and the French Legion of Honor. He is a Disabled Veteran.
Clay Finley – Director
Clay is an attorney, licensed in Illinois and California. He is a graduate of the University of Alabama School of Law (cum laude), the Oak Brook College of Law and Government Policy (magna cum laude), and the Honors Program of the Helms School of Government at Liberty University (summa cum laude), with an above-average mix of extra-curricular activities, including a Big South-conference-champion team, a clinic, a student court, a couple journals, and some full-contact, after-dark Ultimate Frisbee.
Before joining the Institute in 2014, Clay worked as chief operating officer and corporate counsel for China Aid, a Texas nonprofit working to promote religious freedom and the rule of law in China. Clay also previously worked as a staff attorney for the Alabama Supreme Court and held a dozen other less-impressive (although generally healthier) jobs. Clay is passionate about creating order and beauty, and intensely curious about the ways structures and procedures (especially government action) shape and influence human behavior within societies, from the dynamics of small organizations to the vagaries of the international system.
In addition to his responsibilities as Associate Director of the John Ben Shepperd Public Leadership Institute, Clay has taught leadership courses for UTPB as an adjunct instructor and serves as a Trustee of the Friends of the Presidential Archives.
Michael Huston – Coordinator of Administration and Special Events