FBI Director Mueller '62 Returns to Concord

Jana Brown
Alumnus talks with SPS community about FBI's priorities, answers student questions

FBI Director Robert Mueller reported for duty at his new job one week before the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States. During his May 19, 2008, visit to St. Paul's, Mr. Mueller spent some of his time discussing how the Bureau has changed in the last seven years.

A guest of the School as a Conroy Visitor, the Form of 1962 graduate also described the structure and mission of the FBI, spoke about his own rise through the ranks from college to the Marine Corps to U.S. Attorney, and answered at least a dozen student questions that covered everything from terrorism to the FBI's image in movies to DNA databases.

Mr. Mueller's visit to St. Paul's was his second since taking over the Bureau. His previous appearance in Millville took place in February of 2004. Last week, the Director took the stage in Memorial Hall after a brief introduction by Student Council President Hugh Koeze '08.

"It's not lost on me that Hugh got a greater ovation than I did," Mr. Mueller began, garnering laughter and applause from students and faculty. "That says a lot about his prospects for a political career."

Mr. Mueller spoke for 20 minutes before opening it up to questions, telling those gathered that he would share his story in a "reverse chronology." He detailed the changes within the Bureau as a result of September 11, including the understanding that threats have escalated to a global scale. That, he said, has impacted the way the FBI operates as the Bureau now works more closely with other agencies to share information aimed at preventing future attacks. Further, he said, the FBI's approach to success has been modified as well - from reaction to prevention.

"Before, our metrics had been how many cases we solved," he explained. "Our approach has moved from CSI forensics to finding suspects and preventing them from making an attack in the first place."

In outlining the Bureau's priorities, Mr. Mueller told the SPS students that the top priority for the FBI's agents is preventing another tragedy like September 11. He also discussed the types of crime the FBI deals with, citing terrorism, cyber crime and the transformation of deviant behavior in relation to the Internet, counter-intelligence, and the mortgage fraud debacle and subsequent financial schemes.

As he traced his personal story back from his current position as FBI director to his post-college days, Mr. Mueller spoke of the formative years he spent serving in the Marine Corps, encouraging students to consider similar service.

"I ask you to think about military service," he said. "There is no better training, especially if you aspire toward leadership."

On the heels of Mr. Mueller's anecdote about trying to get his fashion-design-interested daughter to consider the Marine Corps, one student asked him if he could help him gain admission to the Director's alma mater, Princeton. His response was met with laughter.

"I can't get you into Princeton," he answered, "but I can tell you that wherever you go to college, when you get out you should go into the Marine Corps. And I can get you into the Marine Corps."

Mr. Mueller also recalled his affection for the School, adding that he was surprised to have taken a sense of faith away from his years at St. Paul's.

"Coming here, I was not particularly religious," he said. "What I found was that going to Chapel made a difference - it's something I would not have picked up elsewhere. That faith helped me later."

In an interview with the student newspaper The Pelican after a Rectory luncheon, Mr. Mueller said he was impressed by the student questions, in particular one that asked him: "Does the job define you or do you define the job?"

Also in that interview, Mr. Mueller shared his thoughts on social networking and the posting of personal information on the Internet. "The actions you take now will affect you later," he cautioned. "Whatever you post in the Internet will come back to haunt you. You will have to live later with what you posted today."

As a student at St. Paul's, Mr. Mueller captained the soccer, hockey, and lacrosse teams, winning the Gordon Medal as the School's top male athlete in 1962. In his previous Conroy visit, Mr. Mueller admitted that during his SPS days he was most likely to be found "shooting pucks into the fireplaces in my dorm" much to the chagrin of former longtime faculty member Herb Church. When asked about his SPS contemporary, Bill Matthews '61, who played soccer and hockey with Mr. Mueller, the Director praised the SPS Rector.

"Bill was always a stalwart in an understated way," he said. "He was widely respected for his integrity and humility. He never touted his own capabilities. It's not remarkable that he's been asked to take over this institution. I can't think of a finer person to run it."

The respect was mutual for Mr. Matthews, who praised Mr. Mueller for his dedication to service and leadership, both of which the school aspires to instill in its students.

"I am so grateful to Bob for his coming to the School and for sharing his thoughts on his own life's journey and on leadership issues in general," said Mr. Matthews. "How he has chosen to lead his life, and the substance of that life, spoke volumes to our students. He has personally modeled and advanced our strategic initiatives of service and living in community."