Our Story

A Vision of Leadership

The Olmsted Experience shapes future leaders with confidence, global awareness and a willingness to take on any challenge.

The Olmsted Story

Since 1959, the Olmsted Scholar Program has challenged young military officers to learn a foreign language and pursue graduate studies in that language at a foreign university. This two-and-a-half to three year program is a life-changing experience for Scholars and their families. Many describe it as the best time of their lives.

The life-changing experience comes from the cultural immersion, especially with families, managing every aspect of daily life, from housing to children’s schooling. Living as aliens delivers two years of constant surprises. Scholars remember “being thrown into the deep end of the pool” but then rising to the surface and thriving. The experience develops a new kind of confidence that stays with them, a readiness to “take on anything” that never goes away.

We can’t tell you what an Olmsted candidate looks like because no two are the same. They come from different military branches, career fields, educational backgrounds and temperaments. What we can tell you is what happens when they resume their careers.

Scholars are frequently promoted to senior ranks and key leadership positions. Some become Generals and Admirals. Whether working as an astronaut on board the International Space Station or as National Security Advisor in the White House, Scholars aspire to and assume positions of great responsibility and public service. Whether nuclear physicists, military strategists at the Army War College, or CEOs of international corporations, Olmsted Scholars are recognized by senior leaders as the kinds of performers they want on their teams.

The Olmsted Scholar Program will transform you as a leader and as a person, setting you toward a lifetime of stronger, more effective leadership as it has for over 700 military officers since 1959.

"The Olmsted Program was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Personally and professionally, this experience will be paying dividends for decades to come. It wasn't a three-year decision, it was a 30-year decision."

Lieutenant Garrett Moore | OSC '13, Tel Aviv, Israel

A History of Strong Leadership

Since 1960, the Olmsted Scholar Program has strived to fulfill General George Olmsted’s vision that American military leaders must be educated broadly. Here are some major milestones in the history of the Foundation.


The Olmsted Scholar Program is officially established with authorization by the Department of Defense.

1960 - 1970

The Olmsted Scholar Class (OSC) of 1960 is selected and sent abroad.
Classes consist of two Scholars from the Army, Navy and Air Force for a total of six annually.


The Olmsted Scholar Program is expanded to nine Scholars annually, adding an additional Scholar from ROTC from each military branch.


Colonel Bill McKeever (OSC ’75) attends the University of Belgrade, Yugoslavia, becoming the first Scholar sent behind the Iron Curtain.


Commander Caryl Buck (OSC ’79) becomes the first woman selected as an Olmsted Scholar and begins her studies at the University of Innsbruck, Austria.


Lieutenant Colonel Lonnie Keene (OSC ’81) becomes the first Scholar to study in mainland China at the University of Beijing.


Lieutenant Colonel Robert “Bud” McFarlane (OSC ’65) serves as National Security Advisor to President Ronald Reagan.


Admiral Carl Trost (OSC ’60) becomes the 23rd Chief of Naval Operations.


Following the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War, the Foundation begins diversifying Scholar destinations to include former communist countries.


General Lee Butler (OSC ’65) appointed Commander-in-Chief, US Strategic Air Command.


General Butch Viccellio (OSC '67) appointed Commander, Air Education and Training Command, Randolph AFB, Texas.


Carol Olmsted passes away, leaving over $1.7 Million to the Foundation.


Colonel George Donovan (OSC ’94) becomes the first Scholar to study in Russia at St. Petersburg State University.


General Olmsted passes away at age 97 following a long illness. The majority of his estate, approximately $40 Million, is passed to the Foundation.


Brigadier General Silvanus “Taco” Gilbert (OSC ’83) named Commandant of Cadets, US Air Force Academy.


Major Ralph Crosby (OSC ’74) appointed Chairman and CEO, EADS North America.


General John Abizaid (OSC ’78) appointed Commanding General, United States Central Command. (In 1978, General Abizaid, attending the University of Jordan, became the first Scholar to study in Arabic.)


Commander Torkel Patterson (OSC ’81) named Assistant Secretary of State, South Asia.


Rear Admiral Deborah Loewer (OSC ’84) becomes first female Scholar Director of the Olmsted Foundation.


Rear Admiral Phil Wisecup (OSC ’81) promoted to Vice Admiral as Inspector General, Department of the Navy.


Colonel Michael Hopkins (OSC ’03) becomes the first Olmsted Scholar to work on the International Space Station, including two space walks.


Admiral Kurt Tidd (OSC ’84) is appointed commander of US Southern Command in Doral, Florida.


Admiral Jamie Foggo (OSC ’87) is appointed Commander, US Naval Forces Europe-Africa and NATO Allied Joint Force Command in Naples, Italy.


There are over 50 Scholars studying around the world on the Olmsted Scholar Program. Nearly 300 Scholars serve on active duty in service to our country in the US Armed Forces.

The Olmsted Scholar Program

The Olmsted Scholar Program is a two-and-a-half to three-year educational experience that includes full-time graduate study at a foreign university in the native language of that country. Olmsted Scholars are expected to live, travel and immerse themselves fully in the cultures of their host countries.

All six branches of the armed forces nominate young officers for the Olmsted program each year. Candidates are selected based on their performance, aptitude, and potential for senior leadership.