Leadership on Main Justin Hilton

Featured Guest

J. Everett Hilton

Senior Associate VP for University Relations
Kent State University

Hosted by Mark Scheffler

In the pilot episode of Walk a Mile with Akron Leaders, guest Justin Hilton, Sr. Administrator for Community Outreach at Kent State University, joined Mark Scheffler, President of Leadership Akron, to reflect on the influence of Akron in his leadership journey. As the two walk through the heart of downtown Akron along the Ohio and Erie Towpath Trail, they discuss Akron’s strengths, challenges, and envisions for the future. Justin's career as an architectural designer spanned over the Cleveland and Akron areas including work with The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, The Great Lakes Science Center, The Downtown Cleveland Public Library, and Quicken Loans Arena. He became the first and youngest African American Senior Associate Vice President Executive, as well as the first African American graduate of the School of Architecture in the 105-year history of Kent State University. Justin's experience has informed the unique lens through which he leads. In today’s episode, Justin highlights the power of engaged leadership to foster relationships using a design thinking approach. Through Justin’s lens, being intentional in cultivating meaningful interactions empowers individuals to build a stronger community dynamic.

Learn more about Justin Hilton

Key Timestamps

2:05 Justin explains his background growing up in Akron and what led him to Kent State University

"I was desperately struggling to get as far away from Akron as geographically possible."

4:20 Justin’s mentor: Robert P. Madison

Reflecting on how the mentorship of Robert Prince Madison impacted his trajectory, Justin said. "He became my employer, my friend, my mentor, my advisor and really my secret to success."

Visit Robert P. Madison's website to read about the Architecture firm he started. Watch a video tribute to the life and work of Robert P. Madison.

6:20 The first African American graduate of Kent State’s School of Architecture

"What I became very early was the byproduct of a success culture, so as I was succeeding I didn't really understand that I was succeeding in a historic or profound way."

13:22 Leadership Akron’s influence on Justin

"Leadership Akron was very instrumental in changing my focus from designing something physical to impact community to a focus that was more about designing something relational to change our culture and community."

17:07 Justin’s envision for the future of Akron’s Innerbelt

Learn more about the Innerbelt National Forest project. Read the details on the plans to improve Akron's public spaces with $1.5 million from the Knight Foundation.

24:37 Post-secondary education readiness

"Post-secondary education is not necessarily available or an option realistically for every single high school student at the exact same time. To make sure that there are success plans in place for students who graduate that don't matriculate to post-secondary education is key, because if not they fall through the cracks... Not only are we preparing students for college better but we will also be preparing students for life better." 

Find out what being named Ford Next Generation Learning (NGL) community means for Akron Public Schools.


Hear Justin's Leadership on Main Live interview.