Retired U.S. Army General David Petraeus Speaks at NOVA to Benefit Student Success Fund

February 12, 2024

On Jan. 25, retired U.S. Army General David H. Petraeus spoke before a sold-out crowd of more than 150 attendees, including NOVA veteran and military-affiliated students, to raise critical funds for the NOVA Educational Foundation’s Student Success Fund. Proceeds from the event will help NOVA students who are facing sudden, unexpected emergencies that may threaten their ability to continue their education.


A devoted “NOVA dad,” Petraeus generously gave of his time to spend the evening on campus discussing Conflict, an exploration of more than 70 years of war. Since its release in October 2023, the book, co-authored with British historian Andrew Roberts, has been on the NYT bestseller’s list and also recognized by USA Today, Amazon and Publishers Weekly.

Kelly Persons, executive director of the NOVA Foundation, kicked off the event with gratitude: “Special thanks go to our event sponsors, Northrop Grumman and DSI Tech, and to each attendee for supporting the Student Success Fund. Since the Fund’s opening in October 2023, 1,559 students have requested financial assistance to continue their educational journey. A donation to the Student Success Fund ensures that we will continue to help move NOVA students forward even in tough times.“

Following Persons’ remarks, Dr. Annette Haggray, provost of NOVA’s Alexandria Campus, highlighted the importance of NOVA to its student veterans and to the broader military-affiliated population. Afterward, NOVA President Anne M. Kress introduced College Board Chair Ambassador Joseph Huggins, who engaged Petraeus in a fireside chat–style discussion.

"General Petraeus and his wife, in a way, are returning to NOVA as NOVA parents," said Kress. "Both of their children, at various points in their journeys, have attended NOVA." During his 37 years in the U.S. Army, Petraeus held several high-level command posts, including as commander of ISAF (the International Security Assistance Force), the U.S. Forces in Afghanistan, U.S. CENTCOM and the Multi-National Forces in Iraq. During the Obama administration, he served as director of the CIA from Sept. 2011 to Nov. 2012.

“To succeed in war, in business, in academia as a leader — especially the leader at the very top — you have to perform tasks superbly,” said Petraeus. “You have to have an understanding of the terrain. Next, craft the right strategy. Effectively communicate the strategy, especially to those with a stake in the conflict. Then, oversee the implementation of the grand idea. Finally, the leader must be prepared to sit on the battlefield, continually defining the big idea as the context evolves — scrutinizing its successes and failures, and consistently refining both the overarching and the minute details. This is an ongoing, repetitive process, and it epitomizes leadership…. Tonight, you witness it in the president and provosts here. It's the example a leader sets, serving as an inspiration to attract the best and brightest.”

Petraeus posed for photos with military students and others before attending a reception where guests could meet and speak with the general.

To view the recording of the event, please click here.

NOVA’s Student Success Fund provides emergency, just-in-time funding for NOVA students who experience a sudden, unexpected and short-term financial emergency that threatens their ability to continue their education. For details on the Foundation or to make a donation toward NOVA’s Student Success Fund, visit or contact Damian Sinclair, director of development, at

Topics: press release