Ben Lippen Stories

Beyond Ben Lippen: Kent Lightner ’89

Beyond Ben Lippen- Kent Lightner ‘89

Growing up as a missionary kid in Costa Rica and later moving to Columbia, SC, to finish high school,  Kent Lightner had unique experiences that shaped his perspective on life and leadership.

“My parents were missionaries in Costa Rica where I grew up from age 2 to 17,” Lightner reflects. “I graduated from high school in Costa Rica, which only goes through 11th grade (all Spanish), but I knew I wanted to go to college in the U.S., which meant I would need to do a 12th grade somewhere.”

Determined to pursue higher education in the United States, Lightner decided to attend Ben Lippen School. “Since it was a boarding school with a lot of international students, I knew Ben Lippen would be a great transition experience to the U.S. school system and learning to study in English,” he explains.

At Ben Lippen, the ‘89 alumnus immersed himself in academics and extracurricular activities, playing soccer and basketball during his senior year. However, it wasn’t just the sports that impacted him; the teachers, coaches, and dorm parents nurtured his intellectual, physical, and spiritual growth. His house parents, Mr. Jim and Mrs. Martha Straubel stood out for their unwavering support and care.

“After graduating from Ben Lippen in 1989, I attended Wheaton College, Illinois, where I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Physics with a minor in Bible,” Lightner recounts. His academic journey continued as he participated in the ROTC program and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the active Army upon graduation.

Driven by a desire for knowledge and leadership, Lightner pursued further education, earning two Master’s degrees: one in Engineering Management from the University of Missouri Science & Technology and a second in Strategic Studies from the U.S. Army War College. He also obtained certifications as a Project Management Professional (PMP) and a Six Sigma Black Belt.

Lightner’s leadership journey extended beyond academia. “One of my first leadership experiences after Ben Lippen was as senior class president for the Wheaton College class of 1993, which I won on a write-in ballot,” he recalls. This was just the beginning of a remarkable career in the military and business world.

In the Army, he rose through the ranks, serving in multiple leadership and command positions, including brigade level, with over 3,000 Soldiers under his command. While on active duty in countries such as Korea, Panama, Germany, and Kosovo, his dedication and service were recognized with numerous military awards, including the Bronze Star for superior service during his combat tour in Iraq.

Transitioning to the business world, he co-founded Covalience, a programming and web development company, before assuming the role of Chief Operating Officer at an insurance brokerage firm. In 2016, the Jacksonville Business Journal acknowledged his contributions with the Veteran of Influence award.

Today, the father of three wears multiple hats, serving as the Executive Director for Strategic Operations at Baldwin Risk Partners, a brigadier general in the U.S. Army Reserve as Deputy Commanding General of the 81st Readiness Division at Ft Jackson, and a partner in a business specializing in acquiring small businesses from retiring owners. Among his recent endeavors is the acquisition of Installation Services of Illinois, which provides maintenance, installation, and fabrication services to manufacturing facilities near Chicago.

Lightner’s faith is a driving force in all his endeavors. “My faith doesn’t influence my work, it defines it. I joined the military as a calling to live a life of service and provide godly leadership to those under my care.” He moved from active duty to civilian life after sensing God’s call to “learn, grow, and serve professionally outside the military.” However, he remained in the Army Reserves to serve in Iraq and trusted that his “every step and life was in God’s hands.”

Lightner and his wife, Deidre, an MK from Indonesia, have built a life in Tampa, Florida, with their three children, Isla, Luke, and Selah. Their children attend a private Christian school like Ben Lippen and enjoy various activities, including volleyball, ice hockey, and dance.

Kent Lightner’s journey exemplifies a steadfast commitment to leadership excellence, from his formative years at Ben Lippen to his current military leader and business executive roles. “I’ve been driven to pursue excellence in all my work-related endeavors because my work is for the Lord, and I am His servant. I continuously strive for my interactions with others and leadership style to reflect Christ.”

Back to All Stories