Oliver Van DeMille is an American author, educator and public speaker. He is the founder of an educational model known as TJEd, and the co-author of LeaderShift: A Call for Americans to Finally Stand Up and Lead, which was published in 2013 and appeared on the New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller lists.
DeMille was born and raised in Hurricane, Utah and attended Brigham Young University on an Air Force ROTC scholarship. He took a two-year hiatus from his studies to fulfill an LDS mission in Barcelona, Spain, and subsequently married Rachel Pinegar in 1989. He and his wife have eight children.
As an undergraduate student at Brigham Young University, DeMille was personally mentored by and worked independently with W. Cleon Skousen and submitted this work to Coral Ridge Baptist University (CRBU), an unaccredited school which awarded him a B.A. (Biblical Studies) and M.A. (Christian Political Science) in 1992, and then a PhD (Religious Education) in 1994. CRBU was a Bible college with a philosophy of close mentorship and intense studies, and the objective to train its graduates for service in military chaplaincy, education and ministry. In 1994, DeMille returned to BYU and completed his B.A. in International Relations from BYU.
DeMille characterizes his educational history as "a search for a truly great education – experiencing private and public universities, religious schools, corporate and international educational institutions, prestigious colleges and worthless diploma mills; he literally sampled the best and the worst that modern education has to offer, and virtually everything in between."
According to his personal blog, DeMille also submitted coursework to the "Technical Institute of Biblical Studies" (TIBS), which awarded him a PhD. Upon learning that TIBS was a diploma mill that had not actually reviewed the merit of his academic submissions, he publicly acknowledged that he had been duped, and called himself "an idiot."
DeMille also states that he studied law at LaSalle University (Louisiana), which, based on its familiar name and credible marketing, he believed to be a well-known and established school. He learned later that its founder, who was no longer associated with the school, was jailed for running diploma mills in several states. Although under its new ownership the school continued to operate as a legitimate institution for several years, it never recovered from the taint of fraud and ultimately shut down.
DeMille has said that he "unequivocally regret[s]" his interactions with TIBS and LaSalle, and that he is "glad that [his] 'controversial' choices, both good (leaving a successful private university experience to work with a personal mentor) and bad (learning first-hand about the way students can waste their time and even be taken advantage of by straying too far from the beaten path) were motivated by an earnest search for an education."
George Wythe College/University
DeMille was a founder, teacher and administrator at George Wythe College (later University) from 1992 through 2010. The Salt Lake Tribune reported that the college would be shutting down in 2016, and cited State of Utah Consumer Protection investigator Liz Blaylock as claiming that "the financial mistakes made by [previous administrators Oliver DeMille and Shanon Brooks] have acted like a 2-ton anchor around this tiny rowboat of a university."
The Center for Social Leadership
DeMille is co-founder of The Center for Social Leadership, an action organization "dedicated to healing society, preserving freedom, and ensuring peace and prosperity for humanity,", with its motto, "Empowering Ordinary Citizens to Make an Extraordinary Difference."
DeMille promotes an educational paradigm known as Thomas Jefferson Education (also known as Leadership Education). Most of his works, whether philosophical, political or educational, promote his view that the state of modern education is not favorable for reliably producing principled leaders of the caliber of Thomas Jefferson, while also conveying an overview of his philosophies and prescriptions for how individuals can provide themselves with a quality self-education and/or select an institution that will deliver an excellent learning experience. He asserts that a classical, mentored education empowers the individual to successfully meet the challenges of the time—whether as an educator, an entrepreneur, a community leader or a parent.
His works include:
- LeaderShift: A Call for Americans to Finally Stand Up and Lead (2013, with Orrin Woodward; published by Business Plus. This title was included on the bestseller lists of major periodicals including New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Publishers Weekly
- A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the Twenty-first Century (1st edition, softbound, 2000; 4th edition 2013; published by TJEd.org)
- Leadership Education: The Phases of Learning (2008, with Rachel DeMille; published by TJEd.org)
- 1913 (2012, published by Obstaclés Press)
- We Hold These Truths to be Self-Evident (2013, published by Obstaclés Press)