John H. Hager was nominated on June 1, 2004, to the position of assistant secretary of the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) at the U.S. Department of Education. He was confirmed by the Senate on Nov. 21, 2004.
Prior to his service as assistant secretary for OSERS, Hager was the lieutenant governor of Virginia and later its homeland security director. Initially overseeing security while serving with Gov. Gilmore after the events of Sept. 11, 2001, and through the end of his term as lieutenant governor in January 2002, Hager then led transition efforts and continued with Gov. Warner's Cabinet through May 2004. He was responsible for coordinating the management, funding, structure and organization of the state's security. Under his guidance, Virginia's preparedness and homeland security strengthened in many areas and became a model for other states. During this time, Hager and his Washington, D.C., and Maryland counterparts initiated a cross-jurisdictional organization for the National Capital Region, which continues to lead the nation in preparedness.
Hager was elected lieutenant governor of Virginia, the second-highest office in the state, in 1997, and served in that position for four years. His election proved that perseverance and determination in the face of daunting obstacles can lead to victory in an election or in one's life. His full-time approach of serving the people of Virginia redefined the role of the lieutenant governor for the stateto be a strong proponent of better education, improved transportation and a more effective and efficient system of governance. As president of the Senate, he proudly cast numerous tie-breaking votes, including a vote to return the state's lottery profits to localities for use in public education. He received national recognition as chairman of Virginia's Disability Commission and as a role model for disabled Virginians. A strong proponent of anti-crime initiatives, he was involved with the Drug Task Force, the DNA Task Force and safe-driving legislation. During his term, he served as chairman or vice-chairman of five active state commissions and continued to participate in and lead many statewide civic, charitable and community efforts.
A business executive who started at the bottom of the career ladder, Hager quickly rose through the ranks of the American Tobacco Company to the position of executive vice president. After a near-fatal bout with polio, he rebuilt his life and his career. He retired in 1994 as senior vice president of the Leaf and Specialty Products Division when the corporation was sold. Over several years, he expanded his community service role across Virginia and led some 35 organizations during this time.
Hager earned his bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from Purdue University and his master's degree in business administration from Harvard University. He served in the U.S. Army and the Army Reserves, rising to the rank of captain. He is a member of the American Legion. A lifelong athlete, he has also competed in many wheelchair races.