The fledgling Hilton Head Island Institute is promising a line-up of world-class speakers to headline its inaugural “Imagination 2013” event this fall.

John Shkor, who moved to Hilton Head in 2003 after a 35-year career in the U.S. Coast Guard and now serves as the Institute’s secretary, told Bluffton Rotarians that the first Imagination 2013 speakers would be announced when marketing for the October 23-26 event begins later in June.  A smaller-scale “Community Series” event will be held October 6-7.

“We’re known for our beaches, tennis and golf, but we can be known for so much more,” Shkor said.  “

The Hilton Head Institute was an outgrowth of the Mayor’s Vision Task Force, a panel of 13 community leaders brought together by then-Hilton Head Mayor Tom Peeples to help plan the island’s future.  Among the task force’s recommendations was the formation of an organization designed “for the study of community health, wellness, lifestyle, ecology, planning and design where experience, theories and knowledge are shared and leveraged for the benefit of this and other communities. An institute, dedicated to enhancing communities, would, by association, elevate Hilton Head Island’s reputation as an extraordinary and desirable place to live and visit. But, more importantly, it would institutionalize the island’s leadership in community planning and keep ‘Quality of Life’ in the forefront of island thinking.”

Among the Institute’s first goals, Shkor said, was to create a high-profile signature event designed to lure some of the nation’s most creative thinkers.  Imagination 2013 will bring speakers and thinkers with diverse areas of expertise, he said.

The Institute was initially boosted by a $65,000 grant from the Community Foundation of the Lowcountry and is also supported by the Greater Island Council, the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce, the University of South Carolina-Beaufort, Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra, Island School Council for the Arts and the Hilton Head Choral Society.

The Institute will resemble the Aspen Institute in Colorado and the Chautauqua Institution in New York, Shkor said.

Shkor’s Coast Guard duties saw him play roles in marine safety, environmental protection, the drug war at sea and Cuban and Haitian mass migration operations.  He served on the staff of then-Vice President George Bush and later participated in the establishment of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. He oversaw counterdrug operations in the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific as director of the U.S. Department of Defense Joint Interagency task force in Key West, Florida.  After leaving the Coast Guard, he served as chief operating officer in the nascent Transportation Security Administration. He is a graduate of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and Georgetown University Law School, and he also earned a master’s degree in management from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.