John S. Pistole earned his bachelor’s degree from Anderson University in 1978. He went on to earn a juris doctorate from Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law before going into practice for two years. Pistole began a career with the FBI in 1983 before he rose through the ranks and was appointed deputy director in 2004. In March 2006, the FBI honored Pistole with the 2005 Presidential Rank of Distinguished Executive. President Obama nominated Pistole as administrator of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in the spring of 2010 and he was confirmed unanimously by the U.S. Senate on June 25. At 4.5 years, he remains the longest-serving administrator in TSA’s history.
In his role as administrator of the TSA, Pistole led a 60,000-strong workforce, the security operations of more than 450 airports throughout the United States, the Federal Air Marshal Service, and shared security for highways, railroads, ports, mass transit systems, and pipelines. Under his leadership, the TSA worked to transform as a risk-based, intelligence-driven counterterrorism agency dedicated to protecting the nation’s transportation systems.
Prior to his leadership with the TSA, Pistole served as a 26-year veteran of the FBI with extensive national security and counterterrorism experience. During this time, he was an instructor in Organized Crime matters at the FBI Academy. In 1994, Pistole became a field supervisor of a White-Collar Crime and Civil Rights Squad in Indianapolis, where he created a Healthcare Fraud Task Force and a Public Corruption Task Force. He also developed curricula and provided instruction at the International Law Enforcement Academy in Budapest, Hungary.
After the attacks of September 11, 2001, Pistole was placed in charge of the FBI’s counterterrorism program, eventually becoming the FBI’s executive assistant director for national security. In 2004, Pistole was named deputy director for the FBI. Since the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks, Pistole contributed to the formation of terrorism policies during both the Bush and Obama administrations.
Pistole’s family has deep connections within Anderson University. His father, the late Dr. Hollis Pistole, graduated from Anderson University in 1945. He taught applied theology in the Anderson University School of Theology for 25 years, retiring in 1984. After his retirement, Pistole continued to serve as a chaplain in residence at the seminary. Pistole’s mother, the late Elizabeth (Smith) Pistole, was a 1943 graduate of Anderson University and taught at Anderson High School for many years.
Pistole and his wife, Kathy Harp, also a ’78 AU grad, have two adult daughters.
His parents’ work in education had a profound influence over Pistole and his siblings. Cindy (Pistole) Crouse, BA ’68, began teaching at Anderson University in 1987 in the English Department and retired in 2011 as assistant professor of English. Carole (Pistole) Greenwalt, BA ’72, is retired from Anderson Community School Corporation and served as an adjunct professor at AU. Dr. David Hollis Pistole, BA ’77, recently retired as a professor of biology at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
In October of 2004, Pistole was recognized as one of several outstanding alumni of institutions within the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU). The CCCU annually recognize alumni of member schools who have made an impact in society. He is a recipient of the 2005 Presidential Rank Award for Distinguished Executive. In 2006, Anderson University honored Pistole with the Honorary Doctor of Laws degree. In March 2006, the FBI honored Pistole with the 2005 Presidential Rank of Distinguished Executive. In 2007, Pistole received the Edward H. Levi Award for Outstanding Professionalism and Exemplary Integrity.
Pistole in the News: Watch this interview of Pistole discussing his career in public service.