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An Enduring Call to Serve

Military Experiences Shape Terp Veterans’ Work at UMD

By Maggie Haslam

American flag with photos of people serving in the military

Clockwise from bottom left: Associate Dean Doug Lombardi flying in an AC-130 aircraft during a combat mission in Panama; former senior airman Andy Tran '27 with a helicopter; doctoral student and former senior airman Eran Eads; Frank Goertner, a director at the Smith School, flying a helicopter for the U.S. Navy. "These are the people who first raised their hand to serve our country," said Goertner. "They continue that service in their work at UMD."

Flag image from iStock; photos courtesy of UMD veterans; collage by Valerie Morgan

During the height of the pandemic lockdown, Frank Goertner would fix himself a coffee and trudge down to his home office to tackle his inbox and face his Zoom calendar. He was always busy, but at the end of the day, it was difficult to feel accomplished.

Frank Goertner

“I wasn’t seeing students,” said Goertner (right), who is director of federal and veteran affairs and director of the Graduate Program in Technology Management at the Robert H. Smith School of Business. “At a certain point, it clarified in my mind that in order to feel like I was making progress, I needed to make a difference in one student’s life each day.”

The retired U.S. Navy commander had been taught that a sailor’s welfare was key to the mission’s success, so he applied that to his role at Maryland: He began carving out time to reach out to students daily—to coach, troubleshoot or just check in.

Roughly 1,200 University of Maryland students and nearly 200 faculty and staff are former members of the military or serve in the reserves or National Guard. Terp veterans saw combat, protected the president, ran special operations and defended the U.S. and its allies. And while the diverse experiences, principles and sacrifice they forged in uniform manifest differently in how they lead, teach and work today, Goertner said, they share a desire to continue serving others.

“We often say to veterans, ‘Thank you for your service’; it’s conveyed and received in a past tense,” he said. “As a community, the best way to welcome veterans, to honor them, is to acknowledge their continued service.”

To commemorate Veterans Day, nine Terp veterans reflect on the enduring lessons of their service and how they carry it forward at UMD:

Georgina Dodge

Georgina Dodge / vice president for diversity and inclusion
Former Petty Officer 2nd Class, U.S. Navy

“Because I was born and raised in a military family, the concept of service is a core aspect of my identity. Contrary to popular belief, or at least Hollywood depictions, military service is not all about rigid discipline. It also incorporates caring for and relating to people who may be very different from you. That's a way of being that has enabled me to learn and love.”

Doug Lombardi

Doug Lombardi / professor, associate dean of academic affairs, College of Education
Captain, U.S. Air Force Reserve; served in Operation Just Cause

“The military instilled a deep and abiding sense of teamwork. The Ranger Creed says, ‘I will never leave a fallen comrade.’ This honorable and beneficent notion of esprit de corps now fuels my efforts to help advance societal justice, environmental sustainability, collaboration and growth among the College of Education's faculty, staff and students.”

David Lovell

David Lovell / professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering; director, Gemstone Honors College program
Former Sergeant, U.S. Marine Corps; served in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm; now volunteers with TerpVets, ROTC, UMD chapter of Society of American Military Engineers

“I think my spectrum of experience, from being a 21-year-old sergeant in a war zone to a 55-year-old professor in an academic setting, helps me relate to our veteran students and come up with ideas about how to help them navigate their somewhat unique path through the university. Many veterans find the academic setting to be quite challenging for a variety of reasons, and I have shared some of those experiences.”

Erin Iverson

Erin M. Iverson / director of operations, Division of Student Affairs
Former Captain, U.S. Army; deployed to Bosnia, Herzegovina and the Middle East

“Throughout my career, I have approached all of my positions of responsibility by living into my personal values statement: People first, mission always. One of my greatest joys as a company commander was watching young soldiers develop into leaders. I find that same joy here on campus as I watch our young Terps become leaders for our future.”

Michael Hoffmeyer

Michael Hoffmeyer / managing director, Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship
Former Quartermaster 3rd Class, U.S. Navy; served in United Nations maritime embargo of Yugoslavia during the Bosnian War

“In the Navy, especially in the fleet, you learn how to lead under pressure, how to approach work with discipline and commitment, adapt quickly to rapidly changing situations to solve problems in uncertain environments, how to be resourceful, resilient and how to remain mission-focused. Leading to my work here in Maryland, I still use all of those traits though things are not quite as uncertain here!”

Timothy Jones

Timothy Jones / props shop manager, The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center
Former Gunnery Sergeant, U.S. Marine Corps

“We have a big storage unit for the prop shop in Severn, and I like to keep it military clean. Sometimes that’s a challenge for people around here, but it’s an important space. I just feel like I’m a different kind of leader; I tend to have a take-charge attitude and can ask the hard questions that can sometimes be difficult for people. All of that come from the service.”

Edward McDermott with George W. Bush

Lt. Edward McDermott / executive officer to the chief of police, University of Maryland Police Department
Former Sergeant, U.S. Marine Corps; military police officer for the Office of the President of the United States

“My service manifests in my day-to-day by constantly combining versatility and resilience in everything I do. You learn to not make excuses, to take ownership and responsibility and to push forward no matter how tough or bad it gets. My service in the Marines has a huge influence on how I serve the University of Maryland as a police officer, to push forward and always get the job done.”

Andy Tran

Andy Tran ’27 / accounting and information systems
Senior airman, U.S. Air Force; currently serves in the Maryland Air National Guard

“The one habit I still always have from the military is organization and attention to detail. No matter where I'm at or whatever device I work on, I have to be very organized. This helps me in knowing where everything is and to recall even the minute details. It’s a strong habit that has helped me as a student. I still fold my socks and make my bed the same way I learned in basic training.”

Eran Eads

Eran Eads / doctoral student, theatre and performance studies
Senior airman, U.S. Air Force

“The experience of returning to school was much more intense than I expected and I struggled. Two years in and I am still struggling. Military service (at least for enlisted members) doesn’t translate to academia, and it’s not supposed to; our military role is focused on doing and training, there is no room for theorizing. The transition can be exceptionally hard for veteran scholars. We experience odd challenges that don’t make sense compared to the typical student. But there are people here at UMD who see our struggles and want veterans to succeed. As someone who has joined the effort to help my veteran peers, it’s a message I hope to get across—you can ask for help.”

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