SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – A dedication ceremony was held on Tuesday afternoon, March 24, 2015, for the Admiral Vern Clark Veterans Center at Evangel University. The Center is located on the first floor of the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary, on the campus of Evangel.
Admiral Clark is the retired Chief of Naval Operations for the U.S. Navy, having served in that position and on the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 2000-2005. He is the second-longest serving CNO in history.
Clark is also a 1967 graduate of Evangel.
“Anytime someone wants to support our veterans, I am going to stand up and cheer,” said Clark in relation to his appearance at the dedication service. “It is so wonderful to live in a time when veterans are appreciated.”
The Marine Corps color guard unit from the Armed Forces Reserve Center in Springfield, Mo., and the Airlifter Brass quintet from Scott Air Force Base (Ill.) opened the ceremony with a salute to our country’s different military branches and the many veterans in attendance at the ceremony.
Former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft delivered the dedication address. Ashcroft worked closely with Admiral Clark during his years as CNO.
Guests were able to meet Admiral Clark and tour the center during the reception that followed.
The Veterans Center
“It is fabulous that Evangel University has taken this step to say to veterans, ‘We want to support your needs,’” said Clark. “This center sends a message about how much Evangel appreciates the service of our military members. I am grateful that this is a veteran-friendly institution.”
The Veterans Center opened its doors to Evangel and AGTS veteran students in the summer of 2014. Between EU and AGTS there are approximately 96 students/dependents who are using their veteran benefits.
“Some of our students are transitioning to civilian life, and some will return to the military. Our goal is to make either process as smooth as possible,” said Dr. Dale Garrett, associate professor of government at Evangel and faculty advisor to the Student Veterans Association.
Garrett is a retired Lt. Col. (USAF) and a three-time Air Force Squadron Commander.
“The vision for this center is to equip veterans during their university experience for academic excellence, spiritual empowerment and future success,” he said.
That equipping comes in various ways, including helping veterans keep track of required federal paperwork, connecting them with upperclassmen who can familiarize them with the university and offering a comfortable place in which they can relax.
“Sometimes these men and women need to get away from the crowds,” said Chaplain Stormy Davis, coordinator of veterans services at Evangel. “This is designed to be a safe, warm and welcoming place, where they can meet with fellow vets, or just study in peace.”
Davis is a 2009 graduate of Evangel and a 2014 graduate of AGTS.
AGTS has a long history of training military chaplains. Currently, more than 180 AGTS alumni are serving as chaplains in the Armed Forces and Veterans Administration, and about 30 students are preparing for chaplaincy.
The Center was made possible by generous donations of Jack Weimer and the Student Advisory Council at AGTS.
Clark’s life adventure
Clark’s parents moved their family to Springfield, Mo., when Vern was in the second grade and stayed through his years at Pipkin Middle School.
He returned several years later to enroll at Evangel and graduated with a degree in business in 1967.
Between moving around as the son of an Assemblies of God minister, and then 19 moves with the Navy, Clark feels like this is as close to being home as he can get. “It is always a treat to come back to Springfield,” he said.
Admiral Clark has come a long way for a person who never planned on a Navy career. After graduating from Evangel, he enrolled at University of Arkansas, where he received his MBA in 1969.
In 1968, during the height of the Vietnam War, Clark met a Navy Lieutenant recruiting on the campus of the University of Arkansas and, after several conversations said, “I’ll give the Navy a try.”
He never imagined that 31 years later, he would be promoted to four-star admiral and command the world’s most powerful Navy.
Clark started as a Lieutenant of a patrol gunboat and worked his way up to command of three ships, two destroyer squadrons, the Atlantic Fleet’s Anti-Submarine Warfare Training Center, a Carrier Battle Group, the Second Fleet, NATO’s Striking Fleet and the U.S. Atlantic Fleet.
As Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Clark was in his office in the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, when terrorists flew a jet airliner into the west side of that complex. Twenty-nine sailors were killed that day, and he was tasked with preparing the Navy for challenges of a post-9/11 world.
In the months that followed, his message was “Challenge every assumption.” His efforts resulted in billions of dollars in savings and the highest operational readiness the Navy had experienced in decades.
“But Clark’s lasting legacy may spring from his relentless focus on the fundamentals that make the Navy tick,” according to an article in SEAPOWER (June 2005), “such as the recruitment and retention of top performers, getting more value for money, and the rapid deployment of massive military power.”
Throughout the years, he has remained close to Evangel, speaking at Homecoming and Commencement on several occasions, as well as serving other functions.
Admiral Clark was honored with Evangel’s Distinguished Alumnus Award in 1989.
In retirement, he serves on several national advisory boards, and is a distinguished professor at Regent University in Virginia Beach, Va.
“I love the teaching and learning environment,” said Clark. “I remind students that there is a place out there to serve — to impact people and places and make a difference in the world.”
He and his wife, Connie, also a 1967 Evangel graduate, make their home in the Phoenix, Arizona, area.
Special thanks is given to the following businesses for their support of our veterans and today’s events: SFI –Stainless Fabrications, Inc., Price Cutter and Aaron Property Management.
Paul K. Logsdon