For retired Army Lt. Col. Mack Brooks, giving the keynote at the Penn State Abington fall commencement next month is another part of his life’s adventure that began at the campus in 1965.
“Abington provided my nucleus, my foundation,” Lt. Col. Brooks told a dozen Abington seniors at the traditional lunch with the commencement speaker recently. “I was the pioneer in my family because I was the first one to go to college.”
After completing his degree in political science in 1969, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army, volunteered for the infantry and two tours in Vietnam, and attended airborne school.
“I always opt for adventure,” he told soon-to-be graduates, “and you should, too, even if you don’t jump out of planes. Take career challenges and other opportunities.”
“Constant learning should be your constant companion. You need to acquire new and higher level skills,” he continued. And Lt. Col. Brooks speaks from experience, having continued his education at the military’s Command and General Staff College and also earning a master’s degree in business administration.
He earned many honors during his military career including the Legion of Merit, multiple Bronze Star awards, the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, the Army Ranger Tab, and the Parachutist Badge. But despite the medals and promotions, he considers serving as an admissions officer at the United States Military Academy at West Point, where he still volunteers today, to be his highest achievement.
“At West Point, I helped people achieve a goal. You always need to know where you are and where you want to go so you can achieve your goals,” he said. “I have accomplished a lot by design, and you can, too.”
After retiring from the Army, Lt. Col. Brooks continued helping young people reach their goals by accepting a position in Student Advising Services at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C.
Thirty years after leaving Abington, Lt. Col. Brooks returned in the late 1990s as a volunteer with the ROTC. He has since become very active in a variety of roles including serving on the Abington College Alumni Society and Abington College Advisory boards, the athletics advisory board, and he has been a leader in establishing a scholarship for Abington ROTC students.
Abington Chancellor Karen Wiley Sandler hosts a lunch a few weeks prior to the spring and fall commencements so a select group of seniors can share their experiences and plans with the commencement speaker.