A rocky start at Tech didn’t stop this alumnus, now U.S. Fire Administrator, from climbing the ladder to the top.
Title: U.S. Fire Administrator
Current Residence: Washington, DC
Degree: Industrial/organizational psychology 2004
How I got to Tech: My first Tech experience was Fall 1978 after graduation from Woodlawn High School, in Shreveport. [Without] focus and priorities, at the end of Fall Quarter 1979, I found myself on academic probation. I became a firefighter in Shreveport in 1981. Realizing that I could not achieve my career goals without a college degree, I used the credits from Tech to gain a BS degree from Wiley College in Organizational Management. At Wiley, I developed a tremendous love for learning. A friend told me about Tech’s program at Barksdale AFB and I entered the industrial/organizational psychology program. At that time, I was the fire chief of the Shreveport Fire Department, but was determined to get a master’s degree from Tech, in spite of the demanding workload and schedule, by going to classes at night. I completed the program in 2004. Graduating nearly 25 years after my first Tech experience gave me a tremendous feeling of achievement and vindication. It’s never too late to go back, and you’re never too old to go to Louisiana Tech University.
How I chose my career: As a five year old, I witnessed a house fire across the alley from where we lived in Shreveport. Watching the Shreveport firefighters that day made such an impression on me; from that day forward, my heart was set on becoming a firefighter.
The facet of my job that carries the most responsibility: As U.S. Fire Administrator, there are several high level responsibilities. Providing fire prevention and life-safety programs and services to state and local governments to reduce the loss of life and property by fire is a very important responsibility. Additionally, the U.S. Fire Administration is responsible for the professional development and higher education of the American Fire Service. Another important responsibility is assuring the American Fire Service is prepared to respond as a national asset for the next natural or man-made disaster.
What prepared me for this new position: In Shreveport, having the ability to apply training and education received through the US Fire Administration, Wiley College and Louisiana Tech (i.e. leadership, strategic planning, organizational management and human resource management) set the stage for nine years of success as fire chief. In the City of Atlanta, providing leadership to the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department through the economic downturn that impacted the budget was a tremendous experience. I also learned in both cities the value of being fully involved in professional associations. Collectively, those experiences have prepared me well to serve as the US Fire Administrator.
Where I see myself in five years: I will either be serving as U.S. Fire Administrator in President Barack Obama’s second term, or will return to the City of Atlanta.
My best memories of Tech: My best memories at Tech are the relationships with people I would have never otherwise met from the state of Louisiana, and graduating in 2004.
My advice for college freshmen today: My advice for college freshmen is based on experience and mistakes. Do not allow the social opportunities of college life to cause you to lose focus on why you are a student at Tech. There will be plenty of time for fun when you achieve your goal of a college degree and a job. Enjoy your college experience, but keep your priorities in order. Stand tall at Tech, and stand for something; move forward at Tech and move mountains; make more than a difference at Tech, make history!