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Thursday, December 13, 2012

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Described by David Chase as "the face of ODU's military outreach for many years," Dick Whalen is credited with enhancing the university's reputation with military community, working to make ODU known as a military friendly school and boosting military-affiliated enrollments. Photos by Chuck Thomas
Director of Military Activities Dick Whalen Lauded for Accomplishments on Eve of Retire

As a 30-year Navy veteran, which included service as the first commanding officer of the Aegis cruiser USS Mobile Bay, Dick Whalen knew all about operating a ship. After landing at Old Dominion in 1993 as the university's first director of military activities, he soon proved adept as well at steering the university on a true course - one that has resulted in excellent relations with the Hampton Roads military community and an increase in military enrollments, including those of the students in ODU's Army ROTC and Naval ROTC programs.

Whalen, who is retiring at the end of this month, leaves in his wake a considerable "body of work." His efforts have not only burnished ODU's reputation among the military community, but also contributed to the university's stature as a military friendly school and played a significant role in creating academic and research partnerships with the U.S. armed services.

Working with President John Broderick and others at the university, Whalen was an enthusiastic and tireless promoter of "all things military" when it came to ODU. During his tenure, military-affiliated enrollments rose to nearly 25 percent of the student body.

"Dick was actually my roommate at the first ODU administrative retreat I attended some 20 years ago. He has been a friend and a trusted colleague ever since," Broderick said.

"People will never know the behind-the-scenes contributions he has made, which have enhanced our relationships with all branches of the military and the Department of Defense. He has made remarkable contributions to the university community during his time here and has helped make ODU the nationally recognized 'military friendly' institution it is today."

Whalen actually first arrived on campus in 1991 while still on active duty, as commanding officer of the Navy's Hampton Roads Naval ROTC Unit, based at ODU. Former President James Koch subsequently hired him as a member of the university staff in 1993. Through his eventual role in coordinating all of the university's ROTC activity, ODU's Army and Naval units experienced a student growth rate of approximately 300 percent, making them among the largest in the nation.

"Mr. Whalen's efforts played a significant role in the success and growth of the Army ROTC program over the past five years. He helped Army ROTC flourish at ODU and become one of the largest programs in the country," said Lt. Col. Brian Kerns, who heads ODU's Army ROTC.

"He has been an advocate for the ROTC program and cadets, ensuring they have a voice within the university administration and leadership. His efforts have created a strong partnership between the Army and Old Dominion University, which benefits both."

Capt. Thomas Halley Jr., commanding officer of the Hampton Roads NROTC, added, "Mr. Whalen, in all his time as the director of military affairs, has always tried to put the NROTC and AROTC unit interests first. He has been very supportive of our efforts and he will be missed after 20-plus years of service to the university."

Whalen's influence at the university, however, went far beyond his coordination of the ROTC units. His efforts helped make military leaders and others - from the local to the national level - well aware of ODU's significant pro-military posture and capabilities.

Retired Navy Capt. Dick Bedford, branch head of Strategic Issues and Engagement at Allied Command Transformation in Norfolk, characterized Whalen as a tireless advocate and liaison who was known widely in the local military community.

"He spent a lot of time and effort here at ACT making sure that even as the leadership turns over, that the leadership understands ODU, the connection to the community that ODU has, and the opportunities that service members here at this command should benefit from," Bedford said.

"The thing I love about him more than anything is that whatever organization he works for, he bleeds for that organization. All the way through his Navy career, it was all about the Navy. He always had the bigger picture in mind - what was right for the Navy. When he was in the Navy, he bled blue and gold. And at ODU, I know he bled blue and silver."

Retired Navy Rear Adm. Craig Quigley, executive director of the Hampton Roads Military and Federal Facilities Alliance, also spoke about Whalen's work with the local military community. "Dick was always available, always helpful, always willing to do anything in his power to improve the relationship that ODU has with the region's military community. And he did it all with good humor and abiding humility. He has been a treasure to Hampton Roads."

Whalen also had a hand in helping the university increase the number of its military partnerships, contracts and agreements, according to David Chase, ODU assistant vice president for site operations and military distance learning. "For example, his name is synonymous with programs like 'Ships at Sea' and NCPACE (Navy College Program for Afloat College Education), which gave sailors unprecedented access to graduate courses in business and engineering management while underway," Chase said.

"He worked closely with faculty in engineering management to pioneer the university's first asynchronous program using CD-ROM technologies. This program was instantly successful and was lauded by one of the Navy's senior commanders as 'the best program to hit the waterfront in years.'"

Chase added: "The university is recognized nationally for its support to the military, in large measure, because of Dick Whalen and everything he has done to enhance the educational opportunities for all service members enrolled at the university."

Some of Whalen's achievements as ODU's director of military activities include:

• Helped lay the groundwork for ODU's Virginia Modeling, Analysis and Simulation Center by initiating military collaborations in spring 1994 with Joint Forces Command (JFCOM), as it was creating its own Joint Training, Analysis and Simulations Center (JTASC) in Suffolk.

• Developed in 1997 with then-SACLANT a formal memorandum of understanding linking ODU to NATO's U.S. headquarters. The agreement included identification of ODU as the Allied Command Transformation's "primary education partner."

• Reversed a previous "marginal" relationship with the military that has resulted in the university enjoying complete access on local military bases, including actual off-campus sites and classrooms on some of them.

• In 1996, supported the development of a mechanical engineering technology bachelor's degree program for Navy nuclear enlisted personnel, and helped develop a master's program in engineering management for Navy nuclear officers, the only one of its kind in the nation.

• Developed a major military support package to enhance stadium atmosphere at ODU home football games. This included aircraft flyovers, parachute jumps and on-field military recognitions.

• Brought many senior military officials to the campus for various functions, including panels and classes, and secured military-affiliated speakers for commencements and commissioning ceremonies.

"In my role at ODU, I was able to remain close to the military community - its personnel, operations and future - primarily through keying on improving education opportunities worldwide. I enjoyed working in that capacity," Whalen said.

"I take pride in having enhanced university faculty/staff understanding and support for those who defend our freedoms, allowing those of us back home to do what we do in freedom. I also take delight in seeing the incredible growth of ODU's ROTC units and ROTC student performance, following a low point in 1993 when I arrived, wherein the Army nearly closed AROTC at ODU due low graduate production."

He added: "For more than 20 years, Old Dominion University has been a national leader in military student services, partnerships, research and other collaborations. This recognition underscores the university's ongoing commitment to serve those who serve our nation."

Whalen intends to remain in Virginia Beach, where he and his wife, Marti, "dropped anchor" in 1988 following his command of a Navy cruiser, homeported in Mayport, Fla.

An accomplished self-taught marine artist, the U.S. Naval Academy graduate anticipates finding more time for painting, and he plans to continue in his role as director of the North American Sand Soccer Championships in Virginia Beach, an event he established in 1994.

With three grown sons and their families, including seven grandchildren under the age of 12, he added that he also looks forward to "lots of family time together."

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