Col. Harvey Van Wie Jr. '93
In 1989, Col. Harvey Van Wie Jr. '93, enrolled at Columbia College-Hancock Field as part of Operation College Degree. Commissioned as a second lieutenant assigned to the 174th Fighter Wing of the New York Air National Guard, Van Wie needed to earn a bachelor's degree to keep his post.
Although there were several other colleges in the area, Van Wie chose Columbia College because it was conveniently located on the base in Syracuse, N.Y., and offered evening classes.
As soon as Van Wie began taking classes, he knew he had chosen the right school."I enjoyed the instructors and the classes were really interesting," he said.
For several years, Van Wie spent his nights as a student and his days as an Aircraft Maintenance Officer keeping the squadron's twin-engine A-10 "Warthogs" and F-16 "Fighting Falcons" mission-ready. Van Wie appreciated that he could work on his degree between deployments. During the early 1990s, Van Wie spent time in the Middle East to support Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm. The F-16s in his unit currently rotate in and out of Iraq.
Fifteen years have passed since Van Wie earned his degree, but the skills he learned still prove helpful.
"I learned about the importance of listening well, and that has allowed me to be an effective leader," he said."I learned you need to listen clearly to what people are saying to understand what they really mean."
As a Mission Support Group Commander of the New York Air National Guard with oversight for 550 people, Van Wie gets to practice his communication skills."The ability to get a large body of people moving in one common direction takes good communication," he said.
Come October, Col. Van Wie will celebrate 38 years of service in the military. He joined in 1970 after graduating from high school in Red Creek, N.Y. His two brothers and sister also served in the military, and their father, Harvey Van Wie Sr., served in the Army Air Corps during World War II. Van Wie's wife, Judy, is a chief master sergeant at the base and also has served 30-plus years in the military.
Columbia College-Hancock Field continues to churn out military leaders like Van Wie. The campus serves about 425 undergraduates and 50 to 60 graduate students each session. Campus Director Tom Cason said that many of the school's graduates currently fill top-level officer and NCO positions in the 174th Fighter Wing.
Of Columbia College's 34 Nationwide Campuses, 17 are located on military bases such as Hancock Field. Mike Randerson, vice president for Adult Higher Education, believes that providing educational opportunities for military members and their families is an important mission.
"This is a population that has been underserved," he said. "We are pleased to be a credible, reputable institution offering a solid education at a reasonable price on military bases."
Van Wie echoes those sentiments. "I tell people, 'If you're in the area, you should take some classes. You're foolish to not take advantage of it.'"