Archive for January, 2013
“I recently arrived at the American Embassy in Tunis on TDY as the facilities manager. Tunis was one of the embassies attacked by a mob in September, so you can imagine we are extremely busy cleaning up the mess and implementing new security upgrades, particularly after the Benghazi 9/11 attack…..”
From high school drop-out to working abroad in places like Tunis, Yemen, the Central African Republic and Afghanistan, Bill LaMay, ’87, embodies the spirit of many Upper Iowa University alumni. Through hard work and a desire to be a life-long learner, LaMay is an integral part of the Peacock legacy.
“I dropped out of school in the 10th-grade and joined the Army,” he said. “I took the GED, and joined for three years, but was extended for two months when the Berlin Wall went up and President Kennedy extended those in the military. I think as a result of doing that I felt that I cheated myself out of an education and began studying more than ever and went to college at night, through correspondence and off-campus studies.”
LaMay earned an associate’s degree in engineering technology from Grantham College of Engineering and a bachelor’s in general engineering from California Coast University before earning a bachelor’s degree in public administration through Upper Iowa University’s Independent Study program in 1987.
He officially retired in 1994 from the U.S. Department of Energy as an electrical engineer technician, but LaMay has done anything but watch the grass grow in Cape Coral, Fla. He maintains a personal service contract (PSC) with the U.S. Department of State traveling all over the world working in operations and maintenance at U.S. military and government facilities. Currently he is in Tunis, where he expects to be for nine months. Prior, he was on-assignment in Sana’a, Yemen, cleaning up after a mob attacked the U.S. Embassy there. “It was a mess,” said LaMay. “The mob damaged more than 22 vehicles, many heavily armored. Fortunately, no embassy personnel were injured. When the alarm sounded, all went to the safe havens.”
LaMay said the experience for him has been most unusual compared to normal embassy assignments. “The local staff employees were mostly ashamed of what their countrymen did to the embassies. In Sana’a, a large contingent of Marines arrived after the attack and the word was out. There was no way the mob would return to face them. At each embassy, there is local military on the outside of the perimeter walls that are supposed to protect the embassy. Surprisingly, they refused to take any action against their countrymen and simply moved aside to let them proceed.”
As a temporary duty (TDY) employee for the State Department, LaMay has served at many posts. Prior to Sana’a, he was assigned to Abuja, Nigeria, where he worked 90 days at the American Embassy.
Before Abuja, he spent a year in Erbil, Iraq, the capital of the autonomous region of Kurdistan. “This is the region where Saddam (Hussein) gassed the people,” he said. “In 1991, a no-fly zone was created, and the Kurds were protected by the United States. Today, we could not ask for a more reliable and friendly ally than the Kurds. It was my pleasure to have the opportunity to work with them.”
In 2010, LaMay provided electrical engineering expertise and support during the construction of the new embassy in Sarajevo, and in late 2009, held a short-term contract to assist in the completion of construction at Camp Speicher in Iraq. Earlier that year, LaMay spent time between Afghanistan and Iraq assisting in the transition for the new contract for Logcap IV, TMDE, TO3 from the former employer KBR to the new employer, Fluor.
From February 2006 to September 2007, LaMay had secret clearance as the project manager for the American Embassy in Astana, Kazakhstan, hiring American supervisors and local national office and craft personnel.
Of his career, LaMay said, “I just do not feel comfortable behind a desk. I like learning different trades – carpenter’s helper, electrician, elevator mechanic, high voltage relay technician, etc. – and enjoyed supervising others and building them into a team.
“I will be 72 this August, and although my wife would like be to consider permanently retiring, I just can’t see myself doing that. I am in excellent health and enjoy my job and travels. After a TDY assignment I am usually home for about three months before venturing out for the next assignment.”
Fondest memory at UIU: Getting to play football in front of my entire family when the Peacocks traveled to Duluth to play the University of Minnesota-Duluth in 2011.
Recent graduate Myles Gorham from Duluth, Minn., had the chance of a lifetime recently when he job shadowed the Director of Corporate Communications for the Minnesota Vikings football team, Jeff Anderson, during the Vikings vs. Green Bay Packers matchup December 30. The Vikings beat the Packers, 37-34, to earn a direct ticket to the NFC divisional playoffs, where they lost to the Packers.
This opportunity was made possible by UIU’s Assistant Dean of Students Daryl Grove. “I had the opportunity to work for the Oakland Raiders, Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs as a marketing and public relations intern in addition to the Iowa Barnstormers and Iowa Cubs,” said Grove. “Jeff Anderson was an underclassman that met some of the Raiders players and personnel when I brought them back to our alma mater to speak. Jeff openly says he owes his connection and career to attending that event and networking. Jeff has mentored several Upper Iowa University students.”
Myles, who was a sports communications major at UIU, said he made lasting connections with others in the field and will have an opportunity to complete an internship next football season.
“I arrived at the Metrodome three hours prior to kickoff, and Jeff showed me the facilities and the main press box,” he said. “During the game, I went around with the game day interns and helped hand out statistics after each quarter. After the game I sat in on the post-game interviews with players and helped record quotes for Adrian Peterson, Christian Ponder and head coach Leslie Frazier.”
Myles said this opportunity will go a long way to helping him realize his career goal of working for a team in the NFL either in the public relations sector or with player personnel.
At 16-years-old, the furthest thing from Tom Grice’s mind was attending college. He walked into the GED center near his hometown in Illinois, took the test and passed with flying colors. It was only after testing that the center staff asked for identification. Upon learning his age, they were reluctant to present him with a general education certificate; but he had passed, and he insisted that they give him one.
Years later, with four children and one more on the way, Grice was faced with a dilemma. He had been working for Ministry Health Care since 2004 and had been asked to earn a bachelor’s degree in order to take on a larger role within the company.
For two years he had managed the facilities department at Saint Clare’s Hospital in Weston, Wis. With recent reorganization at Good Samaritan Hospital in Merrill, Wis., Grice was asked to act as a consultant for both hospitals, which are owned by Ministry Health Care.
As Grice sought a college program that would fit his needs and his family’s schedule, he looked hard at Upper Iowa University’s Wausau Center, which was just 60 miles from his home in Shawano, Wis. “Upper Iowa was a good fit for my family and me,” said Grice. “The course schedule was very convenient.”
Grice was worried when he registered for classes that Upper Iowa would not accept him. “I had no transcripts. I hadn’t taken the ACT,” he said. “But, still, they were very helpful and took me in hand immediately to make sure I got the courses I needed to complete my bachelor’s degree in business.”
Grice worked full-time directing the facilities operations at Saint Clare’s and Good Samaritan hospitals during the day, and two nights a week he attended classes for four-and-a-half hours each night. During the first year of his college career, Grice and his wife Jill welcomed their fifth child, Cali. UIU’s online course schedule helped Grice stay on track as his family worked through Cali’s health issues.
Grice acknowledges that balancing family, school and work was challenging, but he stuck to his plan knowing that once he graduated good things would happen for him and his family. He also wanted to be a good role-model for his two eldest children, daughters Ashley, 22, and Jami, 17. Ashley is currently enrolled in college and Jami is headed to college in the fall. Sons Michael, 15, and Marcus, 12, will also be looking to their father and the great things he has accomplished with his college education through hard work.
When he first started as a student at Upper Iowa, Grice said he struggled with writing. “I just didn’t have the skills I needed to write properly,” he said. “It was something that I didn’t spend a lot of time on when I was in high school because I didn’t think I would ever need it.” Throughout his college career, Grice said he’s noticed changes within himself and others have commented, too, on his ease with communication and how it has been enhanced with his education at Upper Iowa. He said he likes to reread some of the paragraphs and writing exercises that he did for classes at the start of college and compare them to what he is capable of doing now.
During his last year at Upper Iowa, Grice used his senior project course to work with Ministry Health Care’s vice president Rachel Yaron as his project sponsor. The project helped him develop a plan for blending the services of the hospitals while providing patients with quality care.
As a result, he not only transformed operations between Saint Clare’s and Good Samaritan, but earned a promotion as well. He was named overall director of both hospitals on the evening he presented his project to his UIU classmates.
Grice’s senior project identified duplicate services and potential inconsistencies in standards that could be resolved by one hospital providing some specialist services to the other. As a result, Ministry Health Care saw a savings of more than $750,000.
His attention to detail both in and out of the classroom has been noticed. Wausau Center director Sarah Koepke said, “Tom is extremely professional and self-directed. He asks great questions and has far exceeded our expectations at Upper Iowa.”
Grice is the first Wausau Center student to have developed an experiential learning portfolio integrating his work and life experiences. It was so well done that Koepke keeps a copy of it on her shelf to show students what they can do to earn credit through Upper Iowa’s experiential learning portfolio program.
Grice attributes his positive college experience at Upper Iowa to his UIU instructors. “They took the time to explain the course material and made it so that when it was time for class to be over, you wanted to stay and learn more,” he said. “I really like their teaching methods. It was more like a peer-to-peer relationship.”