All in the Lewis Family

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The Lewis Family’s commitment to the United States Military is just as strong as their dedication to academics. Four of their family members have served in the U.S. Navy and pursued a Bachelor of Business Administration degree at Northwood University’s Fort Worth Program Center.

When Charles Ray Lewis III retired from the U.S. Navy in 1988 as a Naval Officer and went to work at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Corporation (formerly General Dynamics) while earning his degree from Northwood University, he didn’t realize he set in motion a legacy of scholars stemming from his own example of leadership, perseverance and commitment to academia.

Ten years later, in 2010, his youngest son, Robert “Brian” Lewis, graduated from Northwood University with a B.B.A. degree, gained a commission, and is now serving in the U.S. Navy Reserves as a Supply Officer. Genuinely speaking, Brian stated, “The adult degree program (ADP) taught me the importance of working as a team to develop new ideas. Also, without this degree, I wouldn’t have received my commission in the U.S. Navy.” He recommended offering a Master’s program at the Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base.

He attended classes on base and the convenience of evening classes made it possible for a lot of different military personnel to achieve their academic goals. When asked the question about inspiration, Brian said, “I have always wanted to follow in my dad’s footsteps as a Naval Officer, and to become an officer I needed a degree to even be considered. So how cool is that, not only are we both graduates of Northwood University, we are also both Naval Officers.”

Soon after, in 2011, the eldest son, Charles “Ray” Lewis IV enrolled at Northwood University after retiring from the U.S. Navy in 2009 as a Chief Intelligence Specialist and is currently pursuing a B.B.A. degree. “I am employed at Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway working as a Train Dispatcher,” he stated. “After serving 21 years in the Navy and spending the last half of my military career in management, the ADP program reinforced what I have already learned thus far in life, so what I want from this program is to legitimize my experience and keep me competitive in my civilian career path.” He continued, “speaking on behalf of my family, I think the B.B.A. degree confirms our life experience in management.” When asked if he considered Northwood military friendly, he responded, “I have been to several colleges over the years trying to complete my bachelor’s degree but it doesn’t get any friendlier than here at the Fort Worth Center. I have always been impressed with the service I receive from the staff, it is really nice when you stop by the office and they know your name. It makes you feel good about going to college; I would say their service is second to none and I have always been treated very well.”

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Another son following in his father’s legendary footsteps is Timothy Lewis who recently retired from the U.S. Navy in 2013 as a Chief Petty Officer after 23 years of military service and is currently enrolled at Northwood pursing a B.B.A. in Management.

Both brothers are taking advantage of their VA education benefit, Post 9/11 GI Bill, which pays tuition fees to the college and pays each qualifying veteran a monthly housing allowance equivalent to an E-5 with dependents, which also includes a stipend for textbooks.

Timothy stated that his father had been trying to convince him to go to college since about 10 years into his Naval career and even intensified his push as both brothers got closer to their military retirement. “My father always told us that it’s not good enough to work hard and have the experience anymore, now you need a degree to be competitive!”

If three sons were not enough, a daughter-in-law, Jennifer Lewis, who is married to Brian, is also currently enrolled at Northwood and pursuing a B.B.A. in management with a minor in marketing. Jennifer shared her thoughts about attending Northwood by stating, “I think the Adult Degree Program is a great program for those who work full-time and can still earn a full year’s worth of credits. I was previously attending a junior college, but I was only able to complete one or two courses per semester due to time constraints and working full-time.” She also stated, “I honestly feel that the instructors at the Fort Worth Program Center are helping me grow as a leader because they bring real life topics into our lessons. The structure has been more of a discussion-type setting versus being completely lecture oriented.”

Jennifer Lewis continued, “I also feel that the Fort Worth Center is military friendly. I have known the professors to work with military students in unforeseen circumstances especially if they were on TAD” (Temporary Active Duty travel orders). Jennifer’s husband, Brian, is proud of his wife and her academic achievements.

“The Lewis family is a great example that The Northwood Idea is working and going full speed ahead,” said Diana Garcia ‘02, Asst. Program Center Manager and Veterans Certifying Official, who has been employed with Northwood for 16 years and has a place in her heart for each and every graduate. “A military friendly environment is the best place to work, because I can relate to their experience as a military dependent growing up in Germany when my father, CSM (RET.) Luis Cavazos served in the United States Army and later when I became a West Point Officer’s wife. Moving to a different base every 18 months was not easy, but it made me more adaptable to change and challenges.”

The Fort Worth Program Center has been in operation with the support of the Michigan and Texas campuses, three staff members and 17 faculty members. 

“September 2014 will mark our 30th Anniversary and we plan to celebrate with over 700 alumni and counting,” said Garcia.

History Of The Fort Worth Program Center

NAS Fort Worth JRB
1564 Headquarters Ave. Fort Worth, Texas 76127

In September of 1984, Richard Gibson, Resident Director and Retired Senior Chief, US Navy opened the door to the Fort Worth Extension Center of Northwood Institute which originated at the Naval Air Station in Dallas, Texas. The program provided an opportunity for military service men and women to attend college on base in eight-week terms, with classroom facilities provided by the government.  This format enabled them to complete their degrees before being reassigned to their next duty station. (In regular cases, service members are on a three to four year rotation.) This also provided an excellent opportunity for advancement and promotion within the ranks.

“Education became a high priority to the military,” stated Brenda Devaul, Retired Chief Petty Officer and alumna of Northwood University who recalled her earlier studies at NAS Dallas. Chief Devaul retired from the United States Navy in 2004 and recently returned to her home state of Texas to complete a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in 2011. She also used her Post 9/11 GI Bill benefit, which pays tuition at a full-time rate depending on years of active duty service and pays the base allowance for housing (BAH) equivalent to an E-5 with dependents, while pursuing a Masters of Business Administration degree at DEVOS Graduate School of Management. She graduated in 2013.

Ten years later, during President Clinton’s administration, and as a result of the 1993 Department of Defense Base Realignment and Closure Recommendation (BRAC), all tenant commands including the Fort Worth Extension Center were transferred from NAS Dallas in 1995 to the newly established Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base in Fort Worth, Texas; becoming the country’s first Joint Reserve Command. At this time, Carswell Air Force Base was officially closed and the Department of Defense (DOD) transferred the majority of the management responsibilities to the United States Navy. NAS Fort Worth JRB is currently under the command of Captain Gilbert Miller, Commanding Officer, US Navy.

At this time, there was also change for the institution. Northwood Institute was renamed Northwood University and gained another ten year accreditation from the North Central Association. Thereafter, the extension centers of Northwood University were renamed Program Centers.

The Fort Worth Program Center has been in operation for nearly 30 years facilitating both military and civilian students who want to earn an Associate of Arts or Bachelor of Business Administration Degree. The operation has survived not only the transfer from NAS Dallas to NAS Fort Worth, but also managed to operate uninterrupted during the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on our nation. This involved evacuation of non-essential base personnel and relocation of the Fort Worth Program Center office, staff, faculty and students to the Green Oaks Convention Center in the vicinity until threat conditions decreased and operations resumed back on base two months later.

The Fort Worth Program Center continues to thrive in enrollment growth, nearly 1000 enrollments annually, with the productivity of three staff members and approximately 20 faculty members. The student body is comprised of retired, reserve and active duty military service members, corporate employees, federal government employees, and dependents of the armed forces. Northwood University also operates program centers on military bases in New Orleans, Louisiana and Selfridge, Michigan.

- Diana Garcia