Name: Joe Lamack
Military Branch & Rank: US Navy, Captain
Dates of Service: 1987 – 2013
Villanova Degree: B.A., Chemical Engineering, 1987
Date of Interview: May 8, 2020
Interviewer: Michael D. Brown
Audio Producer: Meg Piorko
Length of Interview: 1 hour, 11 minutes
Transcribed by: Nicholas Coscarelli
Edited and annotated by: Meg Piorko
MICHAEL BROWN: Good morning. My name is Mike Brown. I am the Director of the Office of Veterans and Military Service members. Today is Monday, May 8th, and we are here in Falvey Library inside the Rare Book Room on Villanova’s campus. And today I have the privilege to be joined by Joe Lamack, who is a Class of ‘87 graduate and has spent some time in the United States Navy. And today we will interview Joe and get a little bit of his life story. And so welcome to the Rare Book Room, Joe. And we are pleased to take some time together and hear your story.
JOE LAMACK: Thanks, Mike. Good morning to you.
BROWN: So, I’m going to start, you know, a long time ago. So let me know, tell me about when you were born, where you were born, and a little bit about some of that upbringing with kids. You know, your brothers and sisters and what that was like.
LAMACK: Okay. So, my parents are both from Philadelphia. My father went to North Catholic, so he was raised a Catholic. My mother went to Little Flower in Philly. So, I was raised either in or near Philadelphia. I was born in Abington, lived in North Wales for a while, then my family moved out into Montgomery County to a town called Hardysville, built their first and only house. A house in which I was raised, and my mother and brother still live there today. Went to school in the same relative area, didn’t really move around at all as a young person, and graduated from Satterton High School in 1983. Was involved in scouting for a short period of time, but really never progressed very far into the Boy Scouts. I was a student athlete, had been from a very early age, and so I was I was playing sports every season. I was involved in academics, always gravitated towards STEM. I was the oldest of three. I have a brother who is two years younger. His name is Bill, and I have a sister named Cindy, who is five years younger than I am. I was the student athlete, participated in every sport that you can imagine. In high school, I played soccer, basketball, and baseball as my three primary sports. At some point in high school, I had a couple of close friends who expressed interest in the military. I really hadn’t thought much about the military as a young person. My father was in the National Guard in the ‘60s, but that was really the only person who was an influence in my life who really had military service experience. The two friends kind of dragged me along through the sophomore and junior years of high school as we explored. At one point, I eventually got interested in the Navy. I couldn’t really tell you why versus any of the other services, because the one friend ended up going into the Marine Corps and being a pilot after graduating from Arizona State. The other friend stopped pursuing it and ended up playing soccer at Gettysburg. And so, on recollection, reflection, couldn’t tell you why the Navy versus the other services. I think perhaps it was a little bit because of the STEM focus that the Navy even had back then, but I really couldn’t tell you any more details. But went ahead and did the Naval Academy tour, met the staff there. I was a baseball player principally. I was interested in playing baseball in college. I met the coach. We really didn’t click very much. And quite honestly, in the ‘80s, when you looked around the campus and you saw the student body, the male to female ratio was quite high on the male side and I thought to myself, you know, A.) I don’t really have a lot of energy around Navy full-time at that point. I just didn’t know enough about the military to think that I could perhaps be immersed in the military 24/7. So, that was one reason why I kind of pivoted off of the Academy. The other was baseball, first impression, and then there was just, you know, kind of the gender ratio. And so, I went ahead and pursued ROTC in parallel and got an ROTC scholarship for years to come to Villanova.
BROWN: Were you, at that point, with the ROTC, were you looking at any other colleges? And what were they and what was the draw to Villanova over those other colleges?
LAMACK: Yeah. So, I was born and raised in the Philadelphia area, I didn’t really have much of an interest in going too far away from home. I knew that I wanted to, you know, “get away from home,” but not necessarily go too far away. Certainly not a plane flight away. So, I applied and got accepted to five other schools besides Villanova: University of Pennsylvania and Drexel, both in Philadelphia. And even though I was raised in that Philadelphia area, and spent a lot of time there with my parents, and their siblings and extended families, I didn’t really think I was a city kid. So, I kind of discounted those two schools even though I loved the Drexel co-op program because I was certainly thinking STEM at that point. I had applied to Carnegie Mellon, had never even gone to visit the school. You know, it was a couple hours away, just for whatever reason, didn’t necessarily think it perhaps was for me. I went to visit RPI up in Troy, New York. Rensselaer has a really good engineering program, really kind of profound ROTC program at the time, liked that school. But again, maybe a tad bit further away out in the middle of, you know, kind of a rural area looking down on Albany, New York. And the last school was Lehigh University. Lehigh was, as was Villanova, close to home within half hour, 40 minutes, great engineering school, but they didn’t have Navy ROTC. They only had Army and Air Force. And so, when I kind of put all those parameters together, I felt just kind of like Villanova was the right place. But certainly, as everyone says, when they come to Villanova even, you know, 39 years ago now, it just felt right. You know, I was a Catholic kid who felt the Villanova vibe from the first time I was here. Came back to the school several times to visit. Parents loved the school. I love the school. So, that’s kind of how I settled on Villanova. Love basketball, like a lot of young people, right? My son’s going through the same thing now as a student. You know, I’ve always been passionate about college basketball. My father went to LaSalle. So, I kind of grew up favoring the big five. And that was another great reason why I should come here.
BROWN: Sure. And you get to campus, what does that ROTC look and feel like? You know, as a freshman coming into campus, you know, obviously as just a traditional student. As a freshman, you’re, you know, thrown in the Sullivan Hall or wherever. But with the ROTC, what’s that look and feel like for you as an incoming student?
LAMACK: So, it was a little bit different back in the ‘80s, back in the day than it is today. However, in both cases, they kind of reach out and get ahold of you before the traditional semester begins. And so, as a freshman, we were ordered to report to campus about a week early and got indoctrinated into the ROTC program. Back in the ‘80s, there were probably about a hundred and ten or twenty of us that reported as ROTC midshipmen on day one. If I recall, perhaps about half were four-year scholarship recipients. The rest were in that category of college program, where they aspire to get a scholarship and work through all of that. Quite honestly, it didn’t even really talk about who’s who, right? It wasn’t as if there was the haves and the have-nots. We were just really, you know, kind of intimidated by the whole experience. And we were just all, you know, pulling together to try to get through. So, it was the usual early military indoctrination, right? Early morning, revelry, get to John Barry Hall or Mendel field, even as it is today, for physical training. Followed by some, you know, military instruction and, you know, a swim test, as far as I recall. And I was always a little bit amazed at the number of people that didn’t know how to swim very well, even though they had kind of decided to go into the Navy, which is a bit of a misnomer. But certainly, if you can’t swim, you know, depending upon where you want to go in the Navy, you know, you may have some challenges. But, you know, if you couldn’t PT and you couldn’t swim to the level that they wanted, you immediately were into that remedial category where you were running a bit more and working on pull-ups or working on swimming. You know, fortunately, you know, I’m not, I’m not one to want to be singled out on kind of the negative side. So, made it to all of that. But, you know, it was before the academic year began by a few days just to kind of get us calibrated, if you will, and then it was into the semester where even the early parts of the freshman year semester, much like Villanova does today as well, you are in your own company with instructors who are getting you again in the morning, PTing you, marching you, those kind of things. For several weeks, the beginning of that freshman year, to make sure that you are getting off on the right foot.
BROWN: Sure. So, today on campus, I typically see folks in ROTC wearing uniforms twice a week. Are you wearing uniforms once? Twice? All week? What does that look like?
LAMACK: So, the tradition that had been a long-standing tradition, which in many ways is the same as it is today, is Tuesday was always the day where you wore uniform and in the afternoon, you always mustered at John Barry Hall, and you went through your additional military training. So, regardless of whether or not you would still in the freshman year – I know they call it India Company now at Villanova – or you are an upperclassmen. You’re organized in companies and from 15 to 1700 on a Tuesday, after wearing your uniform all day, regardless of whether or not you had classes or not when you’re on campus, you’re wearing a uniform, you muster at John Barry Hall, typically weather permitting, you muster and your company’s on Mendel in formation, and you have a certain amount of military instruction that occurs. You may practice because you’re getting close to a spring or fall review, marching as a battalion. Or you may have other things that you’re doing within your company formation, but then you retire into John Barry, as I recall, for company meetings. Because, again, it’s not all about just learning how to proficiently march. It’s about the company and what the company is doing as a cohesive unit. So, we would talk about things that are happening on campus. We would talk about things that we would perhaps be doing as a company, all kinds of other administrative things that needed to be done, and that was pretty much the routine every Tuesday.
BROWN: Sure. What dorm are you living in?
LAMACK: I lived in Stanford Hall on South Campus, all four years that I was at Villanova, on the first floor. I was one of the tremendously lucky fellows who really wanted to stay on campus to experience the campus for all the reasons that people talked about. Plus, I was a chemical engineer, so I was in class most da, every day, and it was just certainly more convenient to be on campus all the time on the academic side. My wife is as well. We met my senior year, her sophomore year. She’s an ‘89 grad, psychology. She was blessed to have been on campus all four years. Now, she will tell you that the reasons for the two of us being lucky enough to have good lottery picks was because of some of the things we were doing. She claims it because she was involved in a lot student activities. She was running RSA and Special Olympics, and she was lucky enough to be able to stay on campus all four years. She says that because I was an ROTC and an engineer and play sport for a period of time, that I was somehow lucky enough to do that as well. I don’t know. I just felt pretty blessed that I was able to stay on campus all four years because a lot of my friends, including my roommates, freshman, sophomore years, really aspired to want to move on to the center of campus in the Sullivan. Back then, it was the male dorm, right? I had no inkling or aspirations to do that. I really liked kind of being a bit isolated from the hubbub of campus where I lived on South, and yes, it’s a longer trek to get to the Chem E building in John Barry Hall, where I spent almost all my time – or here in Falvey. It just was easier for me to kind of feel as if I could separate myself because a lot of people talk about all the great things that they did when they were here at Villanova. I felt like I did a lot of great things, but it wasn’t around as much of the socialization part because of the engineering and ROTC demands that were placed on you. So, I was in the first floor, Stanford all four years.
BROWN: And so, you’re getting the Naval indoctrination, and you’re living on campus, and you said you’re a chemical engineering student. What does a typical year look like for a chemical engineering student? Are you in the classroom and studying basically? And so, added onto that with your ROTC, it sounds like you didn’t really have enough time for that socialization that you’re talking about.
LAMACK: Yeah, so I came in as a physics major, spent a semester taking the freshman physics course with the astronomy majors, and there were probably 20-some of us between the two majors perhaps. And the freshman physics course was taught by the Physics Department Chairperson, Dr. Elaine Ferris, and he was tough. And of the, call it, 25 in the class, I think about half of the class failed. And you know, I didn’t fail, but I thought to myself, “My goodness, this is hard.” And so, I came home after freshman year at the winter break and said to my parents, “Boy, I think I need to do something different. I need to change majors. I just can’t see myself physics for four years.” And so, my parents really couldn’t help very much other than to support me and my decision, because neither one of them was a college graduate. I was the first college graduate in the extended family. And so, they said, “Listen, whatever you decide to do, you know, we support you,” right? Villanova ROTC was fine, certainly with that decision to change majors, because as long as you kind of stayed in the STEM field, they weren’t going to really give you a hard time, at least back then. So, I thought, geez, I love math, just like I love science. Maybe I’ll go into business school and do finance or accounting. So, I was kind of thinking that for perhaps the first week or few days of the winter break. And then I went next door and was talking to my next-door neighbor. He was an engineering graduate from Michigan State, you know, family-friends. I enjoyed talking to him. And he just gave me some great advice. He said, listen, he said, “What do you think the hardest major or, colleges of Villanova?” And I said, “well, gosh, it’s got to be the engineering college.” I didn’t know much about the business school or nursing, but they were, you know, they were profoundly reputable at the time as well, just like they always are. But I said engineering, and he said, okay, and he was an engineer. So, I kind of was probably, you know, being nice to him, right? And he said, “What do you think the hardest major is within the College of Engineering?” And I said, “I don’t know, maybe chemical engineering, electrical, I don’t know.” And he said, “Well, you know, if you had to pick one of those two, which one would you pick?” And I said, “Well, I like chemistry. So, I guess chemical engineering.” And he said, “Why don’t you just go do that one?” He said, “You know, in the end, the Navy is going to be certainly appreciative of whatever major you pick in that engineering space. And in engineering, you’re going to learn to be a problem solver. And you can go do anything you want. If you stay in the Navy, or you get out of the Navy.” And so that’s what I did. It wasn’t, again, it wasn’t a lot of deep thought. It was just trying to talk to somebody who could give me some good advice. And so, I transitioned over to the College of Engineering and decided on chemical engineering. And you know, what’s interesting about chemical engineering is it was almost that same experience for semester, sophomore year, where the, the department chairperson who had just left being the department chairperson. And now he was just teaching in his final days as a professor, Dr. Bob White, I think his first name was, which White Hall is named after. He’s the one who founded the chemical engineering program in the ‘50s, ‘40s. And he was winding down his career, but he still taught that sophomore year mass transfer class, which back then in the ‘80s was kind of the weeding out class, where the Chem E class was almost like our RTC. It was 50. They only wanted the class size to be 25. And so, his job was to essentially weed out those that perhaps he didn’t feel as if we’re most worthy of staying in chemical engineering. Again, a different mentality of today. But he had a hard class and he made it difficult, and he was tough, and half the class failed. So again, I was blessed to not have failed. But boy, I thought to myself, “this is really hard.” And I say buckle down, but it was pretty much I need to buckle down and just continue to stay focused on academics. A lot of my friends went to summer school, or they weren’t transitioned over to something else. And so I was making it through that and, you know, when you look at a chemical engineering semester, you know, you’re probably in that 17-18 credit range back then. 19 credits. You add on a three credit ROTC class, because we all had to take one class every semester, whether it was engineering or weapons systems or ship handling or whatever they had to kind of have you take, because you were taking a class every single semester. So that automatically got you over 20 credits as an engineer, which was pretty tough, right? And so, I was in class every day, pretty much all the time, eight to five. You throw in a lab and you’re in class till 5:30 most days, right? So, it’s, I think it’s a little different than perhaps what a lot of students, including my, my son experience because, you know, I look at his curriculum, you know, I see he’s got, you know, three classes on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and it’s the middle of the day or it’s the day split or Tuesday, Thursday, you know, he doesn’t start till after lunch and, you know, he’s just pursuing a different world. And I always just say, boy, you know, I probably would have liked to have had some of those nice breaks to be able to spend more time during the day working on school work, because you really couldn’t do any school work during the day. You were in class the whole time. And so, then you are coming back to your dorm, unloading what you weren’t going to carry around with you for the evening, you’re going to the, to the dining hall, you’re getting your dinner, and boom, back to the library. And so, my day was pretty much get up, if it wasn’t ROTC-based in the morning, it was get up at zero, seven, go to the dining hall for breakfast, go to class. You’re in class all day, hopefully you can zip over to a dining hall for lunch, classes all afternoon, perhaps afternoon lab. If it’s not a Tuesday, right, you’re, you’re coming back eating dinner and you’re going to the library. And I was probably in the library every night from seven to 11 studying because, you know, I wasn’t the brightest light on the on the block. I mean, I was a hard worker. And so, it was a lot of, a lot of effort. But, you know, you kind of power through. I went to summer school every summer. My first summer, I had to take a chemistry class and a lab in order to kind of catch up with the other freshmen who were going into chemical engineering because I hadn’t taken the chemistry, I was taking the physics. So, I did that at a branch campus at Temple after freshman year, but then sophomore-junior years, I stayed down here at Villanova. And I took most of my liberal arts classes. You know, we had to take three religions. I took those three over the two summers. And then I picked up a biochem class after junior year because I only needed one more chemistry to get a minor. And so, when I finished here, I finished with 167 credits. At the time, it was a number that was high enough that whoever was the university president or, wasn’t the provost certainly, it was one of the Deans singled me out at commencement and said, “This crazy guy graduated with more credits than anybody else.” You know, so I had a major in Chem E and in minors – we get naval science minor for being in the program – and then a chemistry minor and, you know, it was it was rigorous. But at the same time, I was playing every intramural l sport that I could with my friends, soccer, basketball, softball, flag football, volleyball. My sophomore year, a bunch of friends from Stanford Hall decided that they wanted to start a fraternity because they wanted to be in a fraternity, but they didn’t perhaps like the other ones that were on campus. And so, they grabbed me and they said, “Hey, we want you part of our leadership team because we need somebody to be,” what they call the Herald, which is the historian. Really, they didn’t want to do the work. So, they said, “Hey, we know you’re a hard worker. You research –“ it was Sigma Pi – “You researched Sigma Pi. And then you have to give us all a quiz and we have to pass the quiz in order to be sanctioned as brothers in the fraternity.” So, I did that. So that was a bit of the socialization I was able to do as a student. But it was mostly just focusing on academics and the ROTC program. I really enjoyed the camaraderie of the of the unit. Some great friends, many of which I’m still close to today. You know, I we always brag about the class of ‘87 as just an overall great class. But our ROTC class was equally as formidable. And, as I said, of the 52 or three that we commissioned, there’s probably at least a dozen that I still keep in close touch with today, which is just phenomenal.
BROWN: Yeah, that’s great. I think it speaks to the family nature of the military in general, but also in Villanova. Exactly. The ROTC experience is happening and you’re moving along. You talked about your junior-senior year. Are there any obligations in the summer for ROTC as well?
LAMACK: Yeah, there is. So, it’s based upon the scholarship that you have. So, if you come in with a four-year scholarship, that means that the three summers that you’re here, you have to do an ROTC cruise, quote, cruise. If you would come in as a college programmer, if you had gotten a scholarship awarded to you during that freshman year, you were still able to do that summer cruise as well. So, every summer we had to do something. And the something was pretty well organized. So again, back in the ‘80s, back in the day, your first summer after freshman year, you went on board a ship in many cases, or a submarine or something in kind of that field. They couldn’t throw you on an airplane, certainly, because you, you know, you can’t fly. The Marines went and did their own training as well. So, you know, you already know what you’re going to probably do, whether it’s Navy or Marine Corps. There’s a clear segregation. Even today, when you apply for an ROTC scholarship, you have to select which one you want to pursue. And there’s some movement back and forth in college, but not a whole lot. So, Navy folks like myself, assume you go on board a ship after freshman year. It’s typically about a month. And so, in my particular case, I was lucky enough to, with one other classmate of mine, Steve …, we flew from Philly to Germany. And we picked up a ship that was actually in Germany, in Kiel, in time, Kiel West Germany. And it was during Kielabaka, Kiel Week. And so, I had never flown before. You know, I was a, you know, kind of a, you know, farmland country kid from Pennsylvania who had never gotten on the plane before. Any vacations that we ever took as a family amidst me playing baseball in the summer, were just to go and spend a week with my father’s family at the Jersey Shore. So, I had never even, I think I’d been out of Pennsylvania a couple of times. New Jersey, you know, Delaware, Virginia, New York, maybe, but I could count on probably one hand, a number of states I’d been in as a kid. And so here I am flying scared to death, right? But I had a friend, thank goodness, and he had flying experience, fly to Germany, you know, certainly before social media and cell phones and all technology. And you have to meet somebody, right? Somebody’s going to meet you in the airport in Humboldt, Germany, I think it was. You know, so you assume somebody’s going to be holding up a sign saying, you know, mid shipment to the USS Kuntz, you know, DDG 41 or whatever it was. So, we go to Kiel West Germany and spend a week or more in Kiel during Kielabaka. You know, is everything everybody knows about Germans and how they, how they party, right? And so we were sailing during the week with a bunch of midshipmen that were on the ship. We were socializing at night and learning a little bit about the ship. And then the ship got underway, and we went from Kiel up to Alborg, Denmark. And this is in July, during July 4th, during a big 4th of July celebration in Alborg, Denmark. And the history there is that there were a lot of Danes who would move from that town into the US. And so they were actually celebrating the US for the July holiday every year. And back then, they had their guest speaker Mark Spitz of all people who won a ton of medals in the ‘72 or six Olympics as a swimmer, a formidable swimmer. And so, I thought to myself, oh my gosh, this is unbelievable. I’m going to – I joined the Navy and all I do is visit foreign countries and have a good time, right? And the workload wasn’t very much because we were mid shipment, they couldn’t trust us with anything. So, that was the first couple of weeks. And then of course, we get underway and we, we sail back across the Atlantic back to the US. And that’s when we got a chance to learn a bit more about what shipboard life was like. So, it was a very positive experience. And so then after sophomore year, they do what’s called CORTRAMID: career, orientation, and training for midshipmen. And that’s where they really start to get you exposed to the other disciplines within the Navy. So, we flew to Jacksonville, Florida. We learned about aviation for a week, then they bused us up to Charleston, North Carolina. We got on board a submarine; we learned about submarine life for a week. Then they trucked us up to Norfolk, Virginia. And between Norfolk and Little Creek, we spend kind of a week with the Marines, a week with the surface warfare people and the Navy SEALs. So now you’ve gotten kind of a full, a reasonably full breadth of the different disciplines, because back then, certainly, if you were a nurse, it was difficult to really get experience until that last summer in Navy medicine. You kind of have to go along with all the jugheads like me that were going on board ships and, you know, playing with guns with the Marines and the Navy SEALs. If you were thinking about Intel, you know, the messaging there was, listen, you’re not going to go straight into Intel, you probably have to go into surface warfare and then switch over. Same thing with public affairs, you know, it really was the main disciplines back then, especially. So, we did that after sophomore year. And then after junior year, that’s when you kind of say, listen, I think I want to be a surface warfare officer, so they’re going to put you back on a ship again. Or they say, you say, “Oh, I think I want to be, you know, nuclear power, submariner,” they’ll try to get you on a submarine again. And then the aviators, they try to get you with a squatter and those kinds of things. Marines are still doing their own thing. So, I went to board on board another ship in Norfolk, Virginia. And I was still kind of on the fence, because as an engineer, they, especially a chemical engineer and probably electrical, they like to try to slot you towards nuclear power because they know that you pretty much probably could handle the academic rigor because you did it in college. And so, most of the folks that were going in nuclear power were certainly coming out of the engineering disciplines. And so I thought about that, I went down for the interview with Admiral McKee and I thought, man, you know, undergraduate chemical engineering of Villanova was really hard. I didn’t necessarily think I wanted to subject myself to that same or increased level of academic rigor. So, I kind of backed away from that. And then my roommate, my last two years of college, a guy named Brian Kelly, still a good friend today, was all in aviation from the very beginning. We lived together junior and senior years. He got us bunk beds. He was on the top bunk. I was on the bottom bunk. Every morning, he had he had a masking tape box on the floor of our dorm room carpeting with an X and said, “Get jets.” Every morning, he jumped out of the top rack. He landed on that. And he said, “Get jets”. So, this guy was serious about aviation. And so, because of his enthusiasm, when we had a, I think it was a junior year field trip that we took with midshipmen from Duke, we flew down to Corpus Christi, Texas. And we got a chance to fly jets during spring break, which was really, really awesome. Right? But a challenge for young midshipmen, Joe Lamack is I can’t see, right? Bad vision, glasses wearer from the age of 16, contact lens wearer from the age of 18, knew I couldn’t be a pilot. That was the time that the first Top Gun movie came out. So, I could see what, what Goose was doing, right? As the NFL, or as the Marines called them, the GIBs, the guys in the back. I, you know, I love my roommate, Brian. I loved all my buddies who I could see were going into aviation. But I had a bit of a, of a trust issue, right? I, you know, a little bit of a control issue. I felt like if I was going to do aviation, I really wanted to kind of be the person flying the thing. And so, I didn’t have the, nearly the enthusiasm that he did about aviation. And so I kind of defaulted to, and I knew I, I couldn’t do a special forces Navy Seal because that was kind of cool as well. And I was an athlete, I thought I could handle it. But, you know, already at that point, I was having knee problems. And, you know, my body was already starting to break down even at the age of 20, 21, from playing a lot of sports growing up and in college. And I already had a pretty bum knee. And so, I thought, you know what, I couldn’t do that either. And those, those folks are pretty dedicated. And so surface warfare was kind of my default. I enjoyed that last cruise that we did. I really enjoyed being on board the ship. I think what really helped me convince myself that I could do it was, throughout the time that I was on board that ship, that one month period after junior year. The person who was the division officer for the division that I was assigned was actually out on medical. And so, I was essentially running his division as a midshipman. And I thought that was great. You know, the ship was in port, I think the whole time. So, I didn’t get a chance to experience life at sea that particular summer. But I thought, you know what, I think I would enjoy doing surface warfare. So that’s how I decided to do that versus the other disciplines.
BROWN: Sure. Yeah. And I know nowadays they have this, you know, if you’re a surface warfare, they do this big ceremony where you get to pick the boat you’re on or whatever. What’s that like for back in the day?
LAMACK: Back in the day was very different, Mike. We didn’t have any of that. We were still force rank based upon our performance as students. So, that all was still the same as it is today. So, there’s the, and I don’t even know what the, the percentages are or anything. I just know that if you were an engineer and you did well, you were going to naturally be closer to the, you know, the top of the national list. But it was a national list. Didn’t really have any insight as to how it all went down. Always had heard that the Naval Academy folks kind of got first pickings. You know, I think there’s a little bit of that, but not much because I know today there’s been some great Villanovans who have done tremendously well when it came to selections. And some of them weren’t even engineering students. There was a young lady who graduated in 2022. She was I think a political science major, but she was, you know, 4.0. And she got a ship in Hawaii. And she was nationally, I think top 12, 20, which is tremendous, right? So anyway, you knew if you did well in engineering, you probably had some insight as to what you did. So, you filled out what they called a dream sheet. And I think it was three different parameters. One was home port selection. You know, everybody wants to go to Hawaii or San Diego, right? I wasn’t in that category. I, again, felt like I wanted to be closer to home. And so, I picked Norfolk, Virginia. Not too many people really pick Norfolk, Virginia. That’s kind of the default if you didn’t get your top exciting choices. And so, I got my first choice. I got Norfolk, Virginia. And then you have to go and pick ship type. You know, everybody wants to be on a gas turbine ship there back in the ‘80s because probably half the fleet was gas turbine. The other half was steam. Not too many people want to be on steam ships because that’s, you know, loud and hot and old and that kind of thing. Gas turbine had only been around for about 10 years at that point. And so, the ships were new, and it was the technology of choice for ship types where they were, you know, they figured out how to put aviation engines on board ships, right? So, no more steam. So, I picked a destroyer, a gas turbine. Got that. And then, you know, pick your job, I think, right? Pick your discipline. What do you want to do? And I had no idea what I wanted to do. So, I probably picked engineering like a knucklehead, right? Or I may have picked something else. I don’t even remember to be honest with you. But I got an engineering job. And again, they were, the ship has some influence over that too. The ship kind of decides the people that get assigned to them, what openings they have, and who’s going to do what jobs. And, but it’s important to do that before you graduate because you get your orders to go for training right out of college. And back then, the Navy sent you either to Newport, Rhode Island or to Coronado, San Diego, depending upon what coast you were on. For three months of, it was called, it was called SWOS-Doc, another Navy acronym. SWAS was surface warfare officer school. And Doc was indoctrination. And so, you get the 90 days of immersion into what it means to be a surface warfare officer. Because, as you know, Naval Academy folks are coming in and they’ve been living it and breathing it for four years, right? They’re already further up the learning curve than we are as ROTC people, because we were only living it and breathing it, you know, kind of part time. And so, they have to get us all up to a kind of a requisite level of formability as a surface warfare officer. And then a number of different things happen. You can either go right from that school to your ship, because maybe there isn’t a follow-on school that you’re taking just yet, or you go to the ship and then you may go back to school. Many of us just stayed up in Newport for another series of months, depending upon what we were going to do. If you were doing engineering like I was, it was an additional three months. And so, you know, I graduated in May of ‘87. We started school in July of ‘87. In between that period, you just stay at Villanova’s, what they call a stashed engine, where you stay here and, you know, they’ve got a couple of jobs for you to do, but you kind of hang out and enjoy the time with your friends before you all kind of, you know, get blown to the wind. So, I was in Newport Island from July of ‘87 to January of ‘88. And then you go to your ship. And in my case, I report on board, and they said to me, hey, you have an engineering degree. We made you go through the school. You’re going to be doing an engineering job. Congratulations. You know, so it was back to the same deep immersion into heavy workload, just like I wasn’t as a student. But it was natural. You know, it wasn’t it wasn’t foreign to me.
BROWN: [laughs] Sure. What’s the name of your first ship?
LAMACK: The USS Comte de Grasse, DD, so traditional destroyer DD-974. It was commissioned in 1978 as a gas turbine ship in that class of ships that were the Spruance class. It was the first class of destroyers where they put gas turbine engines onboard ships. And my ship was named after Admiral de Grasse, who was a French Admiral during the Revolutionary War and, you know, pretty famous guy back then.
BROWN: And so now you’re in the real Navy. What’s the real Navy like compared to, you know, being in ROTC or going on summer cruises like? What is that like? For the lay person who’s never served before.
LAMACK: So as a midshipman, they certainly want you to get some experience in leading people, right? So, you have, especially as an upperclassman, a junior or senior, they want to give you areas of responsibility so that you can learn what it’s like to lead people, right? Because, you know, you’re playing, I’m playing sports. I’m in a fraternity, you know, I’m in the classroom. I feel like I’m a kind of a “natural” leader. But, you know, the military is very different. And so, you report onboard the ship. I, you know, report there that the captain and the executive officer dragged me into the captain’s state room. They welcome me and they tell me that I have a particular job. It’s called the main propulsion assistant, MPA. It’s probably got the largest division on board the ship of 42 people. But, you know, lucky for me, you get some very senior enlisted people. You hope that they’re talented. In my case, they were tremendously talented. So, I had a senior chief and two chief petty officers who were, you know, running the division, right? You’re, you’re the ensign, your job is to learn from them. They’re going to run the division. But it’s a big job. And so here I am, 22 years old, living in Virginia, a couple of roommates that were Villanovans, but they’re on different ships. And, you know, they have different deployment cycles. So hardly ever saw any of them. And so, you’re kind of on your own. And so, you gravitate toward what you know best, right? So, the ship had 325 people on board, about 25 officers, about 300 enlisted. And so of the 25 officers, there’s, you know, there’s a group of ensigns that all reported about the same time. And so, you know, they, we all graduated from different schools, but at the same time, similar backgrounds, and we were all living in the same small place, space on the ship. They called it the J.O. Jungle. So, it’s at the back end of the ship, back aft, below the helicopter deck. It’s two sets of three racks stacked high. So, there’s six of us back there in the J.O. Jungle. We became very close. We supported each other because again, we’re far from home, first Navy assignment, we all have our own trials and tribulations. And so, we leaned on each other and we became, you know, that band of brothers. Again, of those other five individuals, I think I keep in touch with all of them still today. And that’s, you kind of just lean on your fellow officers and your chief petty officers to really learn how to manage a large department to complete the mission.
BROWN: How to be a naval officer.
LAMACK: Yeah. Yeah.
BROWN: So, you talked a little bit about the deployment cycles, you know, for you, what does that look like? Where are you going? Any more interesting?
LAMACK: Yeah. So, I report on board in February of ‘88, learned very quickly that we were essentially just back from deployment. The ship had gotten back in November of ‘87 from a Mediterranean deployment. And so, they had just kind of gotten out of that several month period where they’re kind of decompressing and everybody’s taking time off with their families. We’re just starting to get into what they call the work up period, where we’re starting to essentially make sure the ship is equipped and ready to get underway again, because it hadn’t been since November. And there’s a series of underway periods you have to do to qualify yourself again to be able to deploy. So, when I got on board, I knew that we were going to be deploying in probably the summer of ‘89. So had about 18 months, approximately, they kind of kind of get ready for that. So, you know, you’re part of a battle group. We were part of the America battle group, which is the carrier sister ships in the in the squadron and started to just do the workups. And so, it was kind of nice to report when I did, because I could be on board the ship throughout that that entire cycle. I didn’t have to fly and meet the ship on deployment. I didn’t have to report on the ship, and they were getting underway right away for deployment. I kind of had the time to really learn my department and my people in port, but short underway periods before we had to do the big underway deployment of six months, which is the traditional Navy deployment, which we did in we did it from May of ‘89 to November of ‘89. And so, if you recall from a historical perspective, we deployed literally the week that the Berlin Wall came down in the summer of ‘89. And so, you know, okay, right, wall comes down, you know, the West is, you know, having more influence over the East, you know, still tensions are high because, you know, the Soviet Union is still a formidable adversary. But that’s also the period of time where tensions in the Middle East were starting to pick up, right? The year before is when the Navy started to do it’s reflag program, escorting reflag tankers in the Persian Gulf. And so, we deployed to the Med thinking that was going to be the traditional Mediterranean deployment, you know, show the flags up around to some ports. We knew we had an engineering exam at the end of the deployment, which is a rigorous exam you do every three years to stay qualified to run your engineering plant. So, that was always foremost in our mind. We got to be prepared for the engineering exam. Well, lo and behold, we get to the Mediterranean and we’re zipping around for a few months. And then all of a sudden, we were told that we had to go through the Suez into the Indian Ocean and be ready in case tensions in the Persian Gulf heightened. And so, we did that. We went through the Suez Canal, which is always a unique experience, going through the ditch. And we go down below the equator. So, we do the traditional, you know, shellback polliwog ceremony, which is always very interesting. We go down to Diego Garcia, a couple days of R&R. And then we get the notice that we’ve got to zip up to the Persian Gulf because at the time, our Marine Corps Colonel, Colonel Higgins, had been hung by the PLO in Lebanon in August of ‘89. And the battle group is going to go up into the Persian Gulf. And we’re going to you know, be there in case something else happens. And so, we zip up into the Persian Gulf. And we do what’s called box ops, where you literally just kind of go around in a box because the Gulf is a pretty small space. Back then they weren’t even bringing carriers in very often. The carrier was kind of staying outside of the Straits of Hormuz because they were concerned about that choke point. It wasn’t until the year later during that first Persian Gulf War that they kind of took the whole battle group up into the Gulf. And so, we were doing box ops with a couple other ships and going into Bahrain for, you know, provisions and waiting for something else to happen. Tensions kind of, you know, relaxed a bit. And so, then we kind of went back through the ditch into the Med and finished up and went back. So, it was a, you know, today in today’s world, deployments like that are elongated. Since 9/11, battle groups have been on deployment for longer than the traditional six months. Back in the day, we would do six-month deployments. So, if we deployed May 11 of ’89, we got back November 11 of ’89. There were no arguments in those cases unless you really have a problem. And so, we were getting a lot in poor time, we were zipping around quite a bit. And as an engineer, you know, it’s fine, but of course, any time we pulled into a port, and the longest one we pulled into was Nice, France way back out and we were in port for 23 days. So, you would think, boy you must’ve had a lot of fun in the South of France, the Mediterranean. I think I got off the ship three times. It was all to just call home, talk to at the time, my girlfriend, Corey Cole, love you Corey, class of ’89. You know, we met as friends in college, but we had started dating. And you know, you try to find a payphone. There’s a line of sailors at the payphone, right? And you’re whipping out whatever card you have, credit card, to be able to put 10’s or 20’s into the machine to get like a minute. It was like 20 bucks a minute to talk. You’re literally hoping someone picks up the phone or else you’re leaving a message on the answering machine.
BROWN: For 100 bucks [laughs].
LAMACK: For 100 bucks. So, I was on the phone a lot of the time, we had a lot of work to do. Again, I was used to that rigor, but shipboard life is pretty tough, you know? We were getting ready for the engineering exam coming off of deployment and the person who was in charge of the engineering department, he’s called the chief engineer, was struggling. And eventually, the captain flew him off the ship to the carrier and suddenly, I was now the guy who was kind of helping to run the department getting ready for the big engineering exam that sort of makes or breaks the ship. If you don’t pass the exam, they pretty much, you know, either secure your … And this is after deployment, when you’re supposed to be getting ready to see your families, but these ships don’t. Or they make you anchor offshore to get your stuff together to be re-examined. So, nobody wants to do that. So, we did well on the exam. Our captain, Bill Lynch, was like the father of the gas turbine engineering, so he was very capable in terms of understanding what we needed to do to be successful. Our chiefs were phenomenal, they’d been through the process many times, and so we made it through with flying colors. So, I did that job for two years. After we got back from deployment, I got a different job on the ship. I was assistant navigator, because back then the XO’s were the navigators. And I was the administrative officers so I had a different set of tasks. I thought about staying in the Navy because at the time, for whatever reasons, funding or something else, my year group had a choice. You could either stay onboard the ship for three years and then get out of the Navy, or you could get off the ship six months early and go to shore duty or to another ship. I got all my qualifications done; you have to qualify for a surface warfare officer. Just like an aviator has to get the wings, we had to get our ship pin. I also qualified for what’s called an engineering officer of the watch, an engineering qualification. If you accomplished those two things, there’s no reasons for you to go to another ship. So, you kind of get a chance to, I don’t want to say get your pick, but you can request shore duty. So, that’s what I did. I requested shore duty, Newport Rhode Island, because I’d been there as a student and saw it was pretty nice. I thought about graduate school at that point, kind of … my finance at the time, Corey, that it would be a good deal. She could go to grad school, because she was graduating Villanova in ’89, this is now 1990. She was working at home, so I took the orders. We went to Newport, RI, it was a great time, a great group of friends. We were all going to grad school. I ended up going to Providence College for my MBA. My wife went and got her master’s in social work at Rhode Island College. So, it was a great time.
BROWN: So, at this point, are you married? Or you’re still –
LAMACK: Yeah, we got married. I moved to Newport in November of ’90. We were engaged, got married in July of ’91. So after we got married, she moved up, and she started grad school. I was already in grad school, but I was doing a part-time, classes every night and then she was going full time. And so, I finished in January of ’93. I knew I was getting out in June of ’93, off of active duty. She finished in May, we both walked our graduations in May of ’93. And then I got my first civilian job with Air Products, where I am still today at 30 years. And didn’t necessarily think about the reserves, per se. I loved the military, I loved the comradery, but I had no idea what civilian life is going to be like. Or, you know, still newlyweds, moving to Allentown, Pennsylvania. She got a job in the area as a social worker, and we’re buying our first house. I didn’t know if it was going to be too much for me to do reserves. Didn’t know what reserves would be like. Kind of like other things I have gone into life, not blindly, but thinking you know, God and wife and friends will help me. Influence what the right thing is. We were sitting one day in the summer of ’93. I had started with the company. We were getting ready to I think settle on the house, because our house, we were settling in the fall of ’93. And I said to my wife, “Listen I don’t know what else to do. Work isn’t that hard honestly, compared to Navy at that point.” And I said, why don’t I join the reserves? And so, I went over to the Reserves Center in Allentown Airport, which was only 20 minutes from our house. I went over and said, “Hey, Joe Lamack, off active duty, talk to me about the reserves.” They said, “Well, there’s a unit here and hopefully there’s an opening. Why don’t you sit tight, and we’ll give you a call.” And they gave me a call the next month. And I was in the reserves. And I stayed continuously in the reserves from I think it was November of ’93, so you know, four or five month break from active. All the way through when I retired in January of 2013. So, I did 20 years in the reserves. My first twenty with air products. And it was everything under the sun. It was shipboard stuff, it was communication stuff, it was weapons station stuff, it was a couple of tours at the Pentagon doing staff stuff, including the last job I had in the reserves. And everything I did was pretty much along the East Coast. First unit was right in Allentown and then I got – and the reserves command is very different too. You know, in the active Navy, they pretty much have to rise to the rank of what’s called a commander to certainly become a captain of a ship. The captain of my ship when I was on active duty was a commander even though we called him captain. He’s a commander, so he’s an O-5. In the reserves, you can get command as early as a lieutenant. It’s just a whole different structure because you’re not commanding a lot of people and you’re not commanding a ship, right? It’s different; it’s almost like administrative command. So anyway, I got command of a small boat unit at Fort Dicks when I was a lieutenant. It was my second reserve job. And what I liked about it was it was two hours away from home, but my wife was from Toms River, NJ. So, from Toms River to Fort Dicks was only 20 minutes or so. There’s like eight Wawas from Toms River to Fort Dicks.
BROWN: [laughs] That’s a good judgement of time and distance.
LAMACK: Yeah, it was all based upon Wawas and how much coffee I could drink on the way there. So, I did that, and then I actually got a job transfer with my company Air Products out to South Bend, Indiana. So, I was able to get my second command out there in South Bend while I was a salesperson for Air Products for a couple of years in the lates ‘90s. And then we moved back to Allentown and started to continue to move up within the Navy structure and spent more time in D.C., which I hadn’t done before as a reservist. Got a chance to experience the frenetic life of being in the military in D.C. You know, it’s a nice place to visit, but during the week in D.C., things are pretty congested, right? Driving is kind of crazy, so you know, the Navy before 9/11 was all about just working on the weekends. It was the traditional weekend warrior that everyone talked about back in the day, where you one weekend a month, two weeks during the summer, you kind of served. And then 9/11 hit and the Navy realized, listen we have all these people who have all these experiences, who we are not really fully utilizing, right? So, people were being mobilized to active duty right away to serve in Iraq and then eventually Afghanistan. Or, in my particular case, we got called to active duty to serve at the Pentagon because the person whose job we were taking was going over to Iraq or Afghanistan as an active-duty person. So, you know, everybody was either volunteering or being volunteered to serve. And so, on the reserve side, what that meant was they pretty much came to our office and said listen, reservists, we would prefer that you’re with us during the week. And quite honestly, seeing you during the week is counterproductive, right? By the time we get you up to speed, because we haven’t seen you in a month or so, on what’s going on and what you need to do, your two days is up. So, we really need you for at least a week. We may not see you again for another month or two, but every time you come, we really want you for a week. And so, that’s how the reserves changed. The funding was there for those of us that had the ability to do that kind of rotation, and our companies are very supportive, which Air Products was always very supportive of the military. To be able to go and serve for longer periods of time, and then skip a month and then serve, so that’s where I started doing, depending on the units I was in, a couple of Pentagon units and some other units, was take advantage of my company saying to me, “Listen, use up all your vacation or take an unpaid leave, but we certainly support you in whatever endeavors you need to do to serve the military.” So, I was lucky that I really never got called to active duty for any of that period of time. One time I got a call; they wanted me to go to the Pentagon to serve and literally by the time I was about ready to leave, I found a buddy of mine. He called me, he was working for me in the reserve unit at the Pentagon, and he was looking for jobs to controls in Michigan, and they came to him that same week and said they’re closing the plant and moving it to Mexico, and he called me up looking for help. And I said, “Listen, as soon as you can tell me that you’re going to be in Washington, I will work to get your orders changed so that you’d be the person that goes.” And so, we ended up going and he served for a long period of time, still in the military transition to civilian job, working at the Pentagon. So, it was a win-win for everybody. At one point, the Navy started to realize that they couldn’t notify the reservist with very little notice. That they were going on active duty for fifteen months, it really wasn’t helpful to the families. And so, they developed a process where, probably around 2010 maybe, they said listen we’re going to come out with a list beginning in this fiscal year, October, and that list is going to be a list that’s going to be active for 16 months. If your name was on that list it means that during that 16 month period, you may be called to active duty. But if you are, we’re going to make sure that we give you plenty of notice; we’re going to give you months and months of notice. And so, my name was on the list for 16 months. It was a pretty stressful time for my life and I because, you know, she really preferred me not to go. You know, we had three kids and that was their formidable years. Two children were probably at that point in middle school, and we had almost a newborn, because our kids are 16 months and 8 and half years apart. So, you know, she basically said to me, “Listen, regardless of if we make it through this process with you being mobilized, when this mobilization window is closed for you, I really want you to get out.” And it turns out that that was the right thing to do in a way because the last job I had in the reserves was an awesome one. The unit was called the afloat culture workshop, ACW. And it was senior officers on both coasts, and there was probably 8-12 of us, all commanders and captains. And what we did was went onboard ships all over the world and we did a week of organizational development. Because, again, the Navy doesn’t have HR professionals, per se, that are onboard ships. They have administrative people, but they don’t really have HR type people that do organizational development. And so, that’s what we did. We either got the call because there was a problem or hopefully the commanding officer was proactive to say that. And I would like to get a feel of what the culture is like on my ship before I have a big problem, come to my ship. And so, we would go in groups of two and three and we would go on board ships all over the world, and we would spend a week understanding what the culture of the ship was. And I loved it. And when that three years was up, it coincided with me getting off the list in early 2013 timeframe. And I retired at that point as a captain.
BROWN: So, it sounds like you got to experience a lot of, you know, interesting, but also, it seems like your Naval career was full of fulfilling work, stuff you enjoyed. It wasn’t just like menial tasks. If you could look back on your Naval career, what are a few of the highlights that you remember the fondest? The people, the places, what is it?
LAMACK: Yeah, certainly, starting at Villanova, the ROTC experience here was out of this world. As I said, some of my closest friends today were my classmates, my shipmates. Onboard the ship, there were certainly, again, it always goes back to the people, that being able to make it through that singular deployment that we had and pass that engineering exam, really helped me in my career because the captain recognized me for doing that job, and worked really hard to make sure that when I said to him I’d like to stay in Newport and be an instructor – which he had done early in his career – he fully supported me and helped me get that job. As a reserve officer, lots of different jobs. I think just getting command at a young age, as a lieutenant early in my career, helped kind of propel me through the rest of my reserve career. Because as a reservist, it’s a national selection process. You don’t even have to put in for command that often. You can do what they call homesteading where you can try to stay in reserve unit for a long time and never have command. Eventually, they probably will try to move you out to something else. But again, as a motivated Naval officer, they encourage you to go into this selection process every few years and try to get command because that’s kind of the height of your career. So, doing that was nice. I had the Fort Dicks commander, the small boat unit, as lieutenant commander I got communications and telecommunications unit at the Washington Navy yard. And then as a commander and a captain, I got command of Pentagon units and learning what life was like at the Pentagon where, as they, making the sausage. Learning what it’s like within that bureaucracy working with the services and also the Hill and funding to try to promote certain programs that you have responsibility for. But as I said, the end was great. Being in that unit really helping ships and captains and sailors navigate their way through very stressful times that were, at that point, ten years removed from 9/11. When the funding for the surface Navy was declining, they were having trouble getting under way because the fuel availably was less. Parts availability was less. You know, people were getting burned out and becoming a bit disentangled with the Navy and its missions, and the ongoing fight that were in the middle of. So, it was nice to be able to use, at that point, my experience, my stature as a senior officer, to help mentor and guide some of these younger people. So, it was a good career. I don’t look back thinking, boy I wish I would’ve gone over to the theatre of operations and gotten joint certifications and taken full advantage of the Navy’s GI program or anything like that. My wife and I had really a heartfelt discussion, listen you’ve served, you’ve done your part, you don’t need to do more. Your family is most important. If they call you, go, because that’s what you’re made of, but don’t raise your hand like a lot of your friends and volunteer. You know, I enjoyed my work with my company; we always knew that because of the Soldiers and Sailors Act, we could come back to our companies and positions, which we had. But I was very interested in moving up at my company as well, and try to balance both. So, yeah, good career. Great career. I didn’t have an regrets retiring at 26 when some of my friends went the full 30. No regrets on anything I did, was happy to say that I served, and kind of walk away from it. Living where I live in Pennsylvania, there are some military folks, but it’s not like I live near a fleet concentration area where I have exposure to the military every day, the week, where I have to think about it. I was happy to serve but certainly happy when the time came to retire.
BROWN: And now you’re a full civilian. But I see you walking around Villanova a fair amount. Tell us a little bit about what you still do and how you give back to the Villanova community.
LAMACK: So, when we moved back to the area, Allentown, started working with Air Products, because my wife was also a Villanova alum. She said we don’t know a lot about the Alumni Association. When you were on active duty, you really couldn’t participate in many things, why don’t you try to understand what it means. So, there was a local club that we went to a couple of events. And then we moved away for a couple of years when I moved to Indiana. And then when we moved back again, we re-ignited our interest in doing things, and we met with the leadership and of course, they were all gentlemen from the ‘60s and ‘70s who were happy to see younger people stepping up and saying, hey how would you like to serve on the local board? So, we got involved on the local board pretty early on. My involvement with the alumni side of Villanova started probably when we moved back in the ’99 timeframe. So, I’m well over 20 years involved with the Alumni Association. So, I did local stuff for a long time. I was president for a long time, but I saw that there was this national association that seemed like they were good friends and they enjoyed with their company doing good things. So, I politic a little to get on the national board and I was fortunate to get on the board nine years ago. I’ve already been the president of the national board; I’m not the past president. I got another year to go and then I’ll be off of that. So, that was on the alumni side my involvement. My company has recruited engineers from Villanova for 70+ years. Air Products and Villanova started in 1950, so I was not involved too much in recruiting in the early days because there was another gentleman doing the recruiting and I was doing the alumni stuff so natural separation of things makes sense. Recently, I’ve gotten back into recruiting because I saw the decline in recruiting being done here at Villanova. And so, I am now the principle engineer, recruiting, bringing interns in and new hires in. So, that’s always something I enjoy doing, mentoring young people. On the military side, you know, I was always coming down occasionally for ROTC events. Unfortunately, one of our classmates, who was one of my closest friends, a gentleman named John Snyder, he and I were roommates in Norfolk, VA. He was on a sister squadron, he was the one officer who was killed in October 30th of 1990, right after Saddam Hussein had invaded Kuwait. The Navy was mobilizing, his ship – this was his second ship because he didn’t get the engineering qualifications – he was onboard a steamship, an amphibious ship. They were in Bahrain, and it was a horrible story, where the shipyard workers put the wrong valve in mainstream service, and the ship got underway, he was down in the engineering space with nine other sailors, a mainstem leak, all perished. And so, John’s family and I established a memorial sword for him. And so, from 1991 let’s say through ’96, I was coming here, you know, for the spring review, we give the sword out with the family. So, I did that for a while. Once I stopped moving back and forth with the company and I settled where we still are today in Macungie where we built our house in ’99 and I was doing more the alumni stuff again, I would come down occasionally. About five years ago, one of my classmates and I talked about the idea of doing an ROTC camp here at Villanova. We knew that the Naval Academy had their summer seminar. It was a great way for high school rising seniors to experience the Naval Academy. The problem is that I was on Senator Pat Toomey’s Academy selection crowd. So, I’d interview young people and I’d say to them, “Hey, you want to go to Naval Academy, but you didn’t go to summer seminar,” and they’d say “Geez, well, I applied but it’s very selective, I didn’t get in.” And so, they really didn’t have a lot of experience in what the Navy was all about. So, five years ago, Chris and I started to pitch the idea to the commanding officers of the ROTC units. And of course, the pandemic hit, and we’d lost momentum and then about 18 months ago, when we went to the fall review in October of ’21 to see my friend Chris’s daughter Patricia was a midshipman in the unit. We met Colonel Vinny Ciuccoli, and he got it. He understood the concept; he loved the idea, and he jumped on it right away. And so, you know, for the next six months, we’ve put together the plan, and last summer, in June, we had our first class, 31 rising seniors from all over the world. We had someone from Gaum come in, besides all over the country. They came to Villanova; they experienced the camp. I brought two kids down from my local area, one of which got himself a four-year scholarship to go RIT as an engineer. And it worked great, so we’re in the planning process again this year doing the same thing. I hope that’s something that continues in perpetuity and is kind of a legacy for what Chris and I had as an idea five years ago. So, I’m down for that. I’m involved with whatever you, Mike, and your great group of military veterans does on campus; I’m down for that. And the last thing is, my son’s a freshman. My son AJ is a freshman so I’m down visiting him as often as we can. My job is that every Friday, I’m down here for something you know, because I just love the campus and love giving back to Villanova.
BROWN: Well, good, it sounds like a Villanova story, frankly. What you start at Villanova, you’re blessed to live here all four years and now you’re still telling the Villanova story today. I really appreciated hearing your Navy story. I think every story is different. And your reserve time for that is, not a lot of people experience that. And what that looks and feels like, so I appreciate you being able to tell that side. But also, the legacy of what you’re doing and creating here at Villanova for the young folks who are interested in learning more about what it means to be in the Navy. So, I appreciate that as well. Any parting words? Any thoughts or comments before we end here today?
LAMACK: You know, the one thing I always tell the midshipmen that I meet is, to your point Mike, people come here to Villanova for a lot of different reasons. They join the military for a lot of different reasons. I tell them that I joined the military so that I could afford college. My parents did not have a lot of money. I was the oldest. I knew that anything I could do to help them was going to be beneficial. So, I took the opportunity to take the ROTC scholarship to pay for tuition and books. And it was only after I got here that I realized how special both Villanova was and the military. And so, to be able to say that I did a career in the military, I’m proud of that, but to your point, I’m also proud of the fact that, because I married Corey – the social worker, the person who is the love of my life, who has really pretty much given me the best advice throughout my life about giving back – we feel very fortunate that we live close enough to give back to Villanova as often as we possibility can. And it’s a number of different things, I mentioned a lot of those, but I’m just blessed to still be affiliated with Villanova. Certainly, thrilled that our youngest is here because that gives us the opportunity as well to experience the same things with him, that we did, and have him see what he’s been hearing since he was a baby, right? That Villanova is special.
BROWN: And it is, 100 percent. So, I thank you for coming in and I appreciate you coming in and telling your story. We’ll archive this and get it up. But again, we appreciate and hope you have a great rest of your day.
LAMACK: Thank you, Mike.
 PT: Physical training.
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 PLO: Palestinian Liberation Organization. The Palestine Liberation Organization was based in Lebanon for a significant period of time, using their set-up in the country to expand as an organization, gathering support and maintaining their armed struggle with Israel.
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 XO: Executive officer.
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 The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (formerly called the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Civil Relief Act) is a United States federal law that protects soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, coast guardsmen, and commissioned officers in the Public Health Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration from being sued while in active military service of their country and for up to a year after active duty, as well as U.S. citizens serving with allied military forces for the duration of a military conflict involving the United States.