The Army has said “Hey!” many times to Lt. Col. Lawrence Camacho over his 21-year career.
More specifically, the greetings have gone more like, “Hey, it’s time for you to leave again for Bosnia, Egypt or Iraq!” or “Hey, we have an opportunity for you to get a second master’s degree,” or “Hey, we need you to do something that will really bring you out of your comfort zone or impact your family.”
But for these assignments, Camacho said the Army has always done a good job of preparing him and providing opportunities to expand his knowledge.
“You take that, you put it in your kit bag,” he said of the academic and on-the-ground learning experiences provided by the Army. “In that kitbag, you're going to carry that to your next assignment and believe it or not, when you're working those assignments, you're really pulling tools out of that kit bag that you've learned.”
The final “Hey” from the Army brought Camacho to Drexel University to end his decorated career as a professor of military science and leader of the University’s Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program. Camacho viewed it as an opportunity to shape the Army and the world’s future leaders — to help fill their kit bags, if you will.
And in that process, Camacho found a home-away-from-home here at the University.
“I've established a great relationship with the folks here at Drexel, with the institution. I truly believe in it,” Camacho said. “I'm also a Drexel student. I'm a Dragon at heart. So I wanted my retirement to also be here. And my friends are here — I’ve established a lot of great friendships and relationships at the University.”
A retirement ceremony for Camacho was held on July 27 in the Paul Peck Alumni Center, bringing together his family, friends, colleagues and ROTC alumni and cadets. At the ceremony, Camacho was honored for his service to the Army, his contributions to Drexel and wished well on his future endeavors.
“Every career has a story, a journey traveled,” said Lt. Col. Stephen Messenger, who will take over for Camacho as the chair of the Military Science department here at Drexel, at the retirement event. “For Lawrence, that journey began in 1997 when he raised his right hand and said eighty words that would change his life — the oath of office.”
The oath Messenger referenced charges Camacho and every Army officer to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. The trust and confidence in Camacho extended by the Army through this oath has been very meaningful to him over the last 21 years. Now, he will pledge that same allegiance to his new role in academia as the dean of enrollment management and student success at the University of Guam, Camacho’s alma mater. The role will also be a sort of homecoming for Camacho, who grew up on the neighboring island of Saipan.
“I love teaching, but I'd rather be in support of faculty and making sure that the students [follow through their] lifecycle,” Camacho said of his new role. “To make them succeed in the end and graduate, that's what the institution wants, that’s what society needs, and by all means that's why students come. So, we have to get people that are passionate. I believe I'm one of those people that are passionate to make sure that happens.”
Before Camacho takes on this role in September, he will be finishing the final steps in earning his Doctorate of Education degree in educational leadership and management from the School of Education that he has been working throughout his time at Drexel. All that’s left to do is complete and defend his thesis.
Rebecca Weidensaul, PhD, assistant vice president of Student Life in the Office of Veteran Student Services, said that Camacho’s ability to continually balance his academics with active duty showcases that he has naturally embraced and mastered the military’s learning culture.
“He’s going to be amazing,” she said of his new role at the University of Guam. “His heart is in it, he’s passionate about it, he wants to go home and make an impact, and he will.”
Weidensaul also credits Camacho with making ROTC more accessible to the University and a larger part of campus culture.
“It speaks volumes of him and his ability to invite the campus community to get to know ROTC better and provide opportunities for other student organizations to partner with the cadets,” she said. “He’s elevated the status of being in the ROTC. I think his cadets have enormous pride for what they do and the experience they have been exposed to.”
Camacho cites building relationships across campus as a main factor to how he was able to elevate Drexel’s ROTC program. This also included formalizing agreements at five local universities which partner with Drexel: the University of Pennsylvania, LaSalle University, St. Joseph’s University, University of the Sciences and Jefferson University. In his time, Camacho also established the Drexel ROTC Hall of Fame, and reached out to other campus organizations like Greek life to create new opportunities for cadets.
It’s these and many other parts of Camacho’s legacy that Messenger hopes to continue as he takes over the role.
“He has just done a phenomenal job,” Messenger said of Camacho. “I want to take what he has done and improve upon it.”
And though he will no longer be directly shaping the future leadership of the Army, Camacho credits his experience at Drexel with giving him both the knowledge and the passion to work with the new “designers of the future” that he will help shape.
“These kids here in higher education today are not going to school for themselves. They are going to school to better the next generation that follows them,” he said. “That becomes my grandbaby, who I want to make sure is also taken care of. So I kind of use that as my motivation and my inspiration to give back.”