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ROTC student named College Scholar for Batten College of Engineering and Technology

OC Thomas Buck has always operated with the same maxim: "Let someone tell you no."

That willingness to go after what he wants has led Buck from small-town Pennsylvania, to the United States Navy, to the Hampton Roads Naval ROTC program, to the Outstanding Scholar Award for Old Dominion University's Frank Batten College of Engineering and Technology.

Buck, 28, will be commissioned as an ensign at the joint commissioning ceremony for ODU's Army ROTC and Hampton Roads Naval ROTC units on Friday, May 4. The mechanical engineering technology major is graduating from ODU the following day with a 4.0 grade point average. He'll also leave the university with a treasure trove of memories from experiences he's gained, simply by volunteering.

"It's been a fantastic experience at Old Dominion, in and out of the classroom," Buck said.

After graduating from high school in Clearfield, Pa., near State College, Buck enrolled in a small business college, but found his passion when he enlisted in the Navy at age 19. He's been on deployment to the Persian Gulf, and has been stationed in Norfolk for the past few years.

He came to ODU in summer 2010 as part of the Naval ROTC Seaman to Admiral program. "It was a big transition going from a campus of 500 people to one of 24,000," Buck said. But in his almost two years at ODU, Buck has risen through the ranks of the Naval ROTC enlisted men and women, serving as battalion master chief, and last fall, battalion commanding officer.

"I think the opportunities on this campus are really incredible," Buck said. "It was just a matter of pursuing them, and making someone tell me no. I've had a plan and I knew how to get there." That same drive helped Buck rise from the rank of E3 to E7 in six years in the Navy, before returning to school.

Buck's first deployment as a commissioned officer is on the USS Jason Dunham DDG109, a destroyer based in Norfolk. And he's been told the ship is deploying sometime this summer as part of the Eisenhower Strike Group. His first two years will include more qualification on board the ship for his position as a surface warfare officer.

Buck is engaged to fellow ODU student Renee Mclamb, with plans to marry when he returns from deployment. He said the university provides fantastic access for ROTC cadets to organizations like Newport News Shipbuilding, so there are opportunities to create contacts to further a post-military career. That's not for Buck, though.

"I'm staying in. They're going to have to kick me out," he laughed. "My goal is to captain my own ship, and that's usually a 15- to 20-year process."

Given Buck's success in what he's done so far, don't rule out that process being a few years shorter.

This article was posted on: May 4, 2012

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