Brigadier General, ROTC Alumna Recalls Critical Lessons At BaylorDec. 1, 2003
by Amanda Lewis, Student Newswriter
Baylor graduate Brig. Gen. Jan "Denny" Eakle knows what it means to overcome adversity. Now serving as Vice Commander of Ogden Air Logistics Center at Hill Air Force Base in Utah, Eakle began her military career when she enlisted as a cadet in Baylor's Air Force ROTC program in 1971.
Women had only been accepted into the program a year earlier, and she recalls only four women who graduated from the program while she was at Baylor. The extremely low enrollment rate of ROTC women was representative of women in the Air Force at that time.
"I don't think that the people training us really knew what to do with us," Eakle said. "Back then, women didn't fly. In fact, women were mostly in administrative positions. ROTC was really more geared toward putting people in cockpits."
But Eakle had higher aspirations than paperwork. She hoped to ultimately obtain the rank of colonel, a position equivalent to her father's rank of captain in the U.S. Navy. He served as a carrier pilot throughout her childhood, transporting the family to more than 20 locations.
"My father was absolutely adamant that no daughter of his would join the Navy. So I signed up for Air Force ROTC and never looked back," she said.
Eakle came to Baylor after graduating from high school in Hawaii. Although she had not visited the university, her parents encouraged her to attend a college with a sound academic reputation as well as a protected environment. While her immediate family lived thousands of miles away, she found her own body of support among the students and faculty of Baylor's ROTC program and Golden Wave Band, of which she was also a member.
Eakle obtained both a bachelor's and master's degree from Baylor before entering active duty in 1976.
Throughout her 26-year career, she advanced through ranks of second lieutenant, first lieutenant, captain, major, lieutenant colonel, colonel and finally brigadier general on June 1, 2002. She joined only 138 other brigadier generals in the U.S. Air Force, of which only 34 females have been appointed throughout the Air Force's 56-year history.
She also has been honored with such awards as the Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit with oak leaf cluster, Defense Meritorious Service Metal with two oak leaf clusters and a National Defense Service Metal.
Eakle attributes her success to a combination of hard work and connections. While waiting for her first assignment, a Baylor alumnus discovered her application and gave her a job as a lieutenant in an experimental program. Opportunities like these opened doors to the possibilities for her as a woman in service.
She also gives credit to Baylor not only for its outstanding academics, but also to the people who created a sound moral grounding for her as she experienced life away from her family. She believes the life lessons she learned at Baylor created a strong foundation for her career in service, as well as her role in society.
"Life isn't about making money," Eakle said. "It's about serving others, and I think you get a lot of that here at Baylor. Baylor gave me an education that I could build on and a place that I could always be proud to tell people I graduated from."
When faced with moral and ethical decisions, Eakle refers to her Christian values that further developed during her time in college. With recent American tragedies such as the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Eakle believes that everything occurs according to God's plan. These misfortunes stole the innocence of the American people and taught them to live in fear and distrust. However, Eakle sees this time as an opportunity for the American people to join together to help one another.
"I am passionate about the truth and doing the right thing for the American people, whether that means spending their tax dollars wisely or ensuring that their sons and daughters that they have entrusted to me I do the best for I can," Eakle said.
Eakle recently addressed ROTC students from 14 universities from Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Arkansas during the regional conclave banquet. When considering her time at Baylor, Eakle advised current students to learn as much as possible about a variety of topics. She also encouraged alumni to let people know an education from Baylor is beneficial for the academic, social and spiritual development of incoming students.
"Baylor has carved a particular niche in higher education. Alumni must make sure that Baylor remains grounded in the principles that brought this school into existence. We should remember why we were founded and take ownership in the University and its future," she said.
At the first of the year, Eakle will assume the post of deputy director of the Defense Finance and Accounting Service, the world's largest finance and accounting operation.