When Mike Waters ’70 was a struggling veteran and a SUNY Oswego student, he always worked a job or two to get by. Now he is offering today’s student-veterans a scholarship aimed at helping them fulfill their collegiate dreams.
Times were so tough in the ’60s, Waters says ruefully, he got his four-year degree on the nine-and-a-half year plan. He graduated from high school in the early 1960s and from Oswego in January 1970.
In between getting that high school diploma and the Oswego sheepskin, he would join the U. S. Air National Guard. He was ready to be deployed to Vietnam, when the orders were canceled. That didn’t stop him from serving several tours in combat zones, however. During his 34-year military career, Lt. Col. Mike Waters would be deployed to Turkey five times.
So when his earlier gift to fund the Zamboni room in the new Campus Center was paid off, and he “had a notion for giving again,” Waters remembered his fellow troops.
“I had the feeling for people that deploy overseas,” he said. “I am aware of the hardships of guys and girls that go into combat.”
So he targeted his giving toward them. The new Lt. Col. Mike Waters, USAF (Ret.) ’70 Scholarship is aimed at helping a student who holds down a part-time or full-time job, with preference given to Central New York residents who are veterans. Additional preference will be given to combat veterans.
Waters is enthusiastic about military service, calling it “the best thing that ever happened to me.”
“The military was great. I traveled to many places and met a lot of fascinating people,” he said. Waters has been to Turkey 13 times — five times for Uncle Sam — including a trip this autumn. He first visited the country Nov. 1, 1992, when he was part of Operation Provide Comfort in Northern Iraq after Operation Desert Storm.
In his travels Waters once encountered an earthquake and also met the U.S. Secretary of Defense and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“When you’re doing things you read about on the front page of The New York Times, that’s pretty exciting,” he said.
Now he hopes to make life a little easier for men and women who have served their country well.
— Michele Reed