Lt. Col. Mike Waters ’70 USAF (Ret.) knows what it is like to be a veteran-student at SUNY Oswego. He served several tours in combat with the Air National Guard before finishing his degree, nine and a half years after his high school graduation.
Waters has been supporting veterans’ initiatives on campus for years, starting the Lt. Col. Mike Waters ’70 USAF (Ret.) Scholarship and a Veterans Emergency Loan Fund. His most recent gift of $1,000 went to the new Veterans Lounge Fund.
Opened in the fall of 2013, the Veterans Lounge, located on the second floor of Hewitt Union in what used to be the non-traditional student lounge, offers a safe and comfortable space for student veterans to hang out, network or do homework.
“These veteran-students make tremendous sacrifices and do it with a smile,” Waters says. “These are fantastic people. Let’s help them along. I like to give back, and I think that’s a great way to do it.”
Waters serves on the committee for services to veterans; comprised of representatives from key constituencies, it finds ways to help campus personnel understand the unique needs of student veterans.
“Everyone pitched in,” Waters says. “The right people were brought together, and one of the things we saw was a need for a veterans lounge.” Most veterans live off campus, so creating a space for them was a priority.
“I spend all of my free time in here,” says Matthew Gordon ’14, Marine Corps veteran and president of the revitalized veterans club. “Having a place where we could just openly talk was important.”
Oswego enrolls 120 students who are vets or active duty or reserve service members, according to veterans services coordinator Benjamin Parker, who is academic planning coordinator in the Division of Extended Learning.
The lounge is stocked with information on health care, benefits, and other things student vets might need. Waters’ generous donation will provide non-budgeted items such as military magazine subscriptions.
The veterans club will sponsor a unit deployed overseas for Christmas, providing them with care packages created from donated goods and money. The club will also host a military appreciation Lakers hockey game Jan. 14, when vets and one guest each will be admitted for free.
“I see these kids that are 18- or 19-years old,” Waters says, “just doing a great job with their responsibilities… and I’d like to see Oswego have the best possible veteran support system for them.”
— Kaitlin Provost ’12