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Jeffrey Dyal

Graduate School student

Maj. Jeffrey Dyal recently retired from a 25-year career in the United States Marine Corps and will begin working toward a graduate degree at Auburn University in the spring. A native of Ocala, Fla., Dyal enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1988 and has made many stops across the United States and the globe, including deployments to Iraq — in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom — and Japan. During his military career, he garnered awards such as the Bronze Star, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Navy-Marine Corps Commendation Medal and the Navy-Marine Corps Achievement Medal. Beginning in 2009, he served as the Marine Officer Instructor for Auburn University's NROTC. This month, Dyal started working on a master's degree in history, adding to the bachelor's degree in history that he earned from Florida's Jacksonville University in 1997. In addition to his graduate studies, Dyal will also begin a fellowship working in the Office of Development.

1. In November, you retired after a 25-year career in the Marine Corps. What will you remember most about your career in the military?

Most definitely the people I have been blessed to serve side by side with throughout my time in the Marine Corps. My career has included some amazing moments and memories, but it is the people that I'll remember the most. For me, it has always been about the people – Marines are absolutely amazing individuals and I believe they are the best our society has to offer. I've always believed in the phrase, "Surround yourself with those who lift you up." That's what I love about being around Marines — they have certainly lifted me and my family up to higher levels than I ever thought possible. Together with these most selfless warfighters, I have been to places many have not heard of, and accomplished things I would not have thought possible. However, the real satisfaction has been the serving, the serving of those great Americans and to be a part of something bigger than myself.

2. Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree from Auburn University?

Having joined the Auburn Family as the Marine Officer Instructor for the Naval ROTC in 2009, I was quickly exposed to that intangible quality every Auburn man and woman knows as the "Auburn Spirit." My family and I discovered a uniquely friendly and uplifting environment here at the university and within the Auburn community which just felt right, and when you find a place that is the right fit for your family, your lifestyle and your principles, you want to stay. Additionally, I've always wanted to pursue a graduate degree but never had the opportunity while a Marine — I must say things have been a bit busy in the Marine Corps. So with the blessing of being stationed at Auburn University and seeing the opportunities for our future, my family and I made the decision to retire from the Marine Corps and attend graduate school with the ultimate goal of serving again as an educator. We fell in love with the "Loveliest Village on the Plains." As Alexander Graham Bell said, "As one door closes, another opens."

3. What drew you to the field of history?

My service in the Marine Corps is what initially drew my desire to the study of history. The Marine Corps has a long and illustrious history that strengthens each and every person who claims the title Marine. Learning about what Marines accomplished during our nation's history was then, and is now, very inspiring and strengthening for me.  Additionally, to be a part of that distinguished history has been priceless, and to be part of the greatest, most powerful military force in the history of mankind has not only been a pleasure, but also a great privilege. As I studied and taught history within the Marine Corps, I soon developed a passion for the field, seeing and experiencing the benefits of critical thinking and leadership development. All Marines are leaders and the intangible quality of leadership is something that is learned. Through the study of the past and the application of history, I believe the student of history develops enhanced qualities of judgment, resourcefulness and leadership abilities.

4. In January, you will begin serving as the Lila L. White Graduate Fellow in the Office of Development. What will you do in this position?

First and foremost I'll be a graduate student working toward a Master of Arts degree in history, so that of course will be my top priority. Second, as a Lila White Fellow, I will also have the unique opportunity to work within Special Projects of the Office of Development. Special Projects includes the Graduate School, Honors College and ROTC/Military. This opportunity will be both personally and professionally rewarding. It will enable me to gain experience and build relationships with individuals and foundations in order to enhance Auburn's graduate programs and provide future graduate students the same opportunity I have been so blessed to receive. I will also have the privilege to advance the Honors College as well as become a supporter and advocate for veterans, military and the university ROTC units. I am honored to be part of this great institution and look forward to the opportunity I have been given to serve again at Auburn University and give back to this great organization and community.

5. How important are the financial contributions of donors, such as Lila L. White, to students at Auburn University?

I believe that they are very important. For me, the Lila White Fellowship is making it possible to pursue my long-term goal of a graduate degree in history. Beyond relieving a huge financial burden, this fellowship will also provide experiences that will better prepare me for my future career goals. Working in the Office of Development has been and I'm sure will continue to be an amazing and rewarding experience. I am truly grateful for the generosity of Ms. Lila White. She is an amazing person and committed supporter of higher education and Auburn University. When able, I plan to provide a future student the same opportunity she has provided to me and my family. As Winston Churchill once said, "We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give."

Jan. 14, 2013