Marine Corps officers are first African Americans to earn M.A.degrees in leadership studies at Marshall while on active duty

Updated 1 year ago Special to HNN Provided by Marshall University
Capt. Joseph Common, left, and Capt. John Tucker are two of the first three African American Marines Corps officers to graduate from Marshall University with their Master of Arts degrees in leadership studies.
Capt. Joseph Common, left, and Capt. John Tucker are two of the first three African American Marines Corps officers to graduate from Marshall University with their Master of Arts degrees in leadership studies.
Photo courtesy of Marshall University.
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -  Three active duty U.S. Marine Corps officers made history this spring when they graduated from Marshall University.

Capt. John Tucker (right), Capt. Joseph Common (left) and Chief Warrant Officer Lamar Dupree became the first African American Marine Corps officers to graduate from Marshall with their Master of Arts degrees in leadership studies.

Marshall is partnering with the United States Marine Corps College of Distance Education and Training (CDET) in Quantico, Va., to provide active duty Marine Corps officers the opportunity to earn the degree.

Marshall President Stephen J. Kopp and John Hemleben, Dean of Academics with the CDET, signed a memorandum of understanding regarding the arrangement in October 2011.

"Seeing Marine Corps officers such as Capt. Tucker, Capt. Common and Chief Warrant Officer Dupree graduate with their master's degrees is inspiring to not only our young African American students but also young African American service members," said Kelly Sweetman-Nekvinda, director of military and veterans affairs at Marshall. "These men are accomplished in their careers and now as academics. They are excellent role models. Marshall is extremely proud to be a part of their journeys."

Sweetman-Nekvinda said Marshall currently has about 100 Marines taking part in the partnership with the College of Distance Education and Training in Quantico.

Tucker and Common attended Marshall's Donning of Kente Celebration of Achievement earlier this month at the Joan C. Edwards Performing Arts Center.  The celebration is one of the most prestigious and culturally significant events in which Marshall's African and African American students can participate. Dupree was unable to attend.

Tucker, a 37-year-old native of Halifax, Va., has been in the Marine Corps nearly 20 years. He is stationed in Combat Logistics Regiment 25, and was deployed to Iraq once for eight months in 2008.

"I'm pretty ecstatic about it. It's really neat to be the first of anything," Tucker said of earning the leadership studies master's degree.

He refers to a book titled "7 Habits of Highly Effective People," by Steven Covey;  Habit #2, "Begin With the End in Mind" as a guide that can increase a person's opportunity for success by setting goals through  a mental creation followed by a physical creation, just as a building follows a blueprint.

"Knowing myself and seeking self improvement" is a Marine Corps leadership principle that has guided him to success throughout his military career. "Empower your life through making your circumstances," he said.

"I'm living my dream," Tucker said. He plans next to either become a college professor or join the nonprofit business world after his retirement from the Marine Corps. He is married with two children.

Common is from Joliet, Ill., and has been in the Marines seven years, though affiliated with the Marines for 10 years. He, like Tucker, was in Iraq for eight months in 2008. He said it is highly important to him to diversify his life and broaden his experiences.

"Don't be afraid to think outside the box," he said. "Come up with different ideas; become a well-rounded person. Don't be afraid to make mistakes; it's how you recover that matters. Recognize your failures and turn them into success. It's important for people of different backgrounds to come together."

Common is married with one child. He is stationed in Camp Pendleton, Calif., and celebrates his 30th birthday May 24.

Dupree, 40, is from Brooklyn, N.Y., and has been in the Marines for 18 years. He has been deployed to Iraq twice and to Afghanistan once. He is currently stationed in the Marine Corps Air Station in Cherry Point, N.C. He is married with four children.

"I want to be an example and inspiration to my family and Marines," Dupree said. "I want them all to know that you should always make goals for yourself and aspire to reach them."

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