David Lannon joined the College in 2019 and moved into his new position April 25 of this year.
The Latin word “veritas” is not in every dictionary and not easily translated into English. Colleges, universities and other diverse organizations often use it in mottoes as it stands for an ideal such as truth, kindness or beauty.
For the Virginia Community College System, it stands for Veteran Education Resource Initiative for Transition, Advising and Success. David Lannon, the new VERITAS liaison at Thomas Nelson, can translate his job into one sentence.
“I help students, veterans who are using military benefits to pay for school, be successful,” he said.
That assistant starts with the application and enrollment process, and continues with orientation. It goes through graduation, as he will help them transfer to a four-year institution or into the workforce. His role is to help veterans find a college or career that’s right for them.
“I really make sure that if they have any obstacles, that I can assist them and monitor them so that they can overcome any obstacles that they encounter here at the school,” he said, adding a key to that is making veterans aware of all the programs the College offers.
Being a veteran himself and having worked in higher education since 2013, Lannon was the perfect fit for the position, said Marc Vernon, who is the financial aid director in the office of Veterans Affairs.
“David has a wide breadth of higher-ed experience, from admission to academic advising to military service. He is a retired Navy veteran,” Vernon said. “Who better to serve their own than him?”
Lannon spent 20 years in the Navy as a musician, retiring in 2006. However, it wasn’t an easy transition to civilian life. He meandered through a number of jobs before entering the world of higher education in 2013, eventually joining Thomas Nelson in 2019 as an academic adviser.
“I struggled,” he said. “After going through my TAP class, which is transition assistance program that the Navy had, I got out and there weren’t any resources that I was aware of.”
He was given a packet and a pat on the back. And even though he had set up schooling ahead of time, it was difficult navigating his way through all the available resources.
“When I did attend a community college in Arizona, it was only through a fellow veteran who told me about the GI bill,” he said. “I didn't know about that, and wouldn't have known about that because there just weren't any of those types of services.”
That’s exactly the scenario he wants today’s veterans to avoid: wasting time and money trying to figure out what to do next.
“I can definitely help them out,” he said. “I've walked in their footsteps. I know what they’re going through, and I can help share my experience with them.”
Vernon knows Lannon, whose office is in the Veteran Services Center in Room 253 in Wythe Hall, will be a tremendous help.
“He can relate to them,” Vernon said. “He’s been deployed. He’s served across the globe. So, when a young service member meets David for the first time and starts to build a rapport, it’s like family.”
Lannon’s passion for the military and higher education are hard to miss, and Vernon isn’t the only one who has noticed it.
“David is so passionate about what he does,” said Brandie Weaver, the Veteran Services manager. “He wants to see our students succeed. He wants to help them in any way possible. The energy level in this office has increased since he has been here.”
Being able to help veterans as an academic adviser brought together two of his loves.
“I saw this as the perfect marrying of two topics that I enjoy,” he said. “I can help focus on my veteran students to be successful pursuing their goals. It’s really more of almost paying it forward.”
Lannon and his wife, Vicenta, are familiar with the area, as he was stationed at Norfolk from 1995-2001.
“It's been an incredible journey,” he said.
It’s a journey he’d like to help others have the same opportunity to take.