Alumnus and Lt. Col. Rob Lyman is one of 15 individuals appointed to the most recent class of White House Fellows, the White House has announced.
Lyman, who has served eight times in Iraq, Afghanistan and parts of Asia, said he will take a one-year hiatus from his military duties to serve at the White House. The 38-year-old earned his master’s degree in organizational management from GW in 2001.
“This is a wonderful opportunity to continue to serve and grow and become a more accomplished officer,” Lyman said. “To be able to serve at the national level – this is a great experience to broaden horizons.”
Created in 1964 by former President Lyndon B. Johnson, the White House Fellow program gives American leaders in all fields of expertise “first hand, high-level experience with the workings of the Federal government,” according to the Fellowship’s Web site. Lyman will likely have the opportunity to interact with President Barack Obama on occasion throughout the year but will primarily be working with senior officials at the Department of Transportation on administrative issues.
Acceptance into the program is highly selective, but it’s hardly the only noteworthy accomplishment Lyman has earned.
Hailing from Walkersville, Md., Lyman entered the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute as an Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps student with an interest in electrical engineering. After receiving a scholarship for the ROTC program, he knew he wanted to be in the military.
“The bug bit me and I really wanted to serve,” he said.
Soon after graduation, the lieutenant colonel became an Air Force officer and aided post-Sept. 11 work with Combined Air Operations.
After six years of service, Lyman was accepted into the Intermediate Developmental Education program with the Air Force, where he earned his master’s degree from GW.
“When I was here it was great to be associated with all of the great resources GW has to offer – both online and on campus,” Lyman said. “Especially the Gelman Library. I love books and it’s great to go somewhere where it’s quiet and you can feel a book.”
Since graduating from GW, Lyman has been serving as the commander of the 96th Communications Squadron at Eglin Air Force Base in Pensacola, Fla.
“It’s a beautiful place to boot,” Lyman said, “But it’s great to be back in the modern-day Rome, Washington D.C.”
In addition to his military service, his volunteer efforts with college and high school students seeking technology-related scholarships have twice earned him the Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal.
Meeting members of the selection commission – which included Gen. Wesley Clark and former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle – was a highlight of the selection process for Lyman.
“It was fun to get to know them and talk to them,” Lyman said. “But also very humbling. These panelists are very accomplished.”
Lyman insists anyone can serve their country.
“Find your way to serve,” Lyman said. “Everyone has issues they are passionate about, regardless of their field of study. Look to serve. Become a public servant or elected official. Join the military. Even those in the business community can serve by doing volunteer work or donating their income to a worthy cause. It’s remarkably rewarding. You get a lot more out of that than you give.”