2020 Tillman Scholar

Lance Decker

Air Force
Texas A&M University

“I must teach! Nothing thrills me more than seeing recognition in a student’s eyes when a new concept is finally grasped, or deep emotional pain is lifted from someone’s heart.”

Born in Waco, Texas and being the youngest of six boys, Lance is used to taking alternate paths to achieve success. So when Lance, wanting to serve his country at 17 years old, applied to the U.S. Air Force Academy and was rejected, he enlisted instead. Serving as an avionics technician and an aircrew member on the Airborne Command Post, Lance discovered the thrill of teaching others. His last 10 years in the service were spent teaching avionics and satellite communications at Keesler AFB in Mississippi.

After tragically losing his son to a drug overdose in 2012, Lance combined his grief and love of teaching to become a certified grief recovery specialist, reaching out to his community to help grievers find peace, hope and new direction. Since 2015, Lance has touched more than 150 people through his grief classes and speaks regularly on the topic.

Throughout his military career and the years after Lance has earned two associate degrees, a bachelor’s and a master’s in engineering. Leveraging his love for teaching, strong engineering background and his sincere desire to help people, Lance is now pursuing his Ph.D. in interdisciplinary engineering. He has also set aside a career in industry to teach as an engineering professor at the collegiate level. To Lance, there’s nothing more thrilling than seeing the recognition of learning in a student’s eyes when a complex topic is suddenly understood or deep emotional pain is lifted from someone’s heart.