15:21 PM

UHCL and alum recognized at 2024 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo

Written by: Lauren Sawyer
From left: Assistant Director of Military and Veteran Services John Oyerbides, 2nd Lt. and UHCL alum Ryan Stoddard, and VP for Administration and Finance Mark Denney.

University of Houston-Clear Lake (UHCL) and one of its recent graduates, 2nd Lt. Ryan Stoddard, were both honored at the 2024 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo during Armed Forces Appreciation Day. Armed Forces Appreciation Day honors the brave men and women for their service in the U.S. Military, with over 4,400 military members and their families from across Texas in attendance.  Out of 297 students, Stoddard was distinguished as the top graduate of the Officer Candidate School for the U.S. Marines, and was highly recommended for this prestigious award by his fellow classmates, officers, and military leadership. This honor reflects not only Stoddard’s success but also the quality of education and support provided by UH-Clear Lake.

“He is an ideal candidate of what the military is looking for,” said Assistant Director of Military and Veteran Services John Oyerbides. “To be willing to make the sacrifice for your country is one thing, and to be recognized for it is another. Only 4-6 people get this national award presented to them by the commanding general every year.”

Stoddard was in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve while he attended UHCL. After graduating in May 2023, Stoddard applied to Officer Candidate School and is transitioning to active duty. Oyerbides said it was a “pleasant surprise” to learn the recognition would be a double honor, and the Office of Military and Veteran Services' mantra is to ensure students’ success by making them aware of the school funding and benefits they are entitled to. In addition, winning the award shed light on the university and all of the great programs and resources it offers.

“We’ve really been emphasizing getting out and promoting UHCL and trying to get more veterans,” Oyerbides said. “We have countless opportunities with NASA nearby, Boeing, and others. We have to get the word out, let them know that this is a safe place, and we can help them achieve success,” Oyerbides explained. “We have 50 brand new veterans attending UHCL next semester, and we plan to keep increasing enrollment.”

The Office of Military and Veteran Services provides networking opportunities to veterans and the support they need while transitioning. As a disabled 30-year veteran, Oyerbides said he knows what students are going through. Adjusting can be challenging after being in an environment where other people make decisions for so long.

“In the military you are told what to do, where to go, what to wear, and stick to a schedule. Then all of a sudden, they’re on campus and some become lost,” Oyerbides said. “But our students have financial benefits they are entitled to, disability, mental health counseling, and more. Our goal is to inform them, and we are dedicated to helping them get through school successfully step by step.” 

Oyerbides further noted that the support from UHCL President Richard Walker and Vice President for Student Affairs Tina Powellson in allowing the implementation of his ideas has cultivated an environment ripe with endless growth and possibilities for veteran services.

“The climate at UHCL is what won that award,” he said.

For more information about UHCL’s Military and Veteran Services, visit www.uhcl.edu/veteran-services.