Transitions and Transformations:
A Personal Journey to Inspire Fellow Veterans
The Honorable Dr. Larry Wallace Jr. literally wrote the book on transition. With over 18 years of service in the U.S. Army, a variety of career positions supporting veterans and his latest role as councilman for the City of Manor, Texas, he has mastered the art of adapting to and becoming successful in new environments.
Wallace, who earned his Master of Business Administration (MBA) and PhD from NCU’s School of Business, is the co-author of “The Transition: Preparing for Financial Combat.” He and retired Colonel Heath Niemi wrote the book to help alleviate the anxiety veterans experience as they shift from military life to corporate America. The insights Wallace provides in the book and on his podcast, “The Transition,” focus on how to navigate new economic landscapes through a process he calls “transition psychology.”
“When you leave the military, you know things are going to be different and that you’ll take on new roles and responsibilities,” says Wallace. “Your transition will be as successful as you are psychologically prepared for it.”
Wallace certainly knows a thing or two about being prepared psychologically for transitions – or, more accurately, what happens if you’re not. He attended college in hopes of playing basketball, but soon dropped out. “At that time, I was more sports-focused than academics-focused,” he says. “I tried to focus on school after giving up my basketball aspirations but did not have the aptitude for it.”
Wallace’s father gave him four options: Army, Air Force, Navy or Marines. He followed his father and other family members into the Army.
“Your transition will be as successful as you are psychologically prepared for it.”
—Dr. Larry Wallace Jr.
Initially, Wallace performed well. Within three years he earned a promotion to sergeant, but a DUI derailed his transition to noncommissioned officer.
“At that point I realized that to make the transition I desired for my life, I had to transform into a totally different person – a better person,” Wallace says. “I had to deal with the regret and embarrassment of my actions and change my perceptions and mentality. As a result, I became focused on gaining the credentials and opportunities available through my military service.”
Wallace bounced back from this low point and flourished in his Army career. He served in a series of critical roles including drill sergeant, USA NATO commander and deputy chief of staff for the U.S. Army Special Operations Aviation Command (Airborne).
Along the way, he earned his associate’s degree from Tarrant County Community College, a bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at Arlington, a Master of Science in Human Relations and Business from Amberton University, and an MBA from NCU. He also started his NCU doctoral program.
“What really sold me on NCU was the focus on papers instead of exams and the School’s no residency requirement policy, which was crucial during deployments and overseas assignments,” explains Wallace. “The ability to pay for my courses in advance and have access to my assignments to work on them while in the field or traveling, on my own time, before the class started was also monumental to my academic success.”
“Without a desire to progress comes complacency, so I hope my transformations continue to lead me into new opportunities of transition.”
—Dr. Larry Wallace Jr.
Now retired from the military, Wallace is the director of veteran support and leadership programs at The University of Texas (UT) System, the second largest system in the nation with eight academic and six health science institutions. Through the UT Veterans' Leadership Task Force Wallace created a year ago, the system’s Leadership Development & Veterans’ Affairs Office collaborates with various organizations on innovative programs and serves diverse groups of veterans across the state.
When he started with UT in Austin, Wallace relocated his wife and three kids to nearby Manor, the seventh-fastest growing suburb in America according to realtor.com. To better understand the new surroundings, he obtained an appointment as a commissioner on the Zoning and Planning Commission. After eight months, Wallace ran for, and won, a seat as a city councilman in November.
“Although there are so many things I still want to accomplish on the corporate side, my short public service experience has inspired me to consider running for mayor or even a congressional seat,” said Wallace.
The transition to public service, Wallace says, is unlike any other in his life so far. “Generally, I open up the rules, policies and regulations to inform myself on how to be successful in my new environment,” he explains. “But when I got out of the military, I realized I didn’t know much about how a city or a state works. I had to dive into unfamiliar territory head first to get fully involved in my new environment.”
As far as Wallace is concerned, the sky is the limit when it comes to transitioning. If you properly transform yourself to lead with your strengths, you’ll strengthen your weaknesses and be better prepared to succeed.
“Life is just a continuation of transitions until that final transition after a long-lived life,” Wallace concludes. “Without a desire to progress comes complacency, so I hope my transformations continue to lead me into new opportunities of transition.”
For more information on NCU’s business degree programs, please visit www.ncu.edu/programs-degrees/business.