A first-time visit to the MTSU Charlie and Hazel Daniels Veterans and Military Family Center left a positive impression on Daniel Dücker, the new executive director for the VA’s Tennessee Valley Healthcare System.
Joined by Tennessee Valley Healthcare System staff members Michael Renfrow and Hunt Blair, Dücker recently visited the center, which is located on the first floor of the Keathley University Center in the heart of campus.
The Daniels Center is home to 1,100 student veterans and family members, providing numerous services. It is the largest and most comprehensive veterans center on any Tennessee higher education campus — a one-stop shop to meet a variety of academic needs. Two full-time VA personnel work in the center.
Keith M. Huber, senior adviser for veterans and leadership initiatives, provided a thorough tour of the facility for the trio. It was Dücker’s first time to meet Huber. Dücker came away “very impressed with the commitment MTSU has to veterans and their family members.”
“(In) my first three weeks here in the Tennessee Valley area as the new executive director for the VA, I knew this was an important component of where we want to be and where we want to continue to grow relationships,” Dücker said.
“I see this as a really unique opportunity to better serve our veterans and our families, not just here at MTSU but also how we can serve them at the campus at (Alvin C.) York in Murfreesboro, up at Nashville or any of our other sites of care that we have across the Tennessee Valley.”
Dücker considers it an opportunity to expand the current “academic relationship.”
“We’re a big employer in Tennessee Valley,” he added, mentioning a workforce of 4,300 employees presently “and we’re looking to grow that (and) sustain our staffing. … There’s an aspect of us being an employer, but also a training opportunity. We have many internships that we can do from administrative and clinical perspectives at our facilities and so we’re interested in both of those relationships with the student population for sure.”
Huber, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant general who spent 38 years in the military, said the Daniels Center has “a profound partnership with the VA leadership and organization.”
“Director Dücker’s personal awareness and involvement with our Daniels Center significantly enhances our collective ability to serve veterans and their families,” Huber added. “His energetic leadership will provide a continuous, realistic assessment of current VA programs as well as increasing the overall available resources for our veterans.
“Director Dücker is an Army veteran and officer who has served in combat in Afghanistan. He understands military service and family sacrifice.”
Dücker was the Fayetteville, North Carolina, VA Coastal Health Care System executive director from 2019 to March 2022. He retired from the U.S. Army Reserve in 2017 as a medical service corps officer at the rank of colonel. He received many awards, including Bronze Star and two for Legion of Merit as a commander in Afghanistan.
Dücker replaced Jennifer Vedral-Baron as director. She stepped down to pursue other interests. Renfrow is deputy executive director.
— Randy Weiler (Randy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)