(Photo above: Mark Glenn, '95, '01, aka "Sergeant Husky," visits the UW Tacoma Veteran and Military Resource Center.)
Alaska Airlines at UW Tacoma
Through generous annual contributions, Alaska Airlines supports a number of initiatives at UW Tacoma, including:
- Veteran and Military Resource Center Programs
- Peer Advisors for Veteran Education (PAVE) mentors
- Veterans Incubator for Better Entrepreneurship
- UW Tacoma's partnership with Joint Base Lewis-McChord
There must be a half dozen strands of purple and gold holiday lights strung across the ceiling at UW Tacoma’s Veteran and Military Resource Center (VMRC). The twinkling bulbs shine but they’re not the brightest things in the room. That honor is reserved for UW Tacoma alumnus Mark Glenn, or Sergeant Husky as he’s otherwise known.
Sergeant Husky is the persona Glenn dons during home UW football games. Today, the outfit consists of purple slacks, purple shirt, white suit jacket, “W” medallion, gold framed sunglasses with purple lenses, gold loafers and a Willy Wonka-style hat with “Sergeant Husky” stitched across the band and an American flag sewn on the crown. “I found the hat during a trip to Florida,” said Glenn. “It was eighty dollars and I wasn’t going to buy it because it was too expensive but a friend said I’d regret that decision later.”
Glenn is on campus for a photoshoot to accompany this story. Recently, Glenn received word he’d won the UW Veterans Flyaway contest presented by Alaska Airlines. Entrants were asked to talk about service and what the “spirit of purple” meant to them. “When I found out I’d won, I was just absolutely humbled,” said Glenn. “What a humbling experience, because I know I’m obviously not the only veteran who’s gone to UW Tacoma.”
A group of student veterans sat huddled around Glenn inside the VMRC. They’d only just met but the conversation was easy, familiar. Glenn, an Army veteran, joked with the Air Force and Marine vets about “loving them too.” The group bonded over shared experiences in the military and at UW Tacoma. They chatted for about 10 minutes and left with mutual promises to see each other soon.
The youngest of nine, Glenn grew up in Pierce County’s Spanaway. Both of his parents were originally from Georgia. Glenn’s mother dropped out of high school. His father served in the Army during the Vietnam-era. “My mom was vocal about the importance of wanting all of us to go far with our education, because she knew how it was for her growing up in the Deep South without one,” said Glenn.
Growing up in a crowded house taught Glenn some valuable life lessons. “We didn’t have a lot of money so you learned how to be resourceful,” he said. “Just as importantly, I learned at a young age the importance of recognizing and appreciating what people brought to the table.”
Glenn signed up for the Army while still in high school. “I wanted to follow in my dad’s footsteps,” said Glenn. “I joined the Army Reserves and did basic training during the summer between my junior and senior year.” This was 1987. Glenn enlisted in the U.S. Army two years later. He spent part of his enlistment in Belgium doing military intelligence work. Glenn left the military in 1992 to attend college. “The military really set the tone and provided the discipline necessary to build a career,” he said.
A first-generation college student, Glenn started at UW Tacoma in 1994. Back then campus consisted of the Perkins Building on A Street in downtown Tacoma. Glenn earned a degree in liberal studies. “I loved it so much, I came back for a graduate degree,” he said.
A desire to help kids lead Glenn back to UW Tacoma in 1998 where he started work on a master’s degree in social work. “I have a technology background and I wanted to get my teaching certificate with the goal of using technology to help children who’ve been in juvenile detention,” he said.
Glenn became a father with the first of his four children in 1996. That same year he started working for the state of Washington. “I’ve been an employee of the state of Washington ever since,” he said. Glenn currently serves as the Chief Information Officer for the Washington Military Department at Camp Murray in Lakewood.
Glenn’s decision to pursue a technical field rather than social work came down to economics. “Unfortunately, our society doesn’t value social workers in terms of what you’re able to get paid,” he said. “I couldn’t see how I was going to help support my family.”
He may not be a social worker but Glenn still uses what he learned in graduate school. “Those ‘soft skills’ of how you treat people and how you interact with others definitely carried over into my IT career,” he said.
Glenn was the first male in his family to earn a master’s degree. He’s tried to impart the importance of education to his own children. “If there were such a thing as pillars in my life, the two pillars that have meant the most to my success are military service and my University of Washington education,” he said. Glenn’s oldest son graduated from Pacific Lutheran University. His next oldest is working on a computer science degree at UW Tacoma. The younger two are in high school and middle school respectively.
The Alaska Airlines contest comes with a prize. Glenn won tickets and a travel package to see the Huskies play Boise State at the Mitsubishi Motors Las Vegas Bowl. “I’m definitely bringing the outfit,” said Glenn when asked if he would be dressing up as Sergeant Husky for the game. “People really respond to the character. They’re always coming up and asking to get pictures. We smile and laugh. It’s just an amazing feeling to see how so many people smile and respond to positivity and Sergeant Husky.”
John Burkhardt, UW Tacoma Communications, 253-692-4536 or firstname.lastname@example.org