Pacific unveils newly transformed Military and Veteran Student Center
A bright and welcoming Military and Veteran Student Center was unveiled Friday before student veterans, donors, community members and elected officials as University of the Pacific celebrated the newly renovated space on the Stockton campus.
Located across Pacific Avenue on Knoles Way, the center provides programs and services to support the academic and personal success of active duty, reserve, military-affiliated, and veteran students.
Some of the renovations include a student lounge, multi-use rooms for student veteran organizations, ADA-compliant access throughout the house and an updated kitchen.
“Having a convenient place where we can gather as a community and de-stress is vital for students,” said Marco Gonzalez '21, who served eight years in the Army. “This location allows us to hold meetings and invite organizations like Veterans Affairs to come and provide health care for veterans with service-related conditions. I really feel blessed to be at a university that prioritizes student veterans and supports our academic and personal success.”
In attendance was Stockton Mayor Kevin Lincoln, who served in the Marines. “This space is meant to be a place of comfort and community for military and veteran students. Services like these impact lives for generations, and I am encouraged and impressed by the love, care, and dedication poured into this center.”
Pacific student veterans provided input on aesthetics and other design elements.
“It is so important to have a location for us to gather that is ADA accessible and welcoming to everyone,” said Destiny Goddu '22, who served five years in the Marines. “The center is now so bright and fresh, it really feels like it has been transformed into a haven and something we can be truly proud of.”
The project was made possible by a generous donation from Pacific supporters John and June Rogers. John Rogers, who is president of the Mary Stuart Rogers Foundation in Modesto, is a retired Air Force Colonel who served 26 years as a pilot.
“In the service you learn to look after each other and put others before yourself and that’s a philosophy I live by,” said John Rogers. “These students deserve to have a dedicated place that supports their intellectual and personal growth and allows them to connect with each other. I can’t think of a more worthy cause.”
In addition to the Military and Veterans Student Center, the Rogers have supported Pacific’s library renovation and created an endowed scholarship for students who aspire to be teachers.
“These renovations are a way for our Pacific community to acknowledge the sacrifice these students have made for our country,” said Scott Biedermann, vice president of development and alumni relations. “Veteran students are an integral part of Pacific, and we appreciate the support of John and June Rogers for making this possible.”
The center is directed by Stan Rapada, who served 32 years in the Army, Air Force and Navy combined. Prior to Pacific, Rapada worked at San Joaquin Delta College where he established the Veteran Resource Center.
“When I returned from Vietnam it was the worst reception a veteran could receive, we were scared to acknowledge we were in the military,” said Rapada. “Luckily, things have now changed and a center like this is how veterans should be welcomed and appreciated.”
“I always tell our veteran students that your country will honor you for your service,” said Rapada. “I am proud to be at a university that allows me to keep my word and treat them with the respect they deserve.”
Recognized as a leader in supporting veteran students, Pacific is ranked in the top 100 for “Best Colleges for Veterans” by U.S. News & World Report. Recently, the university made significant financial investments in student-veteran programs and services. Beginning this academic year, Pacific is offering an unlimited number of slots for veterans who enroll as undergraduates under the Yellow Ribbon Program and has expanded the amount of spaces for graduate students. Through the program, all financial aid the university provides is fully matched by the Department of Veterans Affairs.