Interim Provost Robert Dooley jumped out of a perfectly good airplane while it was about two-and-a-half miles above the ground.
On Saturday, he was strapped to a member of the Army’s Golden Knights parachute team then leapt out of a plane flying at about 14,000 feet. It will be the first time he has ever skydived.
“I’m super-excited about the jump and honored that I was asked,” Dooley said a couple of days prior to the jump. “I have no trepidation about the jump; I will be jumping with the best of the best.”
Well … maybe a little trepidation.
“I am interested to see what my emotional reaction will be as I stand in the airplane doorway ready to jump,” he acknowledged.
Taking place at Addington Field in Elizabethtown, Ky., the jump was intended to bring attention to the ROTC program at UTC, which “has really excelled” under the leadership of Capt. Kevin Beavers, Dooley says.
It was Beavers who approached Dooley about taking part in the skydiving event. “I was fortunate enough to be asked to participate and did not hesitate to say ‘Yes,’” Dooley says.
“There is something special about voluntarily exiting a high-performance aircraft and pumped that Dr. Dooley bravely volunteered to be a part of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Beavers says. “His commitment to free falling from 14,000 feet is synonymous with his commitment to veterans in our community and the Army ROTC program here at UTC. “
The invitation to jump is part of an annual event in which ROTC cadets and university leaders from around the country have something of a meet-and-greet, giving them a chance to get to know each other and also discuss ways for schools and ROTC to work together.
“We want to be a focal point of why students choose UTC for its leadership excellence and reputation for providing our nation’s next generation of leaders,” Beavers says.
While many folks discuss solutions and collaborations while “breaking bread,” he says, “we choose to create our solutions while jumping out of airplanes.”
Dooley says his leap of faith also can promote the College of Business’ Veterans Entrepreneurship Program.
“I think the jump will also bring attention to VEP, which is a good additional benefit,” he says.
Established in 2012, the Veterans Entrepreneurship Program offers free training, mentoring and management expertise for small businesses founded by disabled and distinguished veterans.
The program, hosted each year in July at UTC, veterans receive a week of entrepreneurship courses taught by College of Business faculty and guest experts. Veterans also meet with community leaders and top military officials.
Free of charge to all participating veterans, the program includes travel expenses, lodging, meals and all course materials. The costs of the VEP are underwritten by sponsors, including Walden Security, and private donors.
The Veterans Entrepreneurship Program offers an accelerated learning program using online education and a classroom-style “boot camp” followed by comprehensive mentorship with Chattanooga business professionals.
After graduation, veterans receive 10 months of support from entrepreneurs at the College of Business and online peer networking. Participants receive feedback about their specific ventures and can ask questions from professionals.
In six years, 95 veterans have graduated from the Veterans Entrepreneurship Program. About 40 percent of them now own their own businesses, including several who operate in the Chattanooga area.