Face of Defense: Airman Receives Harvard Scholarship
By Airman 1st Class Tom Brading
Joint Base Charleston
CHARLESTON, S.C., Dec. 14, 2012 Air Force Staff Sgt. Katherine Lamb has received a full scholarship to Harvard University, which she’ll use to pursue a doctorate in chemistry in the fall after completing a successful six-year enlistment.
Air Force Staff Sgt. Katherine Lamb, knowledge operations manager at the Naval Consolidated Brig at Joint Base Charleston, S.C., will pursue a doctorate in chemistry at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., in the fall after six years in the military. Lamb received her master’s degree in chemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, also in Cambridge. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Tom Brading
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Lamb is a knowledge operations manager at the Naval Consolidated Brig on Joint Base Charleston here.
Harvard is located in Cambridge, Mass., and is the oldest institution for higher learning in the United States. Eight U.S. presidents, 75 Noble Prize winners and more than 60 living billionaires hold Harvard degrees.
Fellow troops say Lamb is revered throughout the brig for her intelligence, and she encourages and helps others to further their educations.
"Sergeant Lamb's vibrant and friendly personality can light up an entire room," said Master Sgt. Edward Phillips, the brig’s Air Force superintendent. "She is just a very positive and outgoing person."
Lamb said she learned the importance of education in Puerto Rico, where she was born. Her parents, who were born into poverty, moved to America seeking a better life when she was nine. Her mother went on to become a college professor, while her father works for NASA.
"My parents used to tell me, it doesn't matter if you have money," Lamb said. "You could lose money; you can never lose an education."
It was a message she took to heart.
Lamb is already familiar with the New England area. Years ago, she took her parents’ advice and received her master's degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge.
After graduating from MIT, Lamb said she felt a sense of pride and patriotism toward the country that offered her so many opportunities. She surprised her friends and family by enlisting in the Air Force.
"Everyone wonders, 'Why didn't you become an officer?’" Lamb said. "Well, life isn't about money. I was aware of officer programs, but for me, serving my country was enough reason to join. That's why I did, and it was one of the best decisions I've ever made. The enlisted men and women I've served with continue to do amazing things every day."
Lamb said serving her country and building relationships in the Air Force has been as beneficial as any college classroom.
"The Air Force is one team," she said. "College lifestyle, especially [in] an Ivy League-caliber institution, is very competitive -- people are constantly thinking about what's best for themselves. It's just the nature of how challenging those programs can be. But in the Air Force, although still challenging, I've learned how valuable teamwork is and I'll always carry those lessons with me."
Lamb gives back to the military every day by tutoring, mentoring and educating people throughout her squadron.
"She's constantly making sure I'm taking college classes," said Marine Chief Warrant Officer John Nolan, Naval Consolidated Brig Charleston security officer. "She inspires everyone to better themselves."
According to Lamb, hard work is the key to success, whether in testing for staff sergeant or applying to Harvard. Every test she successfully passed, she noted, came from hours of studying.
"Enlisted airmen are vital to the success of the Air Force mission," Lamb said. "Education is an essential tool for that success. So, when I see so many people bettering themselves by going to school, I think their stories are as compelling as mine. I'm just lucky to have such amazing and supportive people in my life."