By Jo Anita Miley, US Army Engineering and Support Center, HuntsvilleMay 8, 2009
One Huntsville Center project manager attributes his success to his mother's work ethic.
Jeff Fagan is a project manager in the Installation Support and Programs Management Directorate's Facilities Repair and Renewal Division. Prior to coming to the Center, Fagan was a civilian architect at Mobile District. He also retired as a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force after serving more than 24 years.
Fagan has a captivating and moving story. Not so much because his family has been the focus of numerous articles featured in Parenting, Ebony and Jet magazines, and receiving a spotlight in the Air Force's Airmen magazine or the Birmingham News. It is not because in 1997, the family was placed in the Guinness Book of World Records for having the most children to graduate college - 15!
The size of Fagan's family wasn't due to a blended family situation. Fagan said it was a true blessing to be the 10th of Dan and Helen Fagan's 16 children. The children, now ranging in age from 40 to 64 all grew up in a small four-bedroom house in Bessemer, Ala. Fagan said his mother has always been the driving force behind his determination to succeed.
"My mom was always one of my biggest supporters. Through her strong support, the thought that a young black man growing up in a poor environment could not succeed never entered my mind," Fagan said. "The stereotypical opinion of many during that time would not be the life I was destined to live."
Fagan said his mom followed a self-taught philosophy that he calls the "Fagan Formula to Success." He said his mom believed that success must be ingrained in a person's mind when they are young. She used this value system for successes as a safeguard to protect her family and herself.
"My mom would say to me, 'the key to success is education, hard work and
a desire to reach your goal.' I never forgot her words or the profound difference it made in my life," Fagan said. "My mom's motto is that you don't have to be the 'smartest,' but you must be willing to work hard for whatever you want."
Fagan said he used his mom's wisdom throughout his life. The work ethic passed on to him and his siblings by his mom helped them to succeed in college, the military and in his current role at the Center.
Fagan currently manages several projects on his team, and says he uses the wisdom of his mom to do so.
"Jeff takes this internal drive he indicates he picked up from his mom to help his team," said Allen Shelvin, FRR division chief. "He is certainly a valued member of the FRR program. In a short time, he has picked up numerous Army and Air Force projects totaling approximately $20 million. Just recently, he volunteered to be the project manager for some new projects related to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. These projects will be very important for our program."
Fagan said his mom is also a very patriotic woman, supporting the troops who serve the U.S. in the armed services at every possible opportunity. She encouraged her children to consider joining the military.
"Mom took the military service seriously. She felt we had a duty to serve our country, give back to society," he said. "She knew the military held many opportunities for young men and women, and encouraged us to join the military and give back to society."
Fagan and eight of his siblings took her advice seriously, and joined the military. After graduating from Tuskegee University in Tuskegee, Ala., Fagan joined the Air Force and four of his siblings served in the Air Force, two in the U.S. Army, and two in the U.S. Army Reserves. Altogether, the siblings have served a total of 155 years military service.
"Although not all of my siblings served in the military, they all excelled in their chosen fields. They've pursued some pretty interesting careers too," Fagan said. "They have entered the fields of criminal justice, education and business, to name a few - my mom is proud of all of them."
Fagan said his mom still supports the military, even though most of her children are retired now. Each year she holds a special Veterans Day program, honoring veterans from the local community. She spends an entire year preparing a big program. She has the kids from the school sing patriotic songs; students from local ROTC programs participate as well. It has become a good tradition within the community, and gets media coverage."
Fagan says he and his siblings have often encouraged their mom to retire - for good. However, Helen Fagan insists that continuing to work is good for her.
Fagan said he is now working on a second retirement, the first one being from the military service. He plans to continue working for a very long time, and attributes this longevity in the work force to his mom's example.
"In reflection, my wife and son have added tremendous value to my life, and both are very instrumental in helping me to reach my goals. However, it is my mom who taught me the importance of hard work," Fagan said. "She doesn't know the meaning of the word 'STOP' when it comes to work. The strong work ethic established by my mom has been the foundation for my successes in life, and I owe them all to her."