Tad Lenhart, a former Marine, hopes to combine his faith, military experience, and business education from Concordia to serve in new and meaningful ways.
Tad Lenhart was in search of something better for his life when he wandered onto Concordia University Ann Arbor’s campus one fall day two years ago.
At the time, Lenhart, a Petersburg native, was attending Washtenaw Community College, which is just 2 minutes from Concordia’s campus. He frequently drove past CUAA, but didn’t know anything about the school when he decided, on a whim, to take a walk on Concordia’s campus.
He was in search of a new direction, a purpose for his life on that day. At age 18 he had enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps and rose to sergeant during his service. His plan was to make a career out of the military, but after four overseas deployments and eight years of active duty, Lenhart sustained an injury in the line of duty. It forced him to retire way sooner than he had intended and find a new direction for his life that he had never once considered.
“I was very lost,” Lenhart says of that time. “Once I retired from the military, I went from job to job not really sure how to learn a new lifestyle. From high school to my mid-20s, I learned the Marine Corps way of life. When you get out, it’s a totally different world.”
It took him another several years with lots of cajoling from family and friends to try college. Lenhart had it in his head that he wasn’t qualified enough for college – a belief that has since been proven abundantly wrong after he earned several semester’s worth of 4.0’s and honors marks throughout his collegiate tenure.
Washtenaw was a way to get his feet wet. He gained confidence in his ability to be a successful student. Then he needed to find the next stop on his collegiate journey once his two-year community college degree was in hand.
He received an acceptance letter from the University of Michigan. It didn’t feel like the right fit for him, however. So he took a stroll to Concordia to get a feel for something completely different.
“COVID was still going on at this time so campus was pretty quiet, but even with that I could feel the community,” Lenhart said. “I remember thinking, ‘There’s no way that these professors don’t know who you are on a small campus like this.’”
Searching for answers to big questions
The idea of being known appealed to Lenhart. In some ways, he struggled with feeling lost his whole life. He didn’t want to disappear yet again.
When he retired from the military he was not only in search of a new direction in life, but answers to some of life’s most challenging questions: “Why is there so much suffering in the world?” and “God, if you are truly the creator of the world, why are you allowing these things to happen?”
These are huge questions, and Lenhart admits that he may never fully comprehend the answer as a mere mortal, but the Spirit was at work enough in his life at this time that he decided, at age 33, to be baptized.
Lenhart was initially attracted to Concordia because of its small size. As it turned out, Concordia also offered something that no state school would provide – exposure to the Word of God and access to Christian mentors who could help him wrestle with life’s big questions. It further sealed the deal for Lenhart when he researched Concordia’s Haab School of Business and found that its enrollment was growing and reviews were overwhelmingly positive.
Support for veterans at CUAA
Concordia’s Veterans Services Department has proven to be an added bonus. Concordia honors a generous military credit transfer policy. This, combined with state and federal benefits earned from his military service, will allow Lenhart to earn his bachelor’s degree in general business from Concordia with no debt.
He has also become an active participant in Concordia’s Veterans Service Center. He serves as the president of Concordia’s chapter of Student Veterans of America. His goal is to encourage more veterans to consider Concordia as an option.
“I was that guy who drank to cope once upon a time,” Lenhart said. “But I’ve learned that instead of that, I can go to school and live life in a healthier way. I want to see more veterans come to Concordia and maybe have a change of thought, whether it’s spiritually or whatever. My hope is that Concordia can help to just plant the seeds.”
Once he graduates in December, he hopes to continue to use his unique blend of experiences and skillsets to influence others. He’s not quite sure what form that will take just yet, but he trusts the Lord will provide.
“God has put the right people in my life to help me,” Lenhart says. “Faith, business, my leadership experience from the Marines – I want to take all of that and use it wherever God points me to go.”
Concordia University Ann Arbor is a Lutheran institution that is proud to be Military Friendly. We are committed to providing first-class service to support our active, reserve, and veteran personnel and their families. CUAA’s Veteran Services Department is dedicated to supporting veterans, their spouses, and family members with services such as, but not limited to:
- Student Finance/Scholarships
- Academic Advising
- Disability Resources