Lawrence Poland graduated from Newman University with a business management degree in 1989. Before that, though, he was no stranger to roles entailing leadership and management.
Poland was on military active duty serving as an airman in the United States Air Force at McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita, Kansas, when he decided to attend Newman. A good friend encouraged him to check out what the university had to offer.
“My friend knew a lot about Kansas Newman College, which has since been renamed to Newman University,” explained Poland. “He convinced me to attend Newman because of its academic philosophy and integrity and because its staff and faculty placed a strong value on a liberal arts education to prepare its graduates in the business field for such careers as the nonprofit sector, government, management and professional business services.”
He applied to Newman as a transfer student and never looked back.
“It was an awesome step that paid off more than tenfold in my personal and professional life. Having my degree from Newman has set me head and shoulders apart from my competition and contemporaries throughout my career.”
Now that he is retired, Poland is ready to give back to the community by helping underserved individuals who are recovering from hard times and help them prepare to step back into a career and be an active member of the workforce.
He plans on doing this alongside his sisters via their nonprofit, Eva’s Closet.
A fulfilling career
Poland recently retired from his role as senior government information and intelligence analyst for the Office of the Administrative Assistant to the Secretary of the Air Force at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.
At one time in his career, he was the senior experienced guardian of permanent historical U.S. National Archives records located in the Air Force Declassification Office.
Both roles required leadership and time management skills — skills he gained and honed during his time as a Newman student, he said.
“I chose this career and these life paths because being a public servant gives you the chance to be a part of something much larger than yourself,” said Poland. “My 46 years of being in the military and federal government service developed me into a very successful overall business and government leader and administrator.”
His original higher education goal was to complete associate and bachelor’s degrees. But his love for learning led him to complete several associate degrees, a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in business administration, which he earned at Oklahoma City University. He is currently working toward completing a doctorate in business.
Poland said he comes from a sibling set of high achievers in government, military, academics and law, and credits his parents for the success that he and his siblings have enjoyed. Being able to touch the lives of strangers and helping others through his career is a satisfying and humbling experience.
He said, “My drive and ability to always do an outstanding job in my field of accomplishment has led me to make a difference in millions of peoples’ lives in the U.S. and around the world — the majority of whom I will never know — simply because we have declassified critical, sensitive and vital information when possible and when they needed it most.
“And, it is gratifying to know that I have had a direct impact on the storage and archiving of historical records in the annals of history, which culminated in aiding our president of the United States to make historical achievements in his goals of safeguarding and record maintenance.”
The Newman experience
His time at Newman would prove to be quite demanding and challenging. He worked full time and had many military duties that required some late hours. He also traveled periodically to other locations on work-related assignments.
He spent ample time attending to duties in his parish church and said his faith in the Lord kept him on course.
Juggling his busy life and his education was worth the effort, and even as a nontraditional transfer student, he made time to support his university.
“Some of my standout moments as well as fun times included supporting and attending Newman Jets sport activities whenever the time would permit me to attend,” he said.
Poland said many of the courses he took at Newman greatly benefited him in shaping and helping to foster his government career. Courses such as organizational leadership, data analysis, accounting, marketing, management and strategic intelligence helped him find footing in his professional path.
Personally and spiritually, however, Newman made an even deeper impact.
“I strongly believe … while you are being academically and socially fed, you also need to be spiritually fed,” said Poland. “Newman provided for some sound religious discipline for my spiritual growth as well as my academic and social needs.
“That brings me to one of my favorite scriptures: Psalm 37:23. ‘The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord; and he delights in his way.’ I certainly believe that the Lord has ordered the steps in my life to get me where I am today; and He has provided me with the right resources in the perfect time and space in my life to accomplish the things He assigned for me. Newman has played an instrumental part in getting me down this path”
Retiring with purpose
Poland’s sisters, Cynthia and Veronica, started the nonprofit Eva’s Closet in May 2017, which was incorporated in 2019.
Veronica serves as CEO and holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work. Cynthia is the organization’s marketing, public relations and social media adviser.
Located in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Eva’s Closet is dedicated to helping families affected by unemployment, domestic violence, child abuse, child neglect and financial issues. Their main goal “is to help these families to become stronger and healthier by offering training in parenting and career services.”
Cynthia said the inspiration for the nonprofit came from her mom, the nonprofit’s namesake.
“The message and legacy of our mom was always about helping our community,” said Cynthia. “We have always been a family of helping. Everything centered around her, especially the way we get along with family. She had this saying that charity begins at home and you have to learn to support each other. That upbringing inspired me to want to make a difference in life.”
Poland added that Eva’s Closet “is primarily based on the benevolent philosophy of Mrs. Eva R. Poland, whose life reflected the epitome of being a productive civic-minded community servant, and what is key, is that she was a servant and steward whose selfless actions put other people’s needs above herself.”
He said the organization means a great deal to him, especially in terms of sentimental value. Their goal is to leave a long-lasting legacy of their mother by exemplifying the saintly life she lived.
Poland will serve as the senior business and financial adviser for Eva’s Closet. His goal is to bring new and fresh ideas that will enhance and improve the organization’s productivity and operation for both the present and its future.
He also wants to expand the nonprofit’s footprint in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.
He said one of his mom’s prominent life philosophies was to “always be prepared for whenever opportunity knocks at the door.”
Together, with his sisters, the focus remains on helping families in need. Their goals and aspirations are to reach out, provide a safety net for the children who are the future, and by also showing them the actual skills, talents and abilities that they possess.
Poland said he is looking forward to building lasting relationships and establishing the Eva’s Closet footprint in the nonprofit and civic arenas. In addition, he will work on engaging and interacting in the recruitment of new corporate sponsorship.
“I am truly excited and happy about working with Eva’s Closet because I think it’s a valuable, challenging and rewarding endeavor that will fulfill a critical need in our society and for humanity.
“It gives me a chance to give back to a greater need and responsibility. My aspirations are that hopefully by the end of the day, I can help as least one person.”
He added, “One of Dr. Martin Luther King’s favorite songs was ‘If I Can Help Somebody’ sung by Mahalia Jackson. This song also sums it up for me with these words: ‘If I can help somebody, as I travel along; if I can help somebody, with a word or song; if I can help somebody, from doing wrong; no, my living shall not be in vain.’”