Meet Richard Chavez ’80

richard-chavezEast Carolina University alumnus Richard Chavez ’80 is a senior executive with the Department of Homeland Security.

As the director of the Office of Operations Coordination, Chavez provides counsel directly to the Secretary of Homeland Security. He leads more than 500 employees who are responsible for monitoring the safety of the United States on a daily basis. His office provides vital information to support decision making across all departments of Homeland Security as well as partners in state governments, law enforcement, and the private sector.

“I’m very proud that I went to ECU,” said Chavez, who graduated with a degree in corrections and law enforcement in 1980. “My experience definitely prepared me for my additional degrees and my career.”

Originally from southern California, Chavez came to eastern North Carolina when his father, who was in the Marine Corps, was stationed at Cherry Point. While living in New Bern, Chavez started looking at schools in North Carolina, particularly ECU.

“Of course football games were a big draw, but I really liked that Greenville wasn’t a big city; it had a rural atmosphere,” he said.

He was drawn to ECU’s corrections and law enforcement program because of its broader emphasis on social work and impacting the community.

“My favorite part of my time at ECU was the interactions I had in my classes and the different activities and field trips we did,” he said. “The law and policy classes really helped me understand how things work behind the scenes, and helped me learn how to interact with the community.”

After more than 25 years as an officer in the Air Force, Chavez served as a civilian advisor in the Department of Defense. He came to Homeland Security in 2010 as the deputy director of his office, and was promoted to his current position in 2011.

While with the Department of Defense, Chavez was responsible for leading the DOD’s largest, most comprehensive, and most extensive civil support mission ever in response to Hurricane Katrina.

During his time in Homeland Security, Chavez’s office has responded to several key events, most notably the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010 and the tsunami and earthquake in Japan in 2011.

Chavez’s first time back on campus was after leaving the Air Force and bringing his son back for a football game after 26 years. “It’s nice to see how much the university has grown,” he said. “I loved seeing the Pirate State of Mind logo.”

Chavez resides in Washington, D.C. and attends ECU events in the area when he can. He says he loves running into fellow Pirates, and always recommends East Carolina to those who may not have heard of it.

Chavez also holds a master’s degree in public administration from Golden Gate University in San Francisco, CA, and a master’s degree in strategic studies from the Air War College at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama.

By Jackie Drake

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