DANVILLE – Former Oakwood resident Lt. Col. David Tharp credits Danville Area Community College with making “a profound impact on my life.”
Dr. Tharp has been named as the Illinois Community College Trustees Association Distinguished Alumnus from Danville Area Community College for 2013.
After graduating from Oakwood High School in 1983, Tharp studied computer science at DACC, graduating in 1985. Tharp then went on to complete a doctorate and three master’s degrees.
He recalled that DACC provided him with “a huge start” in his pursuit for higher education and in his career.
“DACC was close in proximity to my home and it was financially feasible for my family, because at the time my mom was dying from breast cancer,” he said. “DACC allowed me to stay at home and pursue my educational goal.”
Tharp is an officer in the Air Force Reserve and a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine, as well as a psychologist with the VISN 17 Center of Excellence for Research on Return War Veterans in Waco, Texas. He also is an ordained minister and has worked in hospice.
Tharp was chosen as the Distinguished Alumnus for his service as a patriot and humanitarian who volunteered to put himself in harm’s way to better serve the combat veterans who depend on him for empathy, understanding and treatment.
“It was when my mom passed away I thought, ‘Do I want to work with computers or work with people?’” he said of his decision to pursue a career that would help others, specifically veterans.
“I feel like I’ve been blessed in making a difference,” he added.
To better understand the veterans he treats, Tharp volunteered to be deployed to Afghanistan a couple of years ago.
“Not a lot of (Veterans Affairs) psychiatrists have been deployed,” he explained. “It’s good to have that understanding of what they’ve been through.”