Captain John "Jack" H. Lawson began his military experience in December 1941 when he enlisted in the US Navy. After completing boot camp and radio school, he was assigned as a radioman on the USS APc 12. Assigned to the Marines, he supported an operation to by-pass Japanese held territory on New Guinea by conducting night operations to ascertain enemy strength and later provide critical communications. His other assignments included guiding LCT's into landing areas in Japanese held islands and providing supplies for troops. After being involved in combat experiences for almost three years, the APc 12 was assigned to participate in the invasion of the Philippines and was one of the first ships to enter Leyte Harbor in late 1944. After the Philippines were secured in 1945, Jack Lawson was rotated to the states for leave. He had been promoted several times and reached the senior enlisted rank of Chief Radioman at the age of 21, the youngest man to make this rank in the Navy. After the war ended, he was processed for discharge and entered the University of New Hampshire in late 1945.
Captain Lawson graduated from UNH in 1949 as a Distinguished Military Graduate in the AFROTC Program, ean1ing his commission as a second lieutenant in the Air Force. He was assigned as Personnel Officer and Education Officer supporting the 89th Fighter Bomber Wing in Bedford, MA. He continued his education and completed a master's degree at UNH as well as course work for a doctorate in mathematics education at BU. He resigned his commission in 1956 after 12 years of reserve and active duty assignments.
His service to public education began in September 1949, when he accepted a position as a teacher in Antrim, NH. He taught several subjects, coached sports teams to league championships, and opened a new school, which was the first built in Antrim in over 100 years. He next became a principal in Salisbury, MA, overseeing administration at all three schools in the town. After outstanding service as principal for three years, he was promoted to Superintendent of Schools in Salisbury and Newbury. At age 30, he was youngest superintendent in Massachusetts.
For the next three decades, Jack Lawson served as a superintendent in Salisbury, MA, Hamilton, MA, Hingham, MA, Shaker Heights, OH, and Lexington, MA. In each of these leadership roles, his efforts to improve education and its supporting infrastructure were exceptional. In 1982, Jack Lawson was selected as Commissioner of Education for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, a position responsible for the education of over one million students in K-12. While serving in this role, SAT scores increased each year and new standards for high school graduation were implemented.
In 1986, he accepted a professorship at UNH. He also served on UNH's Academic Senate. Following six successful years in the classroom, Jack Lawson was asked to join the administration as Labor Relations Officer and later as the Director of Alumni Affairs. His position in the Alumni Office provided the opportunity to address alumni around the country and create a more stable financial position for the Alumni Association. In addition, a number of new chapters were established including one for former graduates of the ROTC program. He was promoted to Associate Vice President for Alumni Affairs, chairing several campus committees. He is a recipient of the Alumni Meritorious Service Award. Currently, he is serving his second four year term to the University System of New Hampshire Board of Trustees.
For meritorious service to the United States Navy and Air Force and to public education throughout the New England area, Captain John Lawson is inducted into the ROTC Hall of Fame.