The first thing you notice about retired Navy Commander and UCI alumnus Dr. Rusty Hagins ’78 is his passion for service that includes many noteworthy life experiences including a career spent serving the United States of America. Born in 1956, Hagins grew up in Anaheim and lived in Corona del Mar, Calif. during his senior year at UCI but currently lives in Kenosha, Wis. with his wife, Anita. They’ve been married for 39 years and even served together in Japan.
From Sea to Shining Sea
Hagins not only had a strong desire to serve but also to gain work and life experience. He recalls considering the Navy because of its opportunity to work on or near water, which was a love of his, especially living near the ocean in Corona del Mar. He was formally commissioned as a U.S. Navy Surface Warfare Officer through Officer Candidate School in Newport, R.I. Recalling his first days in service, he remembers the work being challenging and rewarding with a focus on learning how to lead sailors and develop professional mariner and warfighting skills, all while adjusting to a significant amount of time away from home deployed. He completed six deployments to the Western Pacific and Asia in his first eight years on active duty. His ships were home-ported in Long Beach, Calif., San Diego, Calif. and Sasebo, Japan.
“I did not serve in combat but participated in various contingency operations throughout my career. I was in graduate school and training for my next operational assignment during Desert Shield/Storm. I served Korea during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom.” When asked about a memorable experience there, he said “watching the opening phases of Iraqi Freedom from a bunker in ROK (South Korea) while wondering how the DPRK (North Korea) would react.”
Throughout his military career, he received numerous personal and unit decorations to include five Meritorious Service Medals, two Navy Commendation Medals, one Navy Achievement Medal, The Global War on Terrorism Medal, two Overseas Service Ribbons, six Sea Duty ribbons and the Korean Presidential Unit Citation.
Even with such an exciting and rewarding military career, Hagins never forgot about his UCI experience.
A Tradition of Anteater Pride
Hagins is a proud UCI alumnus from 1978, majoring in social sciences because of his interests in economics and other liberal arts. He also briefly attended graduate school at UCI following graduation having a strong desire for continued growth as a professional. He recalls, “Dr. Robert Durbin and Dr. Judy Rosner were great influences on my approach to academics and service. We attended church with Dr. Dan and Judy Aldrich and had the opportunity to get to know them socially. They were both inspirational and somewhat intimidating role models.”
Hagins earned his master’s degree at San Diego State University and ultimately went on to earn his doctoral degree in educational leadership from Cardinal Stritch University in Wisconsin. He retired from active duty and entered Federal Civil Service in 2015. His current role is one of leadership and mentorship as Executive Director, Naval Service Training Command in Great Lakes, Ill., but Hagins and his wife still visit UCI frequently when in Orange County. They enjoy seeing UCI faculty in the media as well as UCI’s baseball team in the sports pages competing against larger, higher profiled schools.
“The tradition of the UC system, and Irvine producing talented individuals who give back to the state and the nation through their service makes me proud,” says Hagins.
His Anteater pride ultimately led him to become a loyal UCI donor in 1995, giving so generously to the UCI Fund and the School of Social Sciences to support graduate fellowships.