When Brad Brezinski realized he was going to become a father before he graduated high school, playing a key role in the development and operation of the U.S. Navy’s submarine fleet was not exactly on his radar screen.
In the early 1990s, he was an honor student, an athlete and an active volunteer at Williamsburg High School, located outside of Cincinnati, Ohio. By the time Brezinski graduated in 1995, his perspective on life was completely transformed.
Brezinski’s transformation ultimately led to a successful career in the U.S. Navy, where he served as a radiation health officer stationed at the Naval Submarine Base New London in Connecticut. At the base, Brezinski was responsible for the Navy’s radiation protection program, which encompasses more than 500 occupational radiation workers and three squadrons of 17 nuclear-powered submarines. He also served as the Navy’s primary liaison for radiation health matters with Electric Boat, the General Dynamics subsidiary that designs and constructs submarines for the Navy.
“There is no margin for error when you work with nuclear power, especially in the Navy,” said Brezinski. “Planning is essential. Our standards are exacting, so there is no such thing as being too prepared.”
In 2010, Brezinski transitioned from active duty service to join the private sector.
Today, he serves as vice president of finance and
strategic projects at General Tool Company, a full-service contract manufacturing business based in Cincinnati that supports the aerospace, defense, power generation, and commercial industries’ needs for specialty machines, equipment and components.
Brezinski is also a member of the Navy Reserves, where he currently serves as the assistant operations officer and project officer for the Office of Naval Research, Science and Technology Unit 113.
That career is a long way from Williamsburg, where he hoped to pursue an engineering degree at the University of Cincinnati after high school. But Brezinski’s life changed forever just before the start of his senior year; in August of 1994, his daughter, Whitney, was born.
“Just like that, I went from being Brad Brezinski, the scholar/athlete, to being Brad Brezinski, the teenage parent,” he said. “I had such a narrow perspective of the world at that time, but I realized that I had an important choice to make.”
That choice was how to respond to the challenges of being a young parent.
After graduating high school, Brezinski enrolled at the University of Cincinnati and worked two jobs to pay for his tuition and support his family. Working, going to school and being a young father proved to be a lot for Brezinski and he began to consider other options.
It was at this time that a Navy recruiter at the University of Cincinnati approached Brezinski, based on his Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test scores and enthusiasm for the field of science and engineering. The recruiter encouraged Brezinski to apply to the Navy’s selective Nuclear Power Program.
Brezinski realized the Navy provided him a better opportunity to support his family while continuing his engineering studies, so he discussed the idea with the one person who always counseled him: his father, Robert.
Brezinski’s father agreed that joining the Navy was a good plan, so he set a new course for his future. He enlisted and was accepted into the Nuclear Power Program.
“I realized that you can’t change the way your story begins, but you have the ability to change how it ends,” said Brezinski.
After enlisting, Brezinski married Whitney’s mother, Kimberly. The couple had a second child, Clay, who was born in 1998. While his enlistment took him away from his family, it enabled him to provide for his young family. As a junior sailor, Brezinski had multiple deployments that put a significant strain on his marriage. The couple agreed to have an amicable divorce, but to remain close to the children.
Brezinski first learned about Thomas Edison State College when he was stationed aboard the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower and befriended Aaron Thomlinson, ’02. Watching Thomlinson complete his degree inspired Brezinski to enroll.
Brezinski completed his Bachelor of Science in Applied Science and Technology (BSAST) in nuclear engineering technology in 2004 and earned an Arnold Fletcher Award.
“For any active duty service member, it is almost impossible to sit in a classroom,” he said. “Thomas Edison State College makes it possible to manage a military career and global deployments. You do not have to put your life on hold to finish your degree.”
Brezinski said a key factor that distinguishes Thomas Edison State College from most other institutions is the value it places on the Navy’s Nuclear Power Program. Most institutions award credit for the Navy’s Nuclear Power Program, but require students to apply that credit to electives and lower-level degree requirements. Thomas Edison State College enables students to apply credit awarded for its specialized assessment of the Nuclear Power Program to their area of study, and to the physics and chemistry requirements in the nuclear engineering technology degree program.
Thomas Edison State College has expanded its BSAST program for students interested in an engineering career in the nuclear power industry and now offers the degree with an area of study in nuclear energy engineering technology. The bachelor’s degree in nuclear energy engineering technology was recently awarded initial accreditation by the Engineering Technology Accreditation Commission of ABET.
Brezinski said Thomas Edison State College has been invaluable to his career, preparing him for the future and helping him set an example for his children about the importance of education and reaching their potential.
Shortly after completing his degree, he was selected to the Navy’s senior enlisted ranks as a chief petty officer in 2005. In 2006, he made the decision to apply to the Navy’s radiation health officer program. He received his commission as a lieutenant junior grade in 2007.
Interestingly, approximately 18 of the Navy’s 77 radiation health officers are graduates of Thomas Edison State College’s BSAST degree in nuclear engineering technology.
Brezinski continued his education at the graduate level. He earned a Master of Business Administration from Liberty University, as well as an Executive Education Certificate in Strategy and Innovation from Case Western Reserve University and a Graduate Certificate in Project Management from Boston University, where he also earned a Master of Science in management.
Brezinski remarried in 2003. He and his wife, Laura, have two young children, Evan and Ella, and currently live in Cincinnati.
“I owe a tremendous amount to Laura,” said Brezinski. “Her selfless support and encouragement has allowed me to reach for higher levels of personal and professional achievement.”
In 2008, Brezinski lost another key supporter in life when his father passed away. He said his father watched him and helped him transform from a teenage parent to a naval officer.
In March 2009, Brezinski established the Robert E. Brezinski Foundation in memory of his father. The foundation provides funding and assistance to the poor, distressed and underprivileged.
When he thinks about his life, Brezinski said he often recalls how one life-changing event in 1994 helped define who he has become.
“One of my favorite quotes from Winston Churchill is, ‘A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty,’” he said.