Andrew Loerch, Professor and Associate Chair of the Department of Systems Engineering and Operations Research, will retire this June after 22 years at George Mason.

In This Story

People Mentioned in This Story
Body

Andy is one of the few Mason faculty members with a military background, having served as an Army Colonel prior to making the leap to academics. He has 26 years of active federal service under his belt, of which 15 were spent as a military operations research analyst.  

An ROTC grad, he made company commander as a First Lieutenant relatively quickly, which opened up an opportunity to go to graduate school. After that, “I did a tour here in Washington and went to Germany. When I was in Germany, I got a letter reading, ‘Congratulations, you’ve been selected for fully-funded graduate school,’ which was surprising since I didn’t ask for it and since I’d already been. It turned out it was for a Ph.D. In the army they only give you three years for it, and that’s hard.”  

This gave him a taste for a career in academe. Thinking he would retire as a Lieutenant Colonel; he began applying for academic jobs. “I applied for about 20 positions all around the Northeast. Do you know how many interviews I got? Zero!” After an unexpected promotion to Colonel and a few more years in the service, he received a call from Mason. “They said a lot of their students were military, government employees, defense contractors, etc. and they wanted to offer some classes in defense analysis.” Despite being “old” at the time for a new faculty member, he welcomed the opportunity. “It’s been a great second career.”  

“Andy was an outstanding teacher, a trusted mentor to numerous students, a researcher who brought in millions of dollars in funding, and an esteemed leader in the Military Operations Society,” said Ariela Sofer, Interim Divisional Dean for Engineering at the Volgenau School of Engineering. “Above all, I am indebted to him for his fourteen years of dedication and support service as my Associate Chair. He always took on departmental obligations, whether they involved big-picture matters or minute details, whether they were carefully planned activities or urgent crises. I am eternally grateful for his dedication, hard work, sage advice, and sense of humor.”  

Looking back at career highlights at Mason Andy says that, “Part of my job was the care and feeding of our military students. I advised every single one of them and many of them have gone on to be leaders in the defense analysis field.” In addition, he is proud of some of the department’s funded work, citing an important study on how the presence of women in military units impacts the units’ effectiveness.   

Andy is also a principal bassoonist of the Manassas Symphony Orchestra. “I was a clarinet player in elementary school and when I showed up at the beginning of sixth grade the music teacher said, ‘You’re going to play this,” and gave me a bassoon, which was about the same height as I was.” After getting away from it for many years, once his son began playing the clarinet Andy picked the bassoon up again, eventually having a teacher who was connected to the MSO, which led to his placement there. His wife is also musically talented and in fact is the principal flautist for the Orchestra.      

In retirement he plans to stay fit with pickle ball and cycling. He has consultant agreements that will keep him busy professionally, and intends at some point to come back and teach a handful of classes at Mason.