By Sherry DiBari

When it comes to civic leadership, Johnny Garcia is on board.

Garcia, in fact, is on countless boards.

He serves on the boards of the Hampton Roads Workforce Council, the Portsmouth Partnership, STARBASE Victory and the Portsmouth Police Department PAL Program. In December, Gov. Glenn Youngkin appointed Garcia to the state's Modeling and Simulation Advisory Council.

He is also vice chair for Small Business at the Hampton Roads Chamber, an advisory board member for the Virginia Modeling, Analysis and Simulation Center (VMASC), president of ODU's Batten College of Engineering & Technology Executive Advisory Board and president of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Coastal Virginia.

For Garcia, community service is his "compass."

"My purpose is to be the difference maker in the personal, family, professional and spiritual lives of enough people to make a positive difference in the world," he explained.

Garcia is founder and CEO of SimIS, Inc., a local and highly successful modeling and simulation company. Robots developed by SimIS, Inc. are included in the Barry Art Museum's exhibition, "Motion/Emotion: Exploring Affect from Automata to Robots," which will be on view from Feb. 10 to Dec. 31.

Last fall, Garcia '11 Ph.D. received the ODU Distinguished Alumni Award.

"As a very active alumni, I am so proud of what we have created at ODU," he said. "The future is great for our community, for industry collaboration and opportunities for our students and faculty."

From Fields to Tech

Garcia couldn't have grown up further from the world of technology.

As the son of Mexican migrant workers, Garcia's first job - even before he was a teenager - was picking cotton with his family in Lubbock, Texas.

A five-year stint in the Navy put him on the track to education, introduced him to modeling and simulation and gave him a permanent home in Hampton Roads.

Garcia worked for more than a dozen years in the industry, advancing to chief technical officer at General Dynamics before founding SimIS, Inc. in 2007.

A life-changing education

Less than two years before founding SimIS Inc., Garcia entered the computational modeling and simulation doctoral program at the Batten College of Engineering and Technology.

"The importance of my experience at ODU is one of the reasons for my success," he said. "A new research center at the VMASC provided me the platform to create SimIS, Inc., my first company, and gave me the tools and skills needed to make my ventures successful. The experience at ODU was life-changing."

Today, he pays back those who helped him along the way. Garcia is noted for hiring veterans - a Virginian-Pilot article noted that more than 85% of SimIS employees are veterans - and ODU graduates.

"Dr. Johnny Garcia has been a passionate supporter, cheerleader and an integral part of the Batten College of Engineering and Technology family, first as a graduate student, now as an alum and a board member," said Khan Iftekharuddin, interim dean of the Batten College. "His energy is infectious and his engagement with ODU has been a force for good."

Garcia can often be found presenting lectures on the importance of education, diversity and entrepreneurship.

"We have to be involved in our community and ODU is my community," he said. "The main reason a community is successful is because we look out for our own."

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