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Following a distinguished 40-year career in the field of military voluntary education, Dr. John Gantz made a significant contribution to ESU to help undergraduate students in need.
By Susan Field
East Stroudsburg University gave Dr. John Gantz the opportunity to succeed.
College wasn't easy for Gantz, a 1963 graduate, as he
balanced multiple jobs with his coursework. When he graduated with a degree
in geography, he felt great pride in his achievement and more
importantly—the inspiration to continue to succeed.
Gantz went on to lead a long and distinguished career in the field of
military voluntary education, earned his doctorate degree, and was
appointed Chief of Troops to Teachers, a Department of Defense program, a
position he held for more than 12 years.
Gantz's desire to provide students the opportunity to succeed in college
without the financial burden led to consistent donations to ESU over the
years, and a $50,000 contribution to the ESU Foundation in 2019 to
establish a Charitable Gift Annuity.
"My success at ESU gave me the ingredients to be successful at other
things. If my contribution can help other students be successful, then it's
well worth the contribution," said Gantz, a member of The 1893 Society, and
recipient of the Alumni Association Distinguished Alumni Award in 2008.
"ESU gave me the opportunity to start my career, and I wanted to contribute
to help other people do the same."
Growing up in Shrewsbury in York County, about five miles from the Maryland
border, Gantz was one of three children. His grandmother taught at a
one-room schoolhouse in a nearby rural town. Gantz remembers going to the
schoolhouse and thinking that teaching would be a good career to pursue one
When it was time for Gantz to enroll in college, he looked for a good
teacher's college and decided upon ESU. He majored in geography because
after living during World War II and the Korean War, he was fascinated with
the world and wanted to learn more.
Gantz had to pay his own way through college and found it challenging to
balance school and working multiple jobs to make ends meet.
He worked as a garbage collector on Saturday mornings, in the auditorium on
campus managing the lighting for plays and events, and had several other
jobs, including as a waiter and bartender.
Gantz has great memories of Eugene "Puffer" Martin, the dean of men, Dr.
Harold Creveling, one of his best geography professors, and Sumner F.
Bossler Jr., the business manager on campus, who helped Gantz and nine
others start Sigma Pi, Beta-Psi Chapter, the first nationally recognized
Greek social fraternity at ESU, in 1961.
"The idea of establishing a social fraternity on campus was because
everyone went home on weekends at that time—unless there was a football
game. We wanted to create more of a social life on campus," Gantz said.
"Getting it established was an interesting experience. There was a lot of
opposition. Mr. Bosler had a great deal of influence helping us show the
administration that it was a good idea."
Gantz, who resides in Towson, Md., still stays in touch with his fraternity
brothers. He returned to ESU for Homecoming this fall, attended the Alumni
Dinner, and visited the Sigma Pi fraternity house.
Soon after graduating from ESU, Gantz was drafted into the Army. After
serving in the infantry for two years at Fort Dix, N.J., he taught math and
science to disadvantaged students at the Job Corps in New Jersey.
Gantz continued his civil service career as an education counselor with the
U.S. Army Continuing Education System (ACES) at Fort Belvoir, Va. In this
role, he helped those in the military and their spouses finish their high
school education, apply to colleges, and plan toward a civilian career.
Over the next 20 years, as education advisor to military personnel and
their spouses, Gantz worked on military bases around the world in South
Korea; Washington, D.C.; Vicenza, Italy; Atlanta, Ga.; Heidelberg, Germany;
and Pensacola, Fla. He held the titles of education specialist, Director of
Education, U.S. Army Southern European Task Force, and Deputy Director of
the Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support (DANTES), among
"They were delightful experiences," said Gantz of living abroad. "Italy, in
particular, is such a fabulous country. The food was amazing and the people
were great. I still stay in touch with my neighbors there."
While living in Germany in the mid-1980s, Gantz began his doctorate of
education degree through the University of Southern California, which sent
professors to the military bases. He completed his degree in 1992 after six
months studying on campus in Los Angeles, California.
In 1993, Gantz was appointed chief of the new Troops to Teachers program, a
national initiative that focused on providing training to retiring and
separating military personnel to begin second careers as public school
teachers. The program was so successful that Gantz became nationally
recognized as an expert in teaching as a second career for adults. His work
was acknowledged by then First Lady Laura Bush, a former teacher, who took
interest in the program. Bush collaborated with Gantz to gain public
support for Troops to Teachers.
"I accompanied her on a number of trips to bases," Gantz said. "She was
really valuable in helping promote the program and have it accepted by the
public education community."
For Gantz, who has been retired since 2015, giving back to ESU feels full
"I struggled through college. If I can provide some funding to help others
who are struggling, then it's worth it," Gantz said. "I'm glad the money is
being used for a good purpose."
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