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Currie Receives Military Award for Ft. Riley Partnership
K-State director of Military Affairs Art DeGroat, K-State president Dr. Kirk Schulz, 1st Infantry Division Major General Paul Funk, K-State Human Ecology's Dr. Briana Nelson-Goff, Director of McCain Auditorium Todd Holmberg, K-State associate professor Daryl Youngman and K-State athletics director John Currie pose for a photo after receiving the Department of the Army's Outstanding Civilian Service Award.
April 20, 2014
By Kelly McHugh
Growing up, K-State Athletics Director John Currie idolized his grandfather.
A World War II veteran, US Army Major Farnum Gray landed on the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944 - D-Day - and lived to tell his grandson all about it.
With wide eyes, a young John Currie would soak up stories from his grandfather. By the time he finished the fourth grade, Currie had gone through just about every World War II book in his elementary school's library.
"It was always something that I was interested in, and when I was a kid I read every World War II book I could get my hands on," explained Currie. "By the time I got out of elementary school, I was fascinated by military history and have had a great appreciation for it."
That appreciation for the military lasted through college where Currie graduated with a bachelor's degree in history from Wake Forest in 1993 - but it didn't stop there.
Fast forward a few years, and though Currie's grandfather was not present, his memory lived on last Monday evening when Currie was presented with the Department of the Army's Outstanding Civilian Service Award recognizing the partnership between K-State Athletics and U.S. Army soldiers and families at Ft. Riley.
Among the highest awards a civilian can receive by the Department of Defense, the Outstanding Civilian Service award was presented to Currie by Ft. Riley's commanding general, the 1st Infantry Division's Major General Paul Funk.
"It's clearly an extraordinary and special award, but it's really an award for our staff, our coaches and student-athletes who are the ones who make this partnership special," said Currie. "I believe that as much as Ft. Riley says they get out of this partnership, we get far more out of it. Our student-athletes, coaches and staff, love the experiences and interaction they get with the young men and women serving our country."
Nine athletics teams at K-State are currently partnered with Ft. Riley units, and, in Currie's five years with the university, the partnership has resulted in more than 30 military appreciation events for soldiers and their families. From camps where military children with deployed parents can go to work with student-athletes to the annual military themed Ft. Riley Day at Bill Snyder Family Stadium each fall, K-State and Ft. Riley have formed a special bond beneficial for all who are a part of it.
"Our partnerships are so important on the athletics fields," explained MG Funk before presenting Currie with his award. "It is a tremendous, tremendous opportunity to share those kinds of lessons. It's the same age group. We try to treat (soldiers) like they are world-class athletes out there. We train them that way even though the facilities aren't the same."
Though two different worlds, each group in the partnership - the soldiers and the student-athletes - have the opportunity to learn about, grow with and appreciate each other on a higher level.
"What they do is they give us a connection to world-class athletics," continued MG Funk. "We're able to see a world-class program, reflect on that and then apply those lessons - and then we get to bring the (student-athletes) over to our place and show them what we do too."
Along with Currie, Kansas State University leaders who also received the Outstanding Civilian Service Award on Monday, April 14, were Dr. Briana Nelson-Goff of K-State's human ecology department, Associate Professor Daryl Youngman of Hale Library and Executive Director of McCain Auditorium Todd Holmberg. Through their own unique ways, each department represented at the ceremony has formed a special bond with Ft. Riley, its soldiers and their families over the years.
"Most significantly, these four leaders at K-State have been in this partnership for the long haul. They have been doing very, very exceptional work for the Army and in particular Ft. Riley and its soldiers and families," said K-State Director of Military Affairs Art DeGroat.
As DeGroat mentioned, K-State Athletics is in this partnership for the long haul. Where the Wildcats have made lasting difference on providing opportunities for soldiers, the soldiers have made a lasting difference on each and every student-athlete, coach and faculty member they come in contact with.
And for Currie, having the opportunity to carry on a passion of his at K-State in the memory of his hero, his grandfather Major Gray, has been a special endeavor.
"He's the best athletics director in the country," MG Funk said. "That's been pointed out several times - he's a treasure. He comes from a military background, and he reflects on that. He understands the good values and morals; that's what drives this program and that's what drives him."