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May 31, 2020

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15 minutes with Jed Marquart

On latin club, track team, and the Betty Crocker award

As this year's graduation fast approaches, the Icon looks to past valedictorians of Bluffton High School to inspire this year's graduates as they set sail on adventures unknown.

Many BHS graduates return to their Bluffton roots; that's what Jed Marquart, valedictorian of the class of 1976, did. After studying at Ohio Northern University, and moving down to Dayton to work for Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, he got a job at ONU and moved back. 

Jed Marquart is currently Professor of Mechanical Engineering at ONU. 

What activities were you involved in as a BHS student? Feel free to include all your extra-curricular activities, even if they're from church or other organizations, not just school.
Latin Club, Student Activities for Education (Future Teachers), BHS Choir, District III Choir, Choir and Ensemble Competition, National Honor Society, BHS Track Team, Missionary Youth Fellowship (youth group at the Missionary Church), Campus Life, Campus Life Basketball.  I also worked at Bixel Ford part time.

What of the above were your favorite(s)? Why was it your favorite?  Are you still doing any part of that activity now?
Latin Club and the track team were very enjoyable.  Mrs. Weaver made Latin fun by teaching the history or the Roman Empire as well as the language.  Track was a great sport because we got to meet a lot of people as well as compete.  I met my college roommate by running hurdles against him.  But, I gave up hurdling quite a few years ago!  I am still very involved with my church, which is now Ebenezer Mennonite Church.  I teach an adult class, and serve on the Board of Deacons.

What was your least favorite class from high school?
I don’t think I had better go there.  Let’s just say that there is something to be learned from every class.  On the other hand, besides Latin, I really enjoyed Calculus (Mr. Herr), and Physics and Chemistry (Mr. Brown).  There are many great stories about things that happened in Mr. Brown’s class.  Most of them would not be permitted today!

What achievement(s), if anything, are you most proud of from your high school career? Did you get the academic award for any classes? Were you part of a winning sports team?
Our track team was pretty much a perennial powerhouse in the mid-70s.  We always did very well in the conference, as well as at the Ada Relays, Toledo Blade Relays, etc.

When we were asked to take the various scholastic tests, I took the Freshman Science exam.  I was pretty surprised that I placed fourth in the Bowling Green District, and twelfth in State.  Mr. Bruskotter was very happy!

At the beginning of my senior year, I received a nomination to the U.S. Air Force Academy from our Congressman.  I later turned that down to attend Ohio Northern University.  

A classmate and I were nominated to attend the “Presidential Classroom for Young Americans” in Washington, D.C.  That was the first time that I had ever flown and stayed in a hotel. 

Then, in the spring of my senior year, I took Home Economics.  We had to take a national exam one day, and it turned out that I received the “Betty Crocker Homemaker of the Year Award” at Bluffton for the year.  So, on Awards Day at the high school, when all the other guys were going down front to receive their awards for “Most Valuable Senior Athlete” and the like, I received my Betty Crocker award.  Embarrassing at the time, but it makes for interesting conversation now.

Did you just survive gym class or did you thrive there?
Let’s just say that I did not exactly look forward to gym class.  Most of the activities were pretty fun, but things could get out of hand pretty quickly.

Where are you now? Did you go to college, what did you study, what do you do for a living, etc? Married? Kids?
I received a Bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering from Ohio Northern University, and then Master's and PhD degrees in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Dayton.  

After I graduated from ONU, I worked for a consulting engineering firm in Findlay for four years, and then moved to Dayton to work at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base for seven years.  I did my graduate school work while I was working full-time at Wright-Patterson.  Then, a faculty position opened up at ONU in my area (thermal sciences), and my wife, Theresa, and three sons and I moved back to Bluffton to accept the position.  It was great to come back to Bluffton!  

I am just finishing my 28th year as a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at ONU.  In addition to that position, I became the Director of the NASA Ohio Space Grant Consortium a few years ago.  That all keeps me pretty busy.  I love teaching and doing research!  I have truly been blessed to have a vocation that permits me to do what I love to do, and also to be able to work with and influence our young people.  It is a joy to see them go on to achieve great things!

Our sons are now grown, and two of them are married.  One son is an engineer, one an attorney, and one a pharmacist.  They each found what they really enjoy doing.  We have two granddaughters, and love being grandparents!

What advice do you have for the BHS graduates of 2019? What would you tell your newly-graduated self, as you left the high school building after graduation day?
First of all, seek God’s guidance and ask Him to lead you on your path.  Then, be prepared to work hard to achieve your goals as you follow Him.  I know it sounds pretty cliche, but anything worth having is worth working hard to achieve.  If you work hard now, you can enjoy the benefits of that work later.  If you choose to relax and take it easy now, you will pay for that later.  Find a career that you really enjoy!  You have to go to work every day, so find a vocation that you can get up and enjoy every day, and not dread it!

Please note, Marquart was one of six "honor" students, who were the six top students of the class of 1976. 

This is part of series; if you would like to read previous interviews in this series, click here.