[EDITOR'S UPDATE: John D. Jovan, III ’16 will graduate on May 15, 2016, with summa cum laude honors as a member of the Liberal Arts Honors Program. He will be commissioned as a U.S. Army second lieutenant on May 13, 2016, and will be stationed with the 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Stewart, Georgia. He has been chosen to receive the Col. J. Gardner Conway ’36 Alumni Sabre award, given to the ROTC cadet who achieves the highest standing in the cadet corps in terms of military aptitude, moral character, scholastic achievement, and leadership potential.
"Providence College has had a profound impact on my development as both a student and a future Army Officer," reflected Jovan. "The professors at PC show true interest in the development of their students. I do not think you can find another place with the family atmosphere of PC, combined with the education and development that the faculty and staff show toward the students. The experiences I have had, friends I have made, and lessons I have learned at PC have prepared me to take the next step in my life after college."]
A fourth-year member of the College’s Army ROTC Patriot Battalion, Jovan scored an unprecedented honor among battalion comrades past and present this fall when he received the Legion of Valor Bronze Cross for Achievement Award at a campus ceremony.
Jovan is the first military science student in the 64-year history of the Patriot Battalion to earn the Legion of Valor honor. He is one of just eight award recipients nationally from a pool of approximately 5,300 eligible students. He was chosen the top cadet from among 784 eligible cadets in the U.S. Army Cadet Command’s 2nd Brigade — which is the largest of eight ROTC brigades nationally and which encompasses 42 ROTC programs in the Northeast.
Presented by the Legion of Valor of the United States of America, Inc., the Bronze Cross for Achievement Award is bestowed to outstanding cadets who have completed at least three years of military science education and training. Nominees must be in the top 25 percent in undergraduate and ROTC grades and demonstrate exceptional military and academic leadership.
A biology major whose chief academic interest is cellular and molecular biology, Jovan is a member of the College’s Liberal Arts Honors Program. His teacher in his Histology and Cytology course, Rev. Mark D. Nowel, O.P., associate professor of biology, said he is the top student in the course. On one lab exam this semester, Jovan correctly named every single microscopical structure, said Father Nowel, who is also the dean of undergraduate and graduate studies.
“He always knows the answers to the questions I pepper my students with,” he said. “John is such a well-rounded young man: bright, patriotic, strong, hard-working, focused, and dedicated.”
Jovan also has racked up some impressive leadership credentials since his sophomore year. He has served as a team leader, a squad leader, a platoon sergeant, a first sergeant, and is the Patriot Battalion’s Ranger Company commander for the Ranger Challenge, a grueling physical fitness competition that annually involves more than 40 schools.
Jovan said he didn’t think much about the Legion of Valor honor when he was nominated last spring. He was more focused on summer training at Fort Knox in Kentucky and Fort Bliss in Texas, he said.
“Still, it’s a great honor for myself and the battalion,” he said. “It speaks highly of the quality training in the battalion. We have quality officers.”
The Patriot Battalion’s top officer, Lt. Col. Kevin R. Kugel, commander and professor of military science, tried to put Jovan’s selection for the Legion of Valor Award in context. The battalion’s 86-member cadet corps is a hard-working, close-knit, and supportive group, but Jovan is special, he said.
“Our benchmark is, ‘Will they be ready to lead a platoon, 30 to 40 soldiers of all backgrounds?’ To a person, we’ve said that John could have graduated the first day of class this year and not just be good, but outstanding,” said Kugel.
Jovan stood out from the start of his freshman year, continued Kugel. He was entrenched in military science and service, and he has continued to stop by the ROTC office in Alumni Hall to seek out the advice and camaraderie of the battalion staff and older cadets. Jovan’s dedication and talent are distinct, he said.
This fall’s Ranger Challenge was a prime example of Jovan’s capabilities and work ethic, said Kugel. Jovan assembled the team along with the assistance of a few other senior cadet, holding trials for 25 candidates in August and whittling the group to eight men and one woman. For one month before the competition in New Jersey in October, Jovan directed a rugged training regimen that Kugel said was harder than what Division I student-athletes endure.
The team, which included Jovan, practiced 1½ hours in the morning five days a week on campus and two to three hours on weekends at Camp Fogarty in southern Rhode Island and at Bryant University.
PC finished 13th among 42 schools in the two-day competition — an outstanding performance in Kugel’s view considering the College is one of the smaller schools and annually goes up against schools like Pennsylvania State University, which has approximately 300 cadets. On the first day, teams ran 14 miles in full combat gear and were required to perform skills and technical tasks for nearly five miles of the competition.
On the second day, again starting before sunrise, teams ran another seven miles with their gear on — and had 170 pounds of sandbags added to their load for the last three miles. PC was 26th at the start of the day but finished third.
“It was a great showing under John. They get to that point because of his physical and technical training,” said Kugel.
Kugel added that he knows PC will finish in the top 10 of the Ranger Challenge next year because of the standard Jovan and company commanders before him have set. “He’s been a great example for his peers. He’s calm and coolheaded, and he portrays that confidence we are looking for in a leader,” he said.
Jovan, whose great-grandfather served in the Pacific in World War II, said that since high school, he has always wanted “to do something that tested me and made me a better person.” He is “not one to sit back” and enjoys the challenge of leading others, he said. At Southbridge High School, he was a captain of the football team, president of the senior class, and a member of the National Honor Society.
In his senior year, he applied to West Point, but an overnight admission trip to PC convinced him that “this was the type of community I was looking for. It felt like a family.”
After he graduates next May and becomes commissioned as a second lieutenant, Jovan looks forward to serving in the Army’s Infantry for several years with an ultimate goal of working in military intelligence. He’s always been enamored with the CIA and the FBI, and he feels Army experience could help him transition to a civilian career in intelligence.
He remains forever grateful for the education and support he has received at PC.
“The ROTC staff and the College have played an integral part in my development. The credit goes to them. I wouldn’t be where I am without them,” he said.