Marine Veteran Finds Support, Success at KUEC
When KU Edwards Campus Student Services Coordinator Lisa Browning first met Jimmy Gentile at new student orientation, the first thing she noticed was his positivity. “From the minute I met him, he was one of the most positive people I've ever met,” Browning said.
That positivity is something Gentile, a Marine Corps veteran and 2018 Master of Science in Information Technology graduate, has had tested in his life. In April 2004, while serving with the Marines in Ramadi, Iraq, Gentile was struck by gunfire that shattered his jaw and severed an artery, among other injuries. It took more than 40 surgeries to help him heal. Now retired from the Marines and married with four children, Gentile completed his MSIT degree in December.
But despite all that, Browning says, Gentile maintains a proactive approach. “Even when there are situations or barriers that come up, he's always very positive about looking for a solution, instead of being negative about the problem,” Browning said.
As a software engineer at Cerner, Gentile started his degree to further his career. “Information Technology is an ever-growing industry that you must continuously improve your knowledge of to stay up to date,” Gentile said. “When I learned of the MSIT program at KU, I did some research and determined it was a perfect fit for me. I’m a KU alumnus and wanted to pursue my master’s at my alma mater.”
Gentile says he attributes his accomplishments in and out of the classroom to his desire to keep learning and growing. “I strongly believe that being a lifelong learner is key to success,” he said. “Continuing my education has helped me learn a lot more about the industry and tactics to improve myself and those around me.”
Browning says Gentile’s dedication in many areas of his life continues to impress her. “I've met so many veterans, and there's so much I could say about so many of them. They're so proud to be a veteran,” Browning said. “Jimmy is also proud to be a dad, to be a husband, to be a student.”
As a veteran, Gentile says that resources such as the recently opened Veteran and Student Leadership Lounge and approachable staff members like Browning have also been an important part of his educational experience. “KU and KUEC do a great job recognizing veterans and helping us in our goals as students,” Gentile said. “I have always been able to go to Lisa for anything, and she has been an amazing friend to myself and other veterans. Having someone who veterans feel comfortable talking to is key to their success.”
KU, which is ranked among the top five best schools in the country for veterans by Military Times, currently serves more than 1,440 military-affiliated students. Browning, who worked to create the dedicated space for veterans and KUEC student leadership to meet and study, says she finds Gentile’s diligence and commitment inspiring, as well as the hard work of other veteran students she’s met at KUEC.
“Being able to open the veterans lounge and get that space dedicated has taken a long time. But meeting veterans like Jimmy made me want to go for it even more, just to be able to give back to them, because they give so much for us,” Browning said.
Top photo: KU graduate, KUEC Master of Science in Information Technology student and Marine Corps veteran Jimmy Gentile holds the bullet he was shot with and his Purple Heart. This photograph is part of Hope 22, a Kansas City-based photography project showcasing the personal stories of veterans and active duty personnel. An exhibit featuring this image and others is on view at the Spencer Museum of Art at the KU campus in Lawrence through Nov. 18, 2018. Photo by Steve Gibson/Hope 22.