Four alumni to be inducted into Purdue ROTC Hall of Fame

April 10, 2025  


WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Four ROTC alumni will be inducted Saturday (April 11) into the Purdue University Reserve Officer's Training Corps Hall of Fame.

The annual induction ceremony honors distinguished graduates from the Air Force, Army, Marine and Navy ROTC programs at Purdue. The event, which is free and open to the public, will take place at 2 p.m. in the Purdue Armory. The 1950s and 1960s Purdue Drill Team, which won six national championships and performed at the White House for former President John F. Kennedy, will perform.

Inductees include the late Air Force Capt. Joel C. Gentz, retired Army 2nd Lt. Robert L. Janson, retired Air Force Col. Daniel H. McGrath and retired Army Col. William H. Shook.

* Capt. Joel C. Gentz graduated from Purdue in 2007 with a bachelor's degree in aerospace engineering. He was the outstanding senior in his aerospace engineering class, the 2006 United States Air Force Cadet of the Year and he became the first Air Force ROTC cadet to enter the Air Force Special Operations Combat Rescue Officer program. Gentz deployed to Afghanistan in 2010 as part of the 58th Expeditionary Rescue Squadron in Kandahar, Afghanistan. While leading an effort to assist a wounded British soldier, the helicopter carrying Gentz and his rescue team was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade, causing the helicopter to crash. Five soldiers, including Gentz, were killed in the crash. During his deployment, he led a team that flew on 84 combat sorties, conducted 48 assists and saved 39 lives. His numerous military awards include the Purple Heart (posthumously) and Air Medal with Valor with four oak leaf clusters.

* Second Lt. Robert L. Janson graduated from Purdue in 1953. He served as an adjutant in the intelligence office for the 508th and 337th Field Artillery battalions at Camp Polk, Louisiana. In 1954, Janson attended airborne training at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, followed by helicopter pilot training at Fort Rucker, Alabama. After leaving the Army, he worked at Gould, Inc., Ernst and Young, and as an independent management consultant specializing in materials management and manufacturing projects. He has over 40 years experience as a manufacturing manager, systems designer, researcher and instructor in management techniques and has written three books on materials management.

* Col. Daniel H. McGrath graduated from Purdue in 1956 with a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering. After receiving pilot training and his initial fighter tour, he earned a master's degree in astronautics engineering from the Air Force Institute of Technology. McGrath then helped with the development of the YF-12 interceptor version of SR-71 Blackbird and also worked as director for research, development and testing of the aircraft's armament system. He commanded the 347th Tactical Fighter Wing Command Post in Korea after the capture of the USS Pueblo by North Korea in 1968 and then flew C-141 heavy lift transport aircraft during the War in Vietnam. McGrath then worked in research and development of the Air Force F-15 Eagle. Following his retirement from the Air Force in 1984, he joined Northrop Corp. and helped develop the B-2.

* Col. William H. Cook graduated from Purdue in 1958. He served as an aeronautical engineer in research and development of military aviation from 1958 to 1960. Cook then left active duty to serve in the U.S. Army Reserve Control Group, in aeronautical engineering and transportation. He retired from the Air Force in 1995. In his civilian career, Shook worked from 1960-1962 managing the AvSER Crash Test program in Phoenix. He then joined Douglas Aircraft, which became McDonnell Douglas and was purchased by Boeing in 1997, where he worked until retiring in 1999. When he retired, Shook was senior technical specialist for cabin safety. He also worked in several capacities for the Federal Aviation Administration.

The Purdue ROTC Hall of Fame was established in 1974 to honor graduates who exhibit the leadership, integrity, moral courage and self-discipline that the ROTC program seeks to develop. Originally established for graduates of the Army ROTC program only, the hall of fame was expanded in 1999 to include distinguished alumni of Purdue's Navy and Air Force ROTC programs. Nominees are evaluated based on their service to the nation and the community and outstanding leadership in business, government, education or other professional fields.

Photos of previous Hall of Fame honorees are displayed on the first floor of the Purdue Armory.

Writer: Greg McClure, 765-496-9711, gmcclure@purdue.edu

Source: David Tate, ROTC Hall of Fame chair, 765-413-5711, dgtate@purdue.edu 

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