Alumni Speaker Series: Sharing Invaluable Professional and Personal Insight with Students Looking Toward Their Futures

St. Charles was proud to welcome back on of its own on Wednesday, January 8, when Lt. Col. (RET) John Eichner ’82 flew in from Washington, D.C. to speak with students about his life-long career as an engineer and program manager involved in the design, development, and launch of satellite and booster system for the National Security Space Systems Programs.

St. Charles alumni are a vast reservoir of  role models who have succeeded in every walk of life, chosen profession and vocation. Leveraging this fact, St. Charles initiated the Carolian Speaker Series. Each month, the school invites a St. Charles alumnus  grateful for their St. Charles experience back to campus. They speak with current students about their profession, as well as how St. Charles strengthened their path and how faith played a role in their life.

Over his career, which began in The Ohio State University’s Air Force R.O.T.C program, John has worked on such diverse projects as AWACS and B1-Bomber radar systems, the Atlas Rocket program, and as Anomaly Team Chief on the Titan IV booster team for the launch of the Cassini space-craft to Saturn. Additionally, he has been involved with classified projects (I tried asking “which ones” but  he couldn’t say) at the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center in Los Angeles, Cape  Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and in the Office of the Under Secretary of the Air Force at the Pentagon. All the while, going back to school to earn additional degrees.

The knowledge, faith and experience our alumni share face-to-face with our students is a truly invaluable resource for these young men looking toward the future.  What do I want to do with my life? What profession do I wish to pursue? How do I start…how do I get there from here? Students gain insights, guidance and encouragement that they can use toward charting their own professional paths. A series speaker also provides someone with whom students can continue to stay in touch with to help answer questions and provide insights moving forward.

The Lieutenant Colonel told the boys that at St. Charles he always worked to try and get “A’s”, though he was not a 4.0 student. Math was a subject that was difficult for him. He often worked after class with mathematics teacher Msgr. F. Thomas Gallen ’40 as he knew back in his time at St. Charles that he wanted to be involved with space. “Monsignor was a great example of a Catholic priest, a Catholic man, and a caring teacher,” he said.

He told the boys that it was in college at OSU that everything began making sense (especially in Calculus!), thanks to the hard work he had put in during his four years at St. Charles. He also credits the “work ethic that (former Principal and faculty member) Mr. (Dominic) Cavello ’64 instilled in us every day during freshman year Latin which  helped shape my study habits.”

Lt. Col. Eichner shared his “Path” with the young men, spelling it out on one of his PowerPoint slides:

-Focus on Christ, for He will give you the strength and guidance to exceed your challenges. Always pray, but not for what you want, but that God will guide you to the place you are meant to be. Always remember to give Him thanks!

It takes hard work: Always go the extra mile, sweat the details and continue pursuing education your whole life. Here at St. Charles, you will gain time management skills and learn how study.

Create and take advantage of opportunities.

The speaker series was initiated by former faculty member Jeff Pharion ’86, is now coordinated through the Religion Department’s Michael Welsch with the help of guidance officer and college liaison Col. David Breckenridge (USAF, RET). Over the last year, students have benefited from hearing from a number of other speakers, including: Brent Merriman ’99 of Virginia (FBI/Law Enforcement), Greg Billhardt ’88 (Business and Manufacturing), Dr. James Donley ’61 from Madisonville, Kentucky (Orthopedic Surgeon), Sam Hoffman ’58 from New Jersey (Retail Business), Nathan Estep ’96  from New York (Early Childhood Education/consultant with Gov. John Kasich for “Jobs Ohio) and most recently, Fr. Mike Lumpe ’78 (Vice Chancellor for the Diocese of Columbus and Vice Rector of the College of Liberal Arts at the Pontifical College Josephinum).

John was honored in November by the school with its “Distinguished Alumnus Award.” He served as an officer in the U.S. Air Force for more than 20 years, most of those as an engineer and program manager on projects involving the design, development, and launch of satellite and booster system for the National Security Space Systems Programs. After retiring in 2009, he has continued in this same line of work, now with The Aerospace Corporation (the only federally funded research and development center committed exclusively to the space enterprise. Its technical experts span every discipline of space-related science and engineering.) in Leesburg, VA, as a senior project engineer. He earned a B.S. in aeronautical and astronautical engineering from The Ohio State University and a master’s degree engineering management from West Coast University (Los Angeles), along with a number of other military degrees.

Our most sincere appreciation to our alumni who are always willing to “give back and pay forward” and serve as “their brother’s keeper.”


(Photo, right: Students share their appreciation with Lt. Col. (RET) Eichner ’82).


St. Charles Preparatory School
2010 E Broad St.
Columbus, OH 43209
Phone: (380) 209-2222


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