Jonathan Jeffries, a recent graduate of East Carolina University’s College of Nursing, was named a Distinguished Graduate at his Air Force ROTC commissioning ceremony in December.
The honor is given to the top 10 percent of the Air Force ROTC graduating class nationwide, which this year included 1,815 graduates from 144 detachments. The award is predicated on success and leadership in academics, ROTC and in the community.
“I think he’s the whole person concept as far as what we would need as a leader,” said Lt. Col. Roxane Engelbrecht, Jeffries’ commanding officer who nominated him for the award. “He is physically fit and he excels academically — those are the first two things. The third is leadership quality and his ability to lead groups of people, not only in the Air Force and Air Force ROTC, but his demonstrated leadership at the university is somewhat unparalleled by most cadets.”
Jeffries was the College of Nursing’s fall 2016 senior class president. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science in nursing in December with a 3.89 GPA. He helped to organize a relief effort to aid Greenville flood victims following Hurricane Matthew in the fall of 2016. He also spearheaded his class’s efforts to raise money for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society during the 2016 Walk MS fundraiser.
Engelbrecht has nominated five cadets for the award since she came to ECU in 2014. Of those, Jeffries is one of four to have been selected as a recipient.
“It was a huge shock and a huge honor,” Jeffries said of the award, which came in the form of a sabre Engelbrecht presented him at the ceremony. “I’m not one to care about being recognized, but when it does happen it’s definitely nice to see all the effort and all the hard work you’ve put in – throughout your time either with ROTC or at the College of Nursing – be recognized. It was a surreal moment. It was probably one of the best days of my life so far.”
Prior to attending ECU, Jeffries served in the U.S. Marine Corps for three and a half years, but separated from that branch after being injured in pre-deployment training.
Jeffries plans to make a career as an Air Force nurse. He will go to Arizona in February for the Air Force’s 10-week nursing training before being stationed at Eglin Air Force base in Florida.
-by Natalie Sayewich