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Currie receives military award for post partnership

By Kelly McHugh | K-STATE ATHLETICS | May 19, 2014

MANHATTAN – Growing up, Kansas State University athletics director John Currie idolized his grandfather.

A World War II veteran, U.S. Army Maj. Farnum Gray landed on the beaches of Normandy June 6, 1944 – D-Day – and lived to tell his grandson all about it.

With wide eyes, a young Currie said he would soak up stories from his grandfather. By the time he finished the fourth grade, Currie had gone through just about every WWII book in his elementary school’s library.

“It was always something that I was interested in, and when I was a kid, I read every WWII book I could get my hands on,” Currie said. “By the time I got out of elementary school, I was fascinated by military history and have had a great appreciation for it.”

That appreciation for the military lasted through college, where Currie graduated with a bachelor’s degree in history from Wake Forest in 1993 – but it didn’t stop there.

Fast forward a few years, and although Currie’s grandfather was not present, his memory lived on April 14, when Currie was presented with the Department of the Army’s Outstanding Civilian Service Award recognizing the partnership between K-State Athletics and Soldiers and families at Fort Riley.

Among the highest awards a civilian can receive by the Department of Defense, the Outstanding Civilian Service award was presented to Currie by Maj. Gen. Paul E. Funk II, commanding general, 1st Infantry Division and Fort Riley.

“It’s clearly an extraordinary and special award, but it’s really an award for our staff, our coaches and student-athletes, who are the ones who make this partnership special,” Currie said. “I believe that as much as Fort Riley says they get out of this partnership, we get far more out of it. Our student-athletes, coaches and staff love the experiences and interaction they get with the young men and women serving our country.”

Nine athletics teams at K-State are partnered with Fort Riley units, and, in Currie’s five years with the university, the partnership has resulted in more than 30 military appreciation events for Soldiers and their families. From camps, where military children with deployed parents can go to work with student-athletes, to the annual military-themed Fort Riley Day at Bill Snyder Family Stadium each fall, K-State and Fort Riley have formed a special bond beneficial for all who are a part of it.

“Our partnerships are so important on the athletics fields,” Funk said, before presenting Currie with his award. “It is a tremendous, tremendous opportunity to share those kinds of lessons. It’s the same age group. We try to treat (Soldiers) like they are world-class athletes out there. We train them that way, even though the facilities aren’t the same.”

Although two different worlds, each group in the partnership – the Soldiers and the student-athletes – has the opportunity to learn about, grow with and appreciate each other on a higher level.

“What they do is they give us a connection to world-class athletics,” Funk said. “We’re able to see a world-class program, reflect on that and then apply those lessons, and, then, we get to bring the (student-athletes) over to our place and show them what we do, too.”

Along with Currie, K-State leaders who also received the Outstanding Civilian Service Award April 14 were Briana Nelson-Goff, K-State’s Human Ecology Department; Daryl Youngman, associate professor, Hale Library; and Todd Holmberg, executive director, McCain Auditorium. Through their own unique ways, each department represented at the ceremony has formed a special bond with Fort Riley, its Soldiers and their families over the years.

“Most significantly, these four leaders at K-State have been in this partnership for the long haul. They have been doing very, very exceptional work for the Army, and, in particular, Fort Riley and its Soldiers and families,” said Art DeGroat, K-State director of Military Affairs.

As DeGroat said, K-State Athletics is in this partnership for the long haul.

And for Currie, having the opportunity to carry on a passion of his at K-State in the memory of his hero, his grandfather, has been a special endeavor.

“He’s the best athletics director in the country,” Funk said. “That’s been pointed out several times – he’s a treasure. He comes from a military background, and he reflects on that. He understands the good values and morals; that’s what drives this program and that’s what drives him.”
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