Jerry M. Blesch 1960
Something about the Centre experience produces leaders. In almost any profession or civic activity, in almost every community in Kentucky and throughout the nation, you can find Centre alumni setting the course. “Setting the course” is an especially appropriate phrase to use for Jerry M. Blesch, Class of 1960.
Jerry came to Centre from Ft. Thomas, Kentucky. An outstanding student in pre-engineering, Jerry also found time to win a track letter as a half-miler and to become in a leader in the Beta Theta Pi fraternity. His desire to serve and to lead took him from Centre to the Naval Academy, of which he is a 1962 graduate. Though he appreciates his training at the Naval Academy, Jerry has repeatedly said that it was his time at Centre that laid the foundation for the success that he has enjoyed.
During his 30-year military career, Jerry became one of the Navy’s most distinguished officers. He held numerous command positions – the USS R.L. Page, recognized as the Atlantic Fleet’s outstanding ship while under Jerry’s command in 1979; the USS Puget Sound; and commanding officer, Destroyer Squadron 25, Pearl Harbor. In this last position, Jerry was the on-scene commander during the United States’ response to the Soviet downing of Korean Air Lines Flight 007 near Japan in 1983. Jerry also held administrative positions as the assistant director of the Tactical Training Group Atlantic and as executive assistant to the commander, Naval Sea Systems Command. The highlight of Jerry’s naval career came when he was named commanding officer of the USS Wisconsin, one of only four battleships in the world, during its recommissioning and service in the Persian Gulf War. The Navy recognized Jerry’s exceptional service with numerous awards and citations, including the Legion of Merit, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Navy Commendation Medal, the Navy Achievement Medal, and runner-up for the John Paul Jones Leadership Award.
Retirement from the Navy has not meant taking it easy, however. Jerry has been an active alumnus for the Naval Academy, for which he is an area recruiter, and especially for Centre. Jerry has served on the Alumni Association Board of Directors, in the Admission Matching Program, and as a host family for Centre students. Jerry has also worked closely with the Centre Beta chapter, which led to his position of General Secretary, the national chief executive officer of Beta Theta Pi.