A Marquette University High School teacher has been selected to travel overseas to study the path of a fallen World War II hero.
Chris Lese is one of only eighteen picked for the prestigious program. The history teacher’s lesson plans are often hands-on and in-depth. The architect turned educator says his journey to a free trip of a lifetime started in the classroom.
"I really owe being a participant in this program called "Understanding Sacrifice" due to my students, my freshmen last year," he said.
Those students learned about World War II by researching the paths of the fallen soldiers listed on a plaque inside their own halls. The special memorial has 44 names of graduates turned World War II heroes engraved in bronze.
“From that, we came up with a really fascinating story of one soldier, John Fitzsimmons," Lese said.
Fitzsimmons graduated from Marquette Academy more than a century ago. He fought in both World War I and World War II. He died in China and was buried in the Pacific.
"The more we researched and dug into that the more pretty amazing his story became," added Lese.
Lese soon realized how engaged students became in the Marquette connection.
"It's so recent where they have grandparents or great grandparents, some connection where they're able to follow with it," said Lese.
Lese took the project one step further by writing a scholarly article about Fitzsimmons. The National History Day organization liked it so much they asked him to do it again.
"I was really excited and proud to be able to follow in their footsteps of these fallen heroes," Lese said.
The program is a year a half long, although he won't be missing any time in the classroom. Lese's travels will take place next summer then he will write an article on his studies to present around the state and at a national conference.