Good news came for an outstanding young Gretna resident!

Senior year and that ultimate, much anticipated day of graduation was a sad disappoint for students all over the country this spring term due to the pandemic.

Eric Gegenheimer put the losses his senior year aside to celebrate the wonderful things that happened to him. He fulfilled a dream when he earned an appointment to the prestigious United States Naval Academy at Annapolis.

Brother Martin High School’s (Navy Junior) NJROTC is a Distinguished Unit with Academic Honors, ranked in the top 25% of schools nationwide. The unit was at the core of Eric’s high school career.  

He also received the coveted Legion of Valor Bronze Cross that was awarded to just 22 of the 90,000 ROTC cadets throughout the country.

“I’m ecstatic and honored to be able to serve my country and community by attending the United States Naval Academy. Service in the Navy has always been a dream of mine,” Eric Gegenheimer, the man of the hour said.

He won’t be “walking” across the stage for his graduation, delayed from the original date of May 22 until July 31 due to Covid-19. Eric must report on July 1 for his Naval Academy commitment starting with six weeks of intensive training in boot camp and then on to college classes.

Brother Martin is trying to schedule a mini-graduation for Eric and a handful of other seniors who will miss the later graduation ceremony due to various circumstances.     

“I can’t tell you how excited I am for Eric to start this journey to the Naval Academy. I hope that his story inspires others in the area to work hard to accomplish their goals no matter what they want to achieve,” his NJROTC Commander Bruce Nolan said.  

“I’ve worked with several students to complete applications to military academies, all quality candidates. Most received nominations, but Eric is the first to actually receive an appointment to a service academy. The selection demonstrates Eric’s work throughout his four years of high school. He wrestled his Freshman year, was on the NJROTC Athletic Team for three years, drill team, academic team, orienteering team and I appointed him to our top leadership position, the Commanding Officer his senior year.”

When Eric arrives at the Academy with his $500,000 scholarship in hand, he plans to begin his studies of political science with an international focus.

Candidates for admission to Annapolis must both submit an application directly to the Academy like to any other college and must also receive a nomination from a member of Congress.  

Eric only needed one congressional nomination to apply. Due to his excellent qualifications, he received four including one each from U.S. Senator John Kennedy, Senator Bill Cassidy, Rep. Cedric Richmond and Commander Bruce Nolan.

The nominations only got him a review of his application by the admissions board that looks at the overall quality of the student. It is extremely competitive. The average student admitted to the Academy has a 28 on the ACT, 3.8 unweighted grade point average, a meaningful leadership position in a club in school and is a varsity athlete.

The board looks for hard-working students with demonstrated leadership and athletic abilities. Students must take a physical fitness test consisting of pushups, pull-ups, sit-ups, a shuttle run and one-mile run all done in succession. A competitive score is 9 pull-ups, 72 sit-ups, 54 pushups and less than a 6:45 one mile run. 

“I served 20 years in the Navy as a helicopter pilot, worked with a lot of amazing people and excellent leaders. Eric truly earned this appointment! Several other teachers at Brother Martin expressed something I had thought while helping him through the application process. We thought that if Eric didn’t get the appointment, we didn’t know who they are looking for as officer material!

“He wasn’t just a member of the clubs and organizations, he actively participated and demonstrated his leadership skills to everything. I don’t know how he did it all. We were amazed with his ability to bring together students from different schools to discuss world events,” Commander Nolan said.  

He had a stellar academic career at Brother Martin, graduating with a 4.45 GPA in the Top 10 in a class of 210. He had taken every honor class offered, amassing 10 advanced placement classes to be applied as college credits.

Eric served as President of the Key Club, organizing events with St. Michael Special School, Second Harvest Food Bank and Animal Rescue New Orleans. 

He was on the Student Council, a Mock Trial Team Attorney and a member of Student Ambassadors, Brothers of the Sacred Heart Leadership Assembly, in the school’s Student Ministry and was a Eucharistic Minister.

Youth in Government is a national program that involves thousands of teens nationwide in state-organized, model-government programs. Eric served as a State Board Member Louisiana chapter, the GNO District Secretary and founded the Brother Martin Chapter of the organization.

Eric was the general assembly presiding officer for Model United Nations and Louisiana State rep for COMA, Conference on National Affairs where he was awarded Distinguished Delegate, representing the top 3% of members in the nation.

He had an interest in government leadership early on, back to when he served on the Jefferson Parish Youth Council while a student at Immaculate Conception Elementary School.

Besides maintaining a hugely busy schedule throughout high school, Eric worked part time along with his dad at the family business, Geg’s Auto Repairs right in the heart of Old Gretna. Eric, is the 6th generation of Gegenheimers who came to Gretna in the 1850’s.  His mother is Katherine Hale Gegenheimer.

“Eric loves living in Gretna. Weekends for us is eating breakfast on Huey P. Long and riding bikes on the levee as we do every couple of days. He’s been training, running two to four times every day from the river to the Westbank Expressway to prepare for the rigors of military life,” his dad, Mark Gegenheimer said.  

The United States Naval Academy, known as USNA, Annapolis or simply Navy is a federal service academy located adjacent to AnnapolisMaryland.

The 338-acre campus is located 33 miles east of Washington, D.C. Known to insiders as “the Yard,” the entire campus is a National Historic Landmark and home to many historic sites, buildings and monuments.

Established in October 1845, it is the second oldest of the five U.S. service academies that educates officers for commissioning into the 

U. S. Navy and U. S. Marine Corps.

Students are officers-in-training, referred to as midshipmen. Tuition for midshipmen is fully funded by the Navy in exchange for a 5-year active duty service obligation upon graduation. It’s a tough, rigorous program! More than 20,000 applicants start the process, 1,200 “plebes” actually enter the Academy, an estimated 1,000 midshipmen graduate, commissioned as ensigns in the Navy or second lieutenants in the Marine Corps.

The academic program grants a Bachelor of Science degree. The United States Naval Academy has some of the highest paid graduates in the country according to starting salary.

Commander Nolan said, “The Naval Academy is a tough program that starts mid-summer. The four years are very structured in order to prepare cadets for military life. Graduate midshipmen have to lead commands, act as mentors, caretakers, leaders, disciplinarians and examples of how to act. I have no doubt that Eric is going to excel in all of these areas and be a great naval officer.”

His proud, but nostalgic dad said, “Eric’s family and friends will miss him terribly. It’s hard to believe that he’ll be attending college at the Naval Academy and then serving in the Navy, so far away from home. It’s a great commitment that makes me proud, but also saddens me since I won’t see him often enough. I always knew that Eric would need a bigger platform to spread his wings. Watch out world, he’s ready to soar!”


Have a story you’d like to share? Contact me here.