A generous gift to the College from the John J. Pohanka Family Foundation has established the Brian C. Pohanka Fellows Program. Administered by the Gettysburg College Civil War Institute, the program provides stipends to offset living expenses for Gettysburg College students interning at National Park Service historic sites.
Brian Pohanka, born in 1955, was a graduate of Sidwell Friends School in Washington and Dickinson College, where he majored in history. He had a passion for 19th and 20th century military history, becoming a leading authority on the Battle of Little Bighorn. He loved Civil War reenacting. The Fellows, named in honor of Pohanka, are a fitting tribute to his legacy.
Read what these students, who interned at Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park in 2011, said about their experiences:
"We had a duty and a job to do, which was to make the American story accessible to the public. Visitors came to me with the name, state, and regiment of one of their ancestors and asked me what I could tell them about that person. Seeing the personal and emotional connections that are made when we can provide a shred of information for a visitor, and knowing that I had something to do with putting those pieces together, is an experience that is unparalleled."
- Mary Roll '12, English major and history and Civil War Era studies minor
"I enjoyed the fast-paced nature of the Fredericksburg Visitor Center, as it gave me the opportunity to talk to over 200 people a day, give formal tours that I developed with my own theme, and help visitors have a great battlefield experience,"
"This showed me what working in public history is like through hands-on experiences. Being able to educate visitors about the sites, hear their stories, and discuss these events with my colleagues was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life."
"I feel like I've found my future career."
- Becky Oakes '13, a history major and Civil War Era studies minor from Conneaut, Ohio
"I liked working at the Fredericksburg Visitor Center because I gave a tour of an iconic part of the battlefield, while still offering my own take on a place many visitors know well. However, at the Jackson Shrine (the house where Confederate General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson died), I got to interact with some of the most interesting visitors in the park, ranging from Jackson-lovers to the equally passionate Jackson-critics."
- Brian Johnson '14, a history and environmental studies double major, a member of the 11th Pennsylvania Fife and Drum Corps, and CWI research assistant from Saline, Mich.
"Both Prof. Michael Birkner's historical methods class and Prof. Peter Carmichael's insights on public history proved extremely valuable as I interacted with visitors."
"While I can't tell you with one hundred percent certainty what my future will look like, I'm hoping to put on the green and grey uniform with the ‘Smokey the Bear hat' next summer. This internship exposed me to many paths that the Park Service has to offer and has opened up options for my future, while reaffirming that I am headed in the right direction."
- Tricia Runzel '13, a history major and English minor from Elgin, Ill.