Hometown: Ringoes, N.J.
Homeland Security (M.S.), Class of 2012
Jason Read’s story is one of unwavering dedication, representing his country proudly at moments of great triumph and unimaginable tragedy.
Long before he enrolled in Saint Joseph’s University’s graduate program for homeland security, Read was already leading a life of service to others.
A volunteer rescue squad chief from the age of 21, Read received a call on the morning of September 11th, 2001, to report to Jersey City as part of an emergency taskforce of ambulances shortly after the first plane hit the World Trade Center.
Late that evening, his team arrived at Ground Zero.
“It was cataclysmic,” Read says. “Fire trucks were turned over and ripped apart. It was the closest thing I can imagine to a nuclear winter: everything was white from pulverized building materials.”
The experience deeply affected Read, who took time from his undergraduate studies at Temple University to find balance in his life.
While he continued his volunteer service, Read focused on another of his life’s driving forces: sports.
Almost three years after the attacks, Read, an elite rower, represented his country proudly once again: this time, bringing home Olympic gold as part of the men’s eight team at the 2004 Athens games.
“It was completely sublime,” Read says of crossing the finish line. “To represent our country as an Olympian is the highest civilian honor. And to do it in Athens where it all began 2,000 years ago, that was electrifying.”
After his team’s victory, there was no resting. Read traveled the country extensively promoting the virtues of the Olympic movement and its importance in a post-9/11 world. He worked closely with the USO to bring the Olympics to life for many armed service members. In 2006, he was back to rowing full-time in preparation for the annual FISA world rowing championships.
In 2008, after returning from Beijing, where he was an alternate to the men’s bronze-medal-winning Olympic Eight, Read learned of Saint Joseph’s master’s in homeland security program.
“After Ground Zero, I became a voracious reader of military history, public policy and strategic studies,” Read says. “The homeland security program formalized an academic interest I already had, and at a faith-based institution.”
In addition to building on personal academic interests, Read hopes to use his background in economics and homeland security experience in the program to advise public safety organizations.
“Public service is driving mantra in my life. It’s giving back, helping people to lead by example,” Read says. “And I cannot speak highly enough to the excellent curriculum, the professors I had at St. Joe’s, like Paul Andrews, Robert Drennnen, and Willie Maye, who challenged me to do my very best work in public safety, homeland security and leadership.”
One key for the program is that it allowed him to continue his studies and his training, working out in his spare time at the rec center and boathouse.
And to achieve success on this level, Read has become adept at balancing time. He coaches Temple’s women’s crew team and remains a volunteer firefighter and EMT.
“It’s not uncommon I’ll get called away from the boathouse to respond to an emergency,” Read explains.
To pay for his education, he works part-time at a busy 911 call center in Trenton, N.J., and even started his own business, Ivy-Cleaners.com, which caters to dorm room and off-campus student housing cleaning.
On top of all this, Read trains as hard as ever. He’s recovering from hernia surgery and looking to row on the world’s biggest stage again, the 2012 Olympics in London.
Although his career has taken him to 17 countries and many victories, few honors have touched him as much as being named the flag-bearer and team captain of the United States teams at the 2011 Pan American games.
“That was an experience parallel to winning gold,” Read says proudly. “There are very few people who will ever win a gold medal, but even fewer who are selected by the members of their team to carry the American flag. It’s humbling.”
More immediately, Read is looking forward to attending his first commencement – when he graduated from Temple in 2003, Read was too scared to ask his Olympic coach, Mike Teti ‘78 for the morning off of practice to attend the ceremony.
Commencement will be a moment to savor – if only briefly.
“Right now, the plan is to walk in the morning then race down to the Schuylkill to coach Temple at the Aberdeen Dad Vail Regatta,” Read says.