John Guldan ’68 was among the pioneers of Marist High School. In just the second graduating class from the school, he and his classmates helped build the foundation of the school. And with men like John at the foundation, certainly the Marist mission will endure for time and eternity.
John joined Marist’s track and field program, initially competing in the 1-mile run. By his sophomore year John’s uncle, John Bansley, the athletic director at St. Mel’s High School, had encouraged John to take up cross country running and he began competing in city meets across the Chicago area. When cross country was added to Marist’s athletic program, John became one of a core group of student athletes who helped get the program off the ground. In his senior year John was captain of the cross country team. His coach told John’s parents he considered John “a good captain and comfortable leader.” John was one of three boys on the team to make the 1,000-mile club. John’s classmates explained that “For some of us, seeing John Guldan cross country training along Western Avenue, dressed in his Marist track and field jersey and shorts, was an almost daily experience. In many ways John’s ever-presence in training was making him the face of Marist’s track & field program.” By the end of his senior year John Guldan was one of the top cross-country runners in the Chicago Catholic boys’ high school division.
In addition to his athletic accomplishments, John was also a stellar student, excelling in Marist’s honors program. Upon graduation John was awarded an athletic scholarship for cross country to Defiance College in Defiance, Ohio. After completing his first semester, John grew restless and returned home to Chicago where he enrolled in a junior college where he continued to compete in track, with plans to participate in cross country during the Fall of 1969.
John’s plans changed.
Instead he enlisted in the U. S. Marine Corps. When asked why John enlisted his sister Terri, who recently wrote the book The Letter, A Family’s Tale Unplugged about John and their family, responded, “It was just something he felt he had to do.” The truth of the matter is only John could possibly explain the why, but classmates feel it safe to say the John Guldan we know did it for love of country. John’s tour of duty in Vietnam began March 1, 1970. By this time John had been promoted to Lance Corporal. In a letter from this time John wrote, “I am supposed to take the place of our present squad leader. That means instead of being responsible for four other men I have 21 under my command.” John’s natural and developed leadership skills were being discovered by his superiors, just as the Marist Brothers had discovered his scholastic and athletic ability. On August 3, 1970, at age 20, John paid the ultimate sacrifice, giving his life for his country, in defense of his fellow Marines. In addition to being awarded the Purple Heart, John was awarded the Bronze Star posthumously.
Taken in large part directly from his nomination form from classmates Patrick J. O’Malley, Timothy Richardson, James McKevitt, and John T. Mooney.
Read John's poem What is a runner?
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