Senior mechanical engineering major and St. Thomas swim and dive team member Lucas Manke got out of the pool on Nov. 22 to a full phone. Many of his friends and family knew what he didn’t: Manke had just been named the Army Reserve Officers' Training Corps top cadet in the nation.
“I was in shock,” Manke said of all the text messages confirming the news. “It still feels surreal to me when I think about it.”
Manke is the second St. Thomas student in the past year to receive the honor among thousands of cadets after Air Force ROTC cadet Savannah Johnson was named the Air Force’s top cadet in the nation last spring. Manke has excelled as a full-time student-athlete at St. Thomas and is a member of the University of Minnesota’s Gopher Battalion for his ROTC unit.
“Manke is a highly motivated and inspiring leader. He is extremely humble, and a true team player,” said Maj. Melissa Hoaglin of the Gopher Battalion. “Cadet Manke is constantly working to build unit morale and strives to set the example.”
Along with a 4.0 GPA, Manke has put together an exhaustive list of accomplishments in and out of the classroom, including being one of four Tommies named last year a University Innovation Fellow. Manke received word earlier in November that his superb resume had also earned him his first choice for his branch placement upon graduation: He will commission as a second lieutenant in aviation.
“When I found out I was branching into aviation, a longtime dream of mine, I was so happy and relieved. It definitely made all my hard work worthwhile,” Manke said. “I think that both St. Thomas and the Gopher Battalion ROTC program prepared me to excel at this level because of the positive environment that surrounds each of them. The rigorous academics of the School of Engineering, along with the personal attention from the world-class professors, pushed me to always strive for the best. The faculty and staff here really care about the success of their students. I have felt that support since day one and it has continuously motivated me to put my best foot forward.”
“Being a part of the St. Thomas swim team has also prepared me to strive for excellence,” the swim team captain added. “We are a family and we all work hard to have success in and out of the pool. The lasting relationships created among the team along with the family atmosphere we create foster a super strong support system.”