When you think of places around the country St. Thomas draws amazing young students from, the city of Spring Valley, Wisconsin – population 1,352 – might not jump to mind immediately. That certainly seems to be changing.
Spring Valley native Henry Larson ’19 last month earned a spot in the Air Force Health Professions Scholarship Program, an extremely selective, nationwide program that fully funds students’ four years of attending medical school. He is one of several students from Spring Valley who have attended St. Thomas after Matthew Deutsch ’11 drew a path: He excelled in the Air Force Reserve Officers Training Corps (AFROTC) program and has encouraged others to follow the same opportunities as a Tommie.
“I look for ways to give back and pay it forward. I love the fact I can talk to people from my hometown about the opportunity that was afforded to me,” Deutsch said about the scholarship and experiences he had at St. Thomas. “It was an amazing opportunity and, being on the receiving end of that support, I have nothing but gratitude and a sense of obligation to make the most of that.”
Deutsch’s giving back has gone well beyond his hometown: After earning his mechanical engineering degree at St. Thomas he worked as a test engineer for the Air Force, followed by earning his master’s degree in aeronautical engineering. From there he taught for three years at the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs; he transitioned in May into civilian work and back to Minnesota as a product engineer for Medtronic, where he delivers technical expertise on the therapy delivery systems for pacemakers and defibrillators.
“I’m incredibly excited to be part of this team,” Deutsch said. “The Medtronic mission is to ‘alleviate pain, restore health, and extend life for millions of people around the world.’ Empowering others to be happy, healthy, productive members of our global community is my own personal mission. What better way to fulfill that than to help people restore their health and have better lives?”
Deutsch began building on the ideas of that mission as a student at St. Thomas, especially when he traveled in 2011 to Uganda with School of Engineering faculty and peers. There they built a solar power plant, an experience that inspired him to become involved in his career with Engineers Without Borders.
Deutsch also spoke of the faith development he had at St. Thomas, as well as the benefits of the hands-on education he received.
"My engineering education at St. Thomas prepared me well for the work I did for the Air Force and am doing now for Medtronic," he said. "The emphasis on hands-on experiences and the centrality of the engineering design process, underpinned with solid foundations in all of the fundamental disciplines, helped me to dive right into a wide variety of tasks."
Building on the great AFROTC, academic and extracurricular experiences that helped form him at St. Thomas, Deutsch spoke of the strong alumni network as something that has continued to connect him to his alma mater. Beyond those connections, “I also see my personal mission as an extension of the St. Thomas mission to think critically, act wisely and work skillfully for the common good. This is my own spin on it,” he said. “I’m always seeking ways to continue being a Tommie and to continue serving my country. That may look a bit different now that I’m not actively in the military, but it’s always something I will aim to do.”