By Sue Wambolt, Contributing Writer
Northborough – After attending Loyola University for two years, 2010 Algonquin Regional High School graduate Daniel Polanowicz decided to forgo another year at the traditional college. Instead, he decided that being an officer in the military was his calling, and that West Point was the best place to pursue his goal. He gained admission to the elite academy, one of the most prestigious educational establishments in the nation, which boasts astronauts, generals, business leaders and even U.S. presidents as graduates. The United States Military Academy at West Point ranks fourth in the nation for its production of Rhodes scholars, so by any standard, it is a significant accomplishment to gain acceptance to the school.
Attending West Point is particularly meaningful because Dan shares this achievement with his father, John.
“After studying for two years at Loyola, having Dan commit to starting all over again as a plebe [freshman] at West Point made us realize how much he really wanted to go to the Military Academy,” John said. “It feels a bit funny to now have two freshmen at college.” [Dan's sister, Emily, is a rising freshman at Boston College.]
On Aug. 18, Daniel completed the six weeks of Cadet Basic Training.
“We are very proud of Dan completing Beast Barracks [slang for Cadet Basic Training] – it is very tough training,” John said.
No longer a “new cadet,” Daniel and his fellow plebes participated in the Acceptance Day Parade wearing white hats – marking their acceptance into the Corps of Cadets. The entire Polanowicz family, including John's parents, traveled to West Point for the ceremony.
“One of the fun moments was Dan's grandparents – my parents – at the end of Beast Barracks, having a picnic in almost exactly the same spot down near the Hudson River that they had with me 32 years ago during my Acceptance Day weekend,” John said.
John has fond memories of his time at West Point and also recalled some of the highlights of his own military career.
“Becoming Airborne Ranger-qualified and serving as a platoon leader and then as a company commander of a Blackhawk helicopter company at Ft. Ord, California, where we flew in Central America, spent time in Korea and across the United States,” he said. “The opportunity to lead an incredible group of soldiers and aviators working as a team was a gift.”
John became an Assault Helicopter Company commander, flying the lead Blackhawk helicopter during the combat phase of “Operation Just Cause” in Panama.
The military isn's the only arena in which John excelled. He earned an MBA at Stanford University after graduating from West Point, and he is the president of Steward/St. Elizabeth's Medical Center, a Caritas Health Care hospital in Brighton. Before taking this position in April of 2011, he served as president and CEO of Marlborough Hospital and as vice president of operations at UMass Memorial Medical Center and the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. He currently serves on the board of the Massachusetts Hospital Association and chairs its Clinical Issues Advisory Council.
Though not in the military, Dan's mother, Kathleen, earned her stripes closer to home, serving the town of Northborough in a variety of capacities. She is the former chair of the Board of Selectmen in the town and currently serves as chair of the Northborough Housing Authority. She is a founding member of the Northborough Housing Corporation and also serves on the Northborough Community Preservation Committee. In addition, Kathleen, formerly a practicing attorney, became the district director for U.S. Rep. James McGovern, 3rd District, in January of 2011.
Dan is clearly another accomplished Polanowicz, and at this time, is following in his father's footsteps. Having traveled the same path, John offers his son this advice:
“Don's fall behind, since it is very tough to catch up and remember the old adage “cooperate and graduate.” The other thing that I had always stressed with him during scouting [Dan is an Eagle Scout] as a Scout leader was that “the body will do whatever the mind tells it to,” so having a positive mental attitude is key.”
Daniel plans to graduate from West Point in 2016 and to be commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army.