A Conversation with CPT Stephen Gracza ’19: Giving with Gratitude Since Graduation

Category: Philanthropy & Donor Profiles
Class Years:

CPT Stephen Gracza ’19 is a recent inductee into the 1802 Circle, WPAOG’s annual giving society that recognizes donors for their consistent support of West Point.

Please tell us about what you’ve been doing since graduation from USMA.

Following the graduation of the West Point Class of 2019, I commissioned as an Air Defense officer. However, through the mentorship of the West Point Graduate Scholarship Program, I was afforded the opportunity to pursue a master’s degree on a Fulbright Scholarship. For the following two years with Fulbright, I completed a MSc in International Security and Defense Policy at the Ludovika/National University of Public Service in Budapest, Hungary, under the Military Science and Officer Training Department. This program was conducted entirely in Hungarian and provided me a remarkable opportunity to study closely within the same environment as the Hungarian Military Officer Corps as well as Hungary’s future policy makers. Additionally, during these two years, I advised on bilateral institutional capacity-building efforts between the United States and Hungary. Following completion of my degree program and subsequent Air Defense Basic Officer Leader Course (BOLC), I joined 2-43 ADA in El Paso, Texas. I served as Fire Control Platoon Leader and Tactical Control Officer for the Patriot system at the Battery level for the following year and a half, serving both state side and on a deployment to CENTCOM. Once promoted to the rank of Captain, I served 2-43 ADA as an Assistant Operations Officer for Future Operations/Plans. Currently, I am attending the Air Defense Captains Career Course (ADCCC).

CPT Stephen Gracza ’19

What inspired you to start giving to West Point?

I started giving back to West Point the moment I graduated in 2019, and I continue to do so from a place of gratitude. None of the opportunities I have been afforded throughout my time as a cadet or my career in the military would have been possible without the foundation West Point provided me. The highlights that come to mind from my time as a cadet would be the internships at the U.S. Embassy Budapest and the State Department made possible by the diligent efforts of the Social Sciences Department, participation in the Cadet Community on Civil-Military Operations (C3MO) Club, and the mentorship of the West Point Graduate Scholarship Program. All of these opportunities were possible through alumni donations. Deliberate appreciation and the want to pass on the blessing to incoming cadets is what inspires me to give back.

What was your experience with the West Point Graduate Scholarship Program?

CPT Stephen Gracza ’19

My experience with the West Point Graduate Scholarship Program was profound and enlightening. The program opened the opportunity to be mentored by exceptional professors, officers, and staff. It was also a true pleasure to learn from my peers in the cohort, cadets who were some of the brightest students in my year group. Everyone involved taught me valuable introspective lessons about myself and what drives my motivations. It was in this cohort that I realized I wanted to give back to my communities at various levels through my career and work. While the program leads will mentor one’s pursuit of higher educational scholarship programs, the primary goal of the program is to foster critical thinking and analysis in leadership style, self-reflection, and giving back through our strengths. I want to also highlight that many professors in the program take on the responsibilities of the cohort using their personal time and volition. Lastly, the officers that are mentoring are similarly sacrificing their own time for this, usually as individuals that went through the program as a cadet. They also feel a desire to give back.

CPT Stephen Gracza ’19

How do you hope to impact the Academy?

I hope to impact the developmental resources both the institutional opportunities and broadening opportunities have to offer cadets, similarly to the way the Long Gray Line has done for me. I feel responsible to contribute to the Long Gray Line in a small way. I recommend taking a moment to think through how the Academy has impacted each of our lives and the subsequent opportunities that have risen from that. I believe it is our responsibility as graduates to give back.

1802 Circle Membership

1802 Circle membership is offered to donors who make a gift of any size to West Point or WPAOG for four consecutive years. Membership then remains if subsequent donations are made annually. If you have any questions, please contact Allison Barry, Director of Annual Giving, at annualgiving@wpaog.org or 845.446.1657. ///

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