U.S. Marine Corps veteran and sponsored Zag Joseph Gilliland grew up in a small, southern Alabama town where farming, fishing and shrimping were the most prominent industries.
“Those didn’t interest me and my parents weren’t able to afford college,” Gilliland explained, “so I joined the U.S. Marine Corps.”
After 23 years of service and multiple deployments, Gilliland retired as a Master Sergeant and became the first in his family to go to college. His scholarship from the Zag Scholarship Fund was instrumental in helping him pursue this journey.
“I am thankful that Gonzaga donors believed in me enough to help,” he said, adding, “without them I’m not sure I would have been able to come to GU and have this experience. Receiving this scholarship was a complete surprise. You have generously given me the chance to obtain an education I never thought possible.”
Despite his worry about integrating into a college environment after so much time away from the classroom, Gilliland found Gonzaga to be a welcoming and supportive community, to which his perspective has been a valued addition. He was instrumental in helping to establish the University’s Student Veterans of America chapter and was part of Gonzaga’s “Telling War” project — an initiative aimed at helping veterans communicate their experiences with civilians.
Gilliland is a proud Zag who appreciates the Jesuit values Gonzaga represents. He is looking forward to using the environmental studies degree he expects to complete in May of 2018 to serve the Spokane community, where he lives with his wife and three children.
“This experience is important to my whole family,” he said. “I hope one day to be able to give someone the same chance I have been given. I am truly thankful.”