The Charles Wanzel Scholarship

Captain Charles J. Wanzel Memorial Scholarship Fund

The Captain Charles J. Wanzel Memorial Scholarship Fund was established in 2019 following the Class of 1969’s Fiftieth Reunion. Its purpose is twofold: provide financial assistance to a worthy and deserving veteran, or veteran’s dependent, and to keep the memory of Charles “Chuck” Wanzel’s accomplishments and sacrifice alive among both his classmates and the Saint Michael’s College community.

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Scholarship Recipient 2021

Nicholas Bourdon ‘21

Major: Criminology

Hometown: Saint Albans, Vermont

Campus Involvements:

The predominant focus of my energy is invested in my assigned work. As a non-traditional student, I do not live on campus. Nevertheless, I strive each day to provide my absolute best. Previously I wrote a waiver request/policy reconsideration letter to the Saint Michael’s College administration that they consider abolishing the maximum required transferable credit policy for veterans so they might be able to apply more credits toward graduation. This waiver request was accepted and approved. I hope that it greatly assists veterans in the future so that their experience be transferable. 

What is your favorite thing about Saint Michael’s?

Saint Michael’s College is special because of the dedicated professionals who create and maintain the environment. From the Board of Trustees to the cafeteria staff, each individual I have interacted with I have found to be warm, kind, and helpful. Professors are inspiring and masters of their craft who care immensely for their students, the college, the surrounding communities, and their country.

What are your career plans after you graduate?

My passions in life are oriented toward helping, advocating for the unfortunate, and protecting the innocent. After college, I will move to Maine, where I can live closer to my children from a previous marriage. I am enthralled by my fiancé, her son, and our nearly one-year-old twins. I plan on applying to law enforcement agencies in Maine and aspire to become a detective and/or a SWAT detachment leader. Nevertheless, I would consider any presented opportunities.

Thank you:

I am humbled to have been selected as this year’s recipient for this scholarship. Captain Charles J. Wanzel ’69 gave his life for our country during the Vietnam conflict. He, flanked by his flight crew, flew reconnaissance missions into Laos, Cambodia, in order to report back key enemy positions and other information that was undoubtedly critical to the success of ground forces during the Vietnam conflict. Our military works only because of the many different roles fulfilled by Americans like Charles Wanzel. Collectively, those roles combine to become the most efficient military in the world. As an Infantry Team Leader deployed to Iraq, and later, an Infantry Squad Leader deployed to Afghanistan, I have relied on reconnaissance imagery that pinpoints the enemy’s position, among other crucial details. I can say for certain that Captain Wanzel’s assignments during the Vietnam Conflict would have saved countless American lives. It’s an absolute honor to have been selected as this year’s recipient. Moreover, we are all indebted to our servicemen and servicewomen who committed themselves to a larger cause; a more just and merciful world, to individuals who ultimately gave their lives in such pursuits. Prometheus!

About Charles Wanzel

As written by Captain Wanzel’s classmate, Bayard Tracy ’69:

Chuck Wanzel was the only member of the Class of 1969 to die in combat in the Vietnam War, and his death was unknown to many of us for far too long.

He came to Saint Michael’s in the fall of 1965 from Bayside, Long Island. He was a biology major. According to Mike Buszuwski ‘69, his roommate, Chuck was studious and quiet and was “concerned with the needs of others”. His goal was to attend Cornell’s School of Veterinary Medicine but financial considerations forced a different choice. After graduation and sparked by a strong sense of duty, he joined the U.S. Air Force to fly.

Less than three years later on March 29, 1972, 1st Lt. Chuck Wanzel was the copilot of an AC-130 Hercules ‘Spectre’ gunship with a crew of 14, flying a secret, armed reconnaissance mission over the Ho Chi Minh Trail in southern Laos. According to reports, his plane was hit by one, possibly two Russian surface-to-air missiles. An F4 pilot, flying in support, stated that the C-130 crashed with no signs of survivors. Rescue efforts, hampered by heavy enemy activity and jungle terrain, were called off after only a few days.

Crew members were designated as MIA and would remain so for the next 7 years. On May 25, 1979, Chuck  Wanzel’s status was changed to KIA whereupon he joined ranks with the other 58,219 American service members killed in the Vietnam War.

In February 1986, teams from the U.S. and Laos excavated the crash site and found limited remains, personal effects and pieces of plane wreckage. In October 1986, the U.S. government announced that the remains of Captain Wanzel and those of seven other crew members had been positively identified and were returned to their families. Follow-on surveys and excavations in 2005 and 2006 found more remains. On June 17, 2010, the unidentified remains of the 14 man crew were laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery 38 years after their aircraft was shot down. Captain Charles Wanzel’s name is listed on the headstone along with his other crew members.

Chuck was lost in the late days of the war. He was MIA for the majority of the ’70’s while the nation grappled with the aftermath of the Vietnam experience. By the time his status was changed to KIA, it was almost the ’80’s. America was moving on, putting Vietnam behind with a new president and outlook. Except for those suffering, the country’s Vietnam involvement receded into the past.

From the Class of 1969’s perspective, this was also the case with Chuck Wanzel. We didn’t know of and/or forgot him and his sacrifice. This scholarship is an effort to keep his memory and story alive. As you plan your charitable giving for 2021 (remember, we have to take our required minimum distribution this year), please consider contributing to the Captain Charles Wanzel Memorial Scholarship Fund.

Donating to the Scholarship will honor Chuck Wanzel’s memory, keep his sacrifice alive and help a deserving student meet his or her goals.


Scholarship Term and Financials

Through the Captain Charles J. Wanzel Memorial Scholarship, one student per year receives a scholarship award of approximately $7,500. The impact to the students and their families is immense, and continues to benefit the recipients as they graduate, join the workforce, and start families of their own. This term scholarship will continue to be awarded for as many years as funding remains available.