On June 3, 2019, John E. Dettra, Jr., retiring Board of Trustees member and Capitol alumnus, was named Trustee Emeritus for his commitment and distinctive service to the institution over the span of more than five decades. The award was presented at Capitol Technology University’s Board of Trustees meeting on the university campus in Laurel, Maryland.
The Board of Trustees, under the leadership of Chairman Haden Land, selected Mr. Dettra for Trustee Emeritus status, a recommendation that was endorsed unanimously.
During his acceptance speech, Mr. Dettra noted, “I always knew I wanted to be an engineer,” a determination that enabled him to begin his Capitol studies at age 16, where he found himself the only civilian in a program comprised of “all other G.I.s.”
Upon conferral of Mr. Dettra’s award, Mr. Land noted, “Your outstanding contributions to Capitol Technology University started with your student days here, graduating with an associate’s in engineering technology from the Capitol Radio Engineering Institute to your matriculation with a bachelor’s in 1968 from the former Capitol Institute of Technology. Also, in 1983, joining the Board of Trustees until present day, serving as chair of various committees, and speaker at many events.” He added, “The list goes on! You were instrumental in assisting with the incorporation of the institution in the District of Columbia, and are the benefactor of many generous contributions to Capitol along with your late wife, Mary.”
In the area of stewardship, Mr. Dettra leads by example. In 2017, then-president of Capitol, Dr. Michael T. Wood, recognized Mr. Dettra’s years of service and unwavering commitment with the President’s Medal.
“One of Mr. Dettra’s most significant accomplishments has been through the John and Mary Dettra Radio Club of America Scholarship Fund,” said Melinda Bunnell-Rhyne, vice president for student engagement and university development. “This fund has resulted in an annual gift to Capitol since 1984 and has supported 35 students in the pursuit of their degree. Scholarships ensure that undergraduate students of merit have the support they need to successfully complete their degrees,” she added.
Mr. Dettra has also supported the building and expansion of Capitol’s Laurel campus. “Several locations are named after Mr. Dettra and his late wife Mary due to their generous support. The most prominent of these is the John and Mary Dettra Amphitheater, which is located just beyond University Plaza beside the Puente Library,” explained Ms. Bunnell-Rhyne.
“Knowing John for more than thirty years, I think the word that best describes him is genuine,” said Allen Exner, Capitol’s director of library services and information literacy. “He is as real a person as ever I have known. His kindness and good nature exemplify all that is hoped for in the human spirit. Whenever I see John, he has that uncanny ability to make you feel at ease in his presence. His warmth and hospitality always give you the sense that you have his undivided attention and that, to him at least, you are the most important person in the room,” he added.
At the awards ceremony, Mr. Dettra was joined by his fiancée, Jacquelyn Enright, along with his son, John Dettra III, and granddaughter, Emma Dettra.
“I’m not going anywhere for a while yet,” said Mr. Dettra near the end of the awards ceremony, regarding his retirement from the Board. By granting him emeritus status, Capitol demonstrates its agreement. Mr. Dettra is a staple of the university, and Capitol is not letting him go.
Capitol Technology University continues to define what it means to be a leader in high-demand science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, enabling students to learn, build, and succeed in a practical, hands-on environment. Founded in 1927, Capitol is the only independent Maryland university of its kind. Since 2017, the university has launched a number of new online and on-ground degrees at the bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels, including construction management, critical infrastructure, cyber analytics, unmanned and autonomous systems, and aviation cybersecurity.
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