Scholarship Profile: John Ferry


Ask John Ferry about his family, and he’ll tell you that “I come from Army stock.” His father went to West Point, and Ferry’s four eldest siblings all enlisted in the Army. Ferry followed that path, but with a twist: on his 18th birthday, he shipped off to Fort Benning to join the Army Special Forces. Eventually, he became a Green Beret.

After a few years in active service, Sgt. Ferry transitioned to the Army National Guard and moved to the Washington, D.C. area. He found work with a Department of Defense civilian contractor and began taking undergraduate courses online. In 2008 he was married; in 2009 he deployed to Afghanistan, where he was seriously injured in an accident. Back home, he joined the Army staff at the Pentagon in 2011. He and his wife Shelly had their third child, Colleen. Soon after, Colleen was diagnosed with epilepsy—“an ongoing challenging experience,” Ferry says.

In the midst of this, Ferry learned from an Army friend about the scholarship program at Mason for disabled veterans. “The catch was, you had to get a masters degree in public policy,” he says. “Since I was in D.C. and knew how valuable policy would be, I jumped at it.”

Ferry’s path sounds complicated, but actually it is not all that uncommon. Many servicemembers have been wounded or injured, many have the goal of pursuing higher education, and many take non-traditional paths to get there. In Ferry’s case, his 9/11 GI bill benefits paid half his tuition, with the ERPi veterans scholarship picking up the rest. “Without a doubt, except for the scholarship I could not have gone to grad school,” he says.

“I took it as a given that I had to repay my benefactor, Chris [Jones, CEO of ERPi]. The only way I could do that was to put his investment in me to good use,” continues Ferry. “That meant putting my heart and soul into it. So with the class load, plus three children and a full-time job, and I also founded and ran a veterans service organization on the side . . . it all meant that time management was a huge thing!”

Ferry graduated with his masters in public policy at the end of 2015. But he had better continue to focus on time management. In May Shelly gave birth to their fourth child, Luke.

July 25, 2016 / RR