Hero for Heroes nominations open for PLNU military-affiliated students

The Military Programs and Services office has opened nominations for its Hero for Heroes program for the fall semester at Point Loma Nazarene University. Submissions of nominations are open until Dec. 2, and awardees will be announced at the Spring Warriors Breakfast, date to be announced. 

According to Thomas Egan, director of Military Programs and Services, the Hero for Heroes award is a recognition bestowed upon a PLNU faculty or staff member who has made a significant impact on one or many military-connected students during their time at PLNU.  

Egan’s wife introduced the idea to him, which originated at Concordia University-Irvine. He says he cleared use of the program with its originator, their Veterans Resource Center director at the time, Steve Leader, and began to implement it at PLNU. 

“I see the Hero for Heroes Program as another way to build awareness of our military-connected community,” said Egan. “And to give our military-connected students the means to recognize those persons who have had a positive impact on them and helped to make the experience at PLNU memorable.”

Egan says the program feedback from students, faculty, and staff has been positive, with students appreciating the ability to shine a light on educators who have gone above and beyond.

Marine Gunnery Sergeant and fourth-year psychology major, Rich McGriff, shared what inspired his faculty nominee. 

“He understands and shows empathy toward veterans’ individual situations without compromising the quality or fairness of the courses he teaches,” said McGriff. 

Deborah Tillson, Veterans Affairs (VA) Senior School Certifying Official and staff awardee, says her nomination made her feel appreciated. 

“It made me feel seen and that I made a difference in someone’s life because of my extra effort,” said Tillson. “My role here can feel very ‘behind the scenes,’ so I’m very blessed by the students who take the time to say how I have helped them or made an impact in their lives.”

Tillson says her job is to ensure that the university and all 17 campuses comply with the VA and Department of Defense.  This is so the university can continue to invoice the government for earned education benefits and view all military billing and compliance. 

Grace Fantaroni, graduate program special education professor at the PLNU Mission Valley Campus, was recognized as a Hero for Heroes in 2020. 

“I have a special place in my heart for military-affiliated students. I take a lot of pride in this recognition, given that my father, uncle and grandfather are all veterans,” said Fantaroni. 

But, Fantaroni’s respect for veteran and military-affiliated students goes beyond nostalgia.

“Veteran students are amazing,” said Fantaroni. “They bring this whole other life experience to the classroom that is really special.” 

Fantaroni recounts one student who used her military-gained knowledge of data collection to create a digital application that helps to better track the behavior of special education students. 

“Through experience, I know our veteran students can often come to campus with jobs, families or history that makes education more challenging,” said Fantaroni. 
If you are a military-affiliated student and would like to nominate a PLNU faculty or staff member for Hero for Heroes, email Thomas Egan at with a brief description of why you wish to nominate. Awardees will receive a dog tag on the Hero for Heroes plaque displayed in the Veteran and Commuter Lounge in Nicholson Commons.