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IU’s Office of Veteran Support Services aids Indiana family in returning lost medals of deceased Kelley School dean

Nov. 9, 2016

When John Summerlot, the director of IU Veterans Support Services, received a call from Mike Dean asking for help finding the owner of a lost box of military memorabilia, Summerlot had no idea he would discover such a rich IU connection and an impressive war record. 

Edward Kuntz

Edward Kuntz, pictured here in 1966, received three degrees from IU and went on to become an IU professor. | PHOTO COURTESY OF IU ARCHIVES

Mike Dean, who lives in Linton, Indiana, received the box as a Father’s Day gift from his daughter, who had purchased it at an auction. Among the items in the box was a stamp with the name Edward Kuntz on it. A quick Google search told Dean that Kuntz was a World War II veteran and former Indiana University faculty member. 

Dean, who is a veteran, decided he had to try to return the box to its rightful owner. Having just interviewed Summerlot for a segment on his radio show, “Got your 6 - Veterans Radio Talk Show,” Dean knew he would be the guy to ask.

“After looking through the box and doing some further research, I started to realize just how connected Edward Kuntz was to the university,” Summerlot said.

Kuntz, who passed away in 1999, was a professor emeritus at the IU Kelley School of Business in Bloomington and had served as an assistant dean. But perhaps his most notable contribution was his direct role in establishing what we know today as the Kelley School of Business Executive Degree Program. He was not only influential in establishing this program at IU Bloomington but set up business programs on several regional campuses as well. 

But, Kuntz’s IU story began even earlier than that, during his undergraduate career. He began working toward his first IU degree in the late 1930s and finished all but one class before leaving to serve in the military. After he completed his service in 1947, he returned to IU to complete his undergraduate degree. Then, he went on to get his master’s in Commercial Studies and a doctoral degree in Education. 

After discovering this information, Summerlot set out to track down Kuntz’s family, and the students in the Office of Veteran Support Services set to work unlocking the untold stories behind the medals, ribbons and coins contained in the box.

John Summerlot

Summerlot, with the help of students in the Veterans Support Services office, was able to provide Mysliviec with information about her father that she hadn’t known already. | PHOTO COURTESY OF VETERANS SUPPORT SERVICES

“From time to time, IU as an institution has come across things like this and worked to return the items to the family,” Summerlot said. “Often it's about letting them know information about their family member they wouldn’t have known otherwise. There’s often a military context we can add.” 

In this case, what they uncovered about Kuntz’s military service was remarkable. 

In the box was a patch that identified Kuntz as a member of the 3rd Infantry, and the back of a coin said he was in the 15th Regiment of the 3rd Infantry. 

To most people, including Kuntz’s family, this doesn’t mean much out of the ordinary. But Summerlot and the students knew this meant Kuntz served in the longest-serving combat unit of World War II. Kuntz and the others in his unit served 31 straight months in combat and were the most decorated unit of World War II.

After learning more about Kuntz, Dean wanted to ensure he was remembered. 

“I wanted to honor Kuntz, not only for his service but also all that he went through during the war,” Dean said. 

He personally traveled to Cincinnati, Ohio, with the Wish For Our Heroes organization to return the box to Kuntz’s daughter, Debbie Mysliviec. In addition to the lost memorabilia, Summerlot included other archival material he had dug up in his research, including Kuntz’s hand-written war service record and an oral history interview transcript in which Kuntz discussed his experience leaving for war before the conclusion of his undergraduate career. Mysliviec also learned for the first time of her father’s service accomplishments.

“Dad didn't talk about the war, other than to tell us some of the funny stories. I think he felt it was better left unsaid,” Mysliviec said. “He did say that he owed his life to God because there was no rhyme or reason to why soldiers died to the left and right of him and he was still standing. The information Summerlot and the IU students were able to put together gave us great insight into what he did and where he went during the war. After seeing all of that information, I realized he was right about being in awe of surviving and living a life in gratitude, focused on giving back.” 

Mike Dean returns medals

Mike Dean traveled to Cincinnati, Ohio to present Debbie Mysliviec with her father’s lost World War II belongings. | PHOTO COURTESY OF AMY FELLERS

Mysliviec continued her father’s IU legacy, obtaining an undergraduate and master’s degree in business from IU Bloomington. Growing up in Bloomington and seeing the greatness of the university through her father’s work, she said she never even thought of attending any other school. The one thing that always stood out to her about her father was his passion for the university and his vision for the impact alumni could have.

“Dad didn't really seek the limelight or credit, he just served and cared about the outcome and the value it brought to the university,” she said.

In fitting fashion, a family friend and former Jacobs School of Music dean, Charles H. Webb, honored Kuntz by breaking the church rules and playing “Hail to Old IU” during his funeral. 

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