Notable Veteran Alumni: Major General Max Baratz

Max BaratzMajor General Max Baratz is an alumnus of Syracuse University, and also a military veteran. You should know his story, because it’s a Syracuse University story – one that speaks to our past, our present, and our future. 

Max Baratz was born on 1934 and raised in Aurora, Illinois. His childhood hobby was stamp collecting. His father enlisted in the Army during World War I and served as a noncommissioned officer in the Signal Corps, and his mother was a recent immigrant, coming to the United States from Poland as a young child.

With the Class of 1956, Max Baratz graduated Syracuse University cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and served as a cadet in the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program. After graduation, he was commissioned as a regular army officer in the infantry due to his recognition as a Distinguished Military Graduate, and later in his career, inducted into Syracuse University’s Army ROTC hall of fame. That summer, Max Baratz married Carole Bogage. They were blessed with two sons and one daughter.

In August 1956, Max Baratz graduated Infantry Officer Basic and received his first assignment as the Pioneer/Ammunition Platoon leader of 16th Infantry, 1st Infantry Division and later transferred to 3d Battalion, 18th Infantry. Six months later, he joined the Army Reserves where he continued his platoon leader, command and staff time. He graduated from the Engineer Officer Advance Course and was promoted to Command and General Staff College with the 3rd Battalion, 18th Infantry at Fort Riley. In 1976, as a Colonel, Baratz was selected to be the 416th Engineer Command’s Chief of Staff and; in 1979, Baratz was selected as a Brigadier General in the Army Reserve. In 1983, after 11 years of service in the 416th Engineer Command, the Army selected him as commander, then nominated for Major General by President Reagan. 

Prior to returning to active duty, Baratz was a retail stockbroker for H. Hentz & Company, functioning as a block trader representing 20 major brokerage houses. After experiencing much success at H. Hentz, he became a member of the largest floor exchange-the Midwest Stock Exchange. Starting as a broker, Max Baratz quickly climbed the ranks to serve as the Executive Vice-President of Billings, Inc.

It wasn’t until 1991, during Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm, that Major General Baratz was called to active duty to serve as the Deputy Commanding General for Reserve Affairs, overseeing one of the largest mobilizations since WWII to support the Gulf war. Shortly after, Major General Baratz was again called to active duty to be Deputy Commanding General of the United States Army Reserve Command, responsible for the training and readiness of almost all Army Reserve units in U.S. Three years later, he was selected to be the Chief of the Army Reserve in 1994. Under his direction, Army Reserve units were the first into and the last out of Haiti, in support of Operation Restore Democracy, with more Army Reservists mobilized in support of peace keeping efforts in Bosnia than were mobilized during the Vietnam conflict.

Max Baratz served his country for over four decades and under nine different presidents, when he decided to retire on May 24, 1998. General Baratz’s awards and decorations include the Distinguished Service Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster, the  Legion of Merit, the Meritorious Service Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters, the Army Commendation Medal, and the Army Reserve Components Achievement Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters.

Max Baratz is an alumnus of Syracuse University and a veteran of the U.S. military. You should know his story.


Notable Veteran Alumni: David C. Knapp

David C. KnappDavid C. Knapp was an alumnus of Syracuse University, and also a military veteran. You should know his story, because it’s a Syracuse University story – one that speaks to our past, our present, and our future.

Born in 1927, David C. Knapp grew up in Syracuse, New York. With the Class of ’47, Knapp received a Bachelor’s of Art in political science from Syracuse University. A year later, he walked across the stage to receive his M.A. from the University of Chicago. He was then drafted into the U.S. Army’s 2nd Armored Division in Ft. Hood, Texas to eventually serve in Korea and West Germany from 1950 to 1952.

Knapp certainly enjoyed the college lifestyle as he immediately returned to Chicago to complete his Ph.D. in political science after his military service. Knapp graduated in 1953 and was immediately offered the faculty position of assistant professor of government at the University of New Hampshire (UNH). From 1955 to 1961, he served as assistant to the president and associate professor. His able skills as an administrator and leadership abilities developed in the Army quickly gained recognition, as he was promoted to Dean of the College of Liberal Arts at UNH. During his tenure, Knapp was granted two highly competitive, merit-based fellowship grants: one international educational exchange as a Fulbright Scholar in Finland and another as a Bullard Fellow in forest research at Harvard University.

In 1963, Knapp left UNH to become associate director of the Study of American Colleges of Agriculture, financed by the Carnegie Corporation and based at the University of Maryland, College Park. While working on this study, Knapp also became director of the Institute of College & University Administrators of the American Council of Education. Five years later, he accepted the inaugural position of Dean of the New York State College of Human Ecology, a statutory college within Cornell University. His success as Dean gained the attention of Cornell University administrators, who later appointed him Provost in 1974, responsible for organizing the merger of the Human Ecology College with the Graduate School of Nutrition.

After leaving Cornell, Knapp became president of the University of Massachusetts (UMass), a position he held from 1978 to 1990. His main mission was to renew the social purpose and reputation of the university. Under his brilliant 10-year leadership, UMass established the Polymer Science Research Center and Massachusetts Biotechnology Research Institute to support the growth of technology industries, created the Corporation for Educational Telecommunications to make the university a pioneer in distance learning, expanded the UMass system from three to five campuses, and enhanced its international profile.

For Knapp’s efforts in strengthening international relations with Japan and Germany and establishing new ones with China and Russia, he was awarded several honors. In 1990, the Emperor of Japan awarded him with the Order of the Rising Sun, the third highest order bestowed by the Japanese Government for his distinguished achievements in international relations. In 1992, Knapp was also recognized for his efforts in promoting development and trade between Massachusetts and Baden-Württemberg, Germany with the Staufer Medal. After retirement from presidency at UMass in 1990, Knapp was named President Emeritus and served as the Ralph Waldo Emerson Professor for three more years. Knapp continued to serve on governing boards of several organizations and has several scholarships in his name. Knapp passed away in April 2010. 

David C. Knapp was an alumnus of Syracuse University and a veteran of the U.S. military. You should know his story.


Student Veteran Cynthia Kao-Johnson Creates “Resilient Documentary” at Syracuse University

Documentary Film and History (DFH) graduate student Cynthia Kao-Johnson entered the military with a creative mind and left with the added benefits of skills and discipline. Now she wants to make a difference by igniting conversations about sensitive topics through her skills in documentary filmmaking.

Kao-Johnson is a mother of three, an active-duty army wife, and a veteran who was in the Army Reserve from 2009 to 2013. According to her, being a reservist is living in both the civilian and the military world at the same time. She is used to having a civilian job while living in a military world. This gave her a unique advantage but it also created trouble. It was a surreal experience when she left that world. Not having to go to drills, or having people understand the acronyms that had become part of her vocabulary, took some getting used to. Feeling it was time to explore a different world, she enrolled in the DFH program at Syracuse University. Kao-Johnson came back to grad school searching for individual creativity, and to see how she could shape her storytelling in an artistic and provocative way.

“I was a broadcast journalist with the Air Force. I did a lot of camerawork. So I have a lot of creativity and a yearning for the freedom that documentary film-making affords.”

Throughout the year the program requires the students to put together a thesis film in order to complete the graduate program. Kao-Johnson’s film revolves around veterans’ experiences with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and is a complete feature-length film. It deals with understanding PTSD and what veterans go through paralleled with how the community and outside world perceive it. She brings to life different war eras and how PTSD was experienced in earlier times because the actual term did not exist until 1980. Older vets sometimes did not even know they struggled from the disorder.

This topic is very close to Kao-Johnson as she personally struggled with PTSD herself. This encouraged her to integrate her story into the film as she felt that the veterans she was working with were making an impact on her life as she hoped she was making an impact on theirs. So the film to her is not just surveying different troops and chalking out a story, it is something much closer to heart. The film showcased at the end of last month. She has recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to market and distribute the movie further. The trailer can be viewed on YouTube.

The Master’s of Documentary Film & History (DFH), a joint degree program between the Newhouse School of Public Communications and the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, is the only program in the country designed for students seeking the skills and knowledge to produce documentary films on historical subject matter.


Meghavaty Suresh is a Graduate Assistant at IVMF currently pursuing a Master of Science in New Media Management from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. She holds a Master’s in Management and Bachelor’s in Commerce from Mumbai University.




Notable Veteran Alumni: John M. McHugh

John M. McHughJohn M. McHugh, the 21st Secretary of the Army, is an alumnus of Syracuse University. You should know his story because it’s a Syracuse University story—one that speaks to our past, our present, and our future.


McHugh is a native Central New Yorker—born in Watertown in 1948 and a graduate of Watertown High School. After high school, McHugh attended Utica College, a satellite campus of Syracuse University at the time, and received a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science in 1970. He later attended the Nelson A. Rockefeller Graduate School of Public Affairs at the State University of New York at Albany, where he received a Master of Public Administration in 1977.


McHugh started out working in city government in Watertown, but quickly engaged himself in political service after graduate school as an aide to State Senator H. Douglas Barclay from 1977 to 1984. After Barclay stepped down from the New York State Senate in 1984, McHugh won Barclay’s seat and represented the 46th NYS Senate district. After eight successful years in the state senate, McHugh decided to run for New York’s 24th Congressional District in 1993, ultimately winning the predominately conservative district. McHugh served for nine terms as representative for the 24th (now 23rd) congressional district from 1993 to 2009.


As ranking Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, McHugh fought vigorously to protect Fort Drum from budget cuts, support major acquisition projects, and attract new military-related jobs to the district. He served on the House Committee on International Relations and Committee on Oversight and Government Refor