John Black

At Gonzaga University, students come from a variety of backgrounds that shape their experiences, both at college and post-graduate. 

GU alumni John Black graduated with a bachelor of science as a distinguished military graduate after attending Gonzaga Preparatory School. In addition to being a decorated veteran and a leading consultant for LEAN across the globe, Black is an active donor to GU.

After graduating from GU, Black continued to serve his country and corporate America, and has continued to do so for six decades. Black is also the president and CEO of John Black and Associates, a lean healthcare consulting company. 

Equal Employment Opportunity, a program Black worked with for four years, eventually became a model for his company. This kick-started two decades of his work leading the transformation of Boeing’s manufacturing operations and employee involvement.

His Army career includes service as an EEO staff officer for the U.S. Army’s Ninth Division and race relations/education staff officer for the Human Resources Development Division of U.S. Army Europe, where he developed a race relations education program (RREP).

On top of his work as a CEO, Black has written "Tears and Triumphs" a book that details his story as a Vietnam Veteran, a quality consultant and a musician.

He had risen from his childhood on a rural homestead to serve his country in the United States Army, including two tours in Vietnam.

His service recognition included three Army Meritorious Service Medals, two Bronze Star Medals for Meritorious Achievement in Ground Combat Operations against hostile forces in the Republic of South Vietnam, three Army Commendation Medals for Meritorious Service, the Combat Infantryman’s Badge (CIB) and Airborne Badge and a Staff Service Medal.

He had a simply yet powerful answer when asked about the inspiration behing sharing his story.

“Getting older faster than I thought. And in my gut I knew I had a great, unique story to tell; I had lived a full life," Black said. "But could I talk about the affairs, the abuse, the alcoholism? That’s what it came down to."

Black turned to Joni Sensel, a freelance writer who helped him write three of his books, to write "Tears and Triumphs." He began writing the memoir in late 2018, published its first edition after several revisions in 2020. 

To write the best version of his memoir, he gathered family archives, Black said. 

He tells his story of what he had gone through and what he had to deal with. In a way writing this book was therapeutic for him. It was a way to get others to hear his story.

“My favorite parts are probably the insights into what the Vietnam experience was like for a young officer since I’m old enough to remember those years from a civilian perspective but was too young to have much understanding of it," Sensel said. 

Black said he aimed to write his memoir in a way that represented his own honest story. He worked with both Sensel and his therapst in the most representative way. 

"A lot of movies that Clint Eastwood does are about the good, the bad, the ugly," Black said. "What readers like about Clint is that bottom line he tells an honest believable story even though sometimes it’s a badass story, an ugly story, but there is always a good element in it. Well, so is my book.” 

With humor and confidence, Black reveals the hidden stories behind his professional success and traces his past back to his earliest influences.

His stories portray the joys of a close-knit family, his encounters of abuse by a Catholic priest, wartime experiences, his return to music as a form of healing and his current focus as a performing artist with an international following of fellow Vietnam vets.

"This book is raw in many facets and emotions. The depth of transparency is captivating and inspirational as the author writes with full disclosure and honesty. We can all learn from the author's vulnerability to be true to ourselves with the good and the bad," a reviewer said. 

More information about Black, as well as recordings of his music and a copy of "Tears and Triumph" can be found on his website at www.meetmeinvietnam.net.

His book can also be found on Amazon and his music on Spotify or iTunes.

To learn more about Black and his efforts, he will be visiting GU on Sept. 29 and 30 for a book signing and meeting with President Thayne McCulloh and the Gonzaga Army ROTC.  

Sofia Sanchez is staff writer.