By: Sean Hutchison

Δ Θ 1361


Jon Montgomery (ΔΘ 1020) has spent almost thirty years working for the United States federal government in various positions since graduating from Knox College in 1991. His life, professional and personal, provides a glimpse at what it means to develop and grow through fraternity life, and how to use lessons learned from Sigma Nu and college to find your niche in the world and excel at it.

Jon Montgomery (ΔΘ 1020) | Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

Born in the small town of River Falls, Wisconsin, Jon grew up with a strong interest in a number of subjects. Jon was active in his high school band, choir, theater, and assorted sports teams. Jon put it this way,


“I probably had more than your average number of extracurricular activities. So, I

focused a bit when I finally got to Knox. I couldn’t do it all, for sure.”


Even though he sought to get focused, it is no surprise that Brother Montgomery found himself at the heavily interdisciplinary Knox College after falling in love with the school and its culture during his pre-college visit. It was before he even set foot on campus for his first class that Jon first learned about Delta Theta Chapter at Sigma Nu as well as he received a letter from the Eminent Commander at the time.


Once he got to Knox College, Jon planned on pursuing a degree in theatre. However, the professor of one of the introductory classes shifted his plans with a piece of advice: “You’ve got to be able and willing to go from eating tuna fish for months, to going to being picked up in a limousine for a month, and back again. You’ve got to have this be the only thing that you want to do, and be happy with regardless of what happens.” This made Jon think, ‘I need a little more certainty than that.’” So, Brother Montgomery switched gears academically and pursued a major in Economics.


Jon found a balance studying economics, between sociology and public policy, that interested him. So, he ultimately finished with a Bachelor’s degree in Economics, and a “minor” in another subject he enjoyed, German, which he speaks very well. Despite the shift in his studies, theatre remains one of Jon’s greatest interests to this very day.

Winter Rush, the Godfather dinner, 1991. Jon Montgomery is pictured with Commander Frank Burnham, and Brother Scott Dunnewind.

After graduating from Knox College, Brother Montgomery went on to further his interest in public policy by obtaining a Master’s degree in Public Affairs from the University of Wisconsin in Madison, Wisconsin. After a two-year program working in various federal agencies, Jon settled into the Department of Commerce’s Trade Information Center (TIC) where he advised businesses on export regulations. Jon eventually ascended to Deputy Director of the TIC.


Eventually, Brother Montgomery left the center for a more focused role in aerospace and aeronautics-relevant policy, first with the Department of Commerce, then with the Department of Defense, and finally with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration popularly known as NASA. Jon has been with NASA since 2009 and now serves as its Deputy

Associate Administrator of Policy within the Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate or ARMD, NASA’s research-centered mission directorate.


The policies Jon has advised on and helped develop have made a real impact on the American aerospace industry, both domestically and abroad. Brother Montgomery’s career is remarkable and exemplifies Sigma Nu’s ideals of love, truth, and honor and the idealism put into action that exemplifies so many of the Brothers who have walked through the halls of

Delta Theta over the years. Like so many of our Delta Theta and Sigma Nu brothers, Jon did not have an intention of joining a fraternity when he first got to college, recalling his parents were skeptical of his decision to join at the time. However, that changed as he made friends and found a group of people who he developed mutual trust and friendship with and spent a lot of time together.

Knox Sigma Nu Pledge Class of 1988 | Top Row: Steve Fouts, Mike Mokosiak, Russell Medley, Mike Petiti, Dave Jesuite Middle Row: Mat Cutter, Jon Montgomery, Frank Burnham, Dan Moreland Bottom Row: Steve Stone (Pledge Educator), Steve Yaffe (Pledge Marshall), Kambiz Karimi, Asif Ahmed, Jim Heindl, Mike Stevenson

In this regard, Jon fondly remembers his time at the fraternity, saying


“I think it was a great decision, and I’ve never regretted it.”


For him, it provided camaraderie, structured fun, and a leadership experience. Jon rushed in his freshman year, along with seven other people in his

freshman suite, Conger 2. He remembers an additional four or five people rushing from Neil 2. That made the Candidate Class of 1988 one of the largest ever, with 15 candidates, nearly doubling Delta Theta’s chapter size that year. By the time Jon graduated, Sigma Nu Delta Theta had roughly 50 active brothers. 


Jon remembers the culture of Delta Theta, and fraternity life in general, as being one of play hard, study hard. Life was that way back then in the late 1980s and early 1990s, in the country. One weekend, Delta Theta would throw a party and a large part of the student population would show up, and during the next week, brothers would hunker down and focus on academics. There was a good relationship between the college and fraternities during Montgomery’s time, with roughly 30% of the campus involved in Greek life, leading to a very diverse Greek community. The fraternities at Knox College all went to each other’s parties, bouncing around on weekends from different frat houses.


During his time with Sigma Nu, Jon was the song chairman and the cruise director of Help Week, now known as Goat Week. He recalls living in the house with fondness.


“It’s all those interactions I had with Brothers and the hanging out that made the house a real special place.”


Jon talked about the parties they held every year, including a now lost one traditionally called the Maze Party. To get into the Maze Party attendees had to get through a maze constructed in the basement of the house made out of refrigerator boxes Brothers got from the nearby Admiral plant, which is now shut down. After talking with Jon for a couple of hours, we were struck by how the more time that passes, the more things change. Things change and adapt to new people and their new personalities coming in and out of the house over the years. Still, things still seem to stay the same when it comes to people in many ways.


As our interview with Jon came to a close, he shared this one final piece of advice:


“I think having a positive outlook, always looking for what’s possible, and being genuinely curious led me to where I am today and provided me opportunities I would never have dreamt I would have had.”


Cheers to Sigma Nu!