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Joshua Jahnke, recently completed graduate studies, dies at age 29

Dying from pancreatic cancer, the U.S. Navy lieutenant was determined to earn his degree.
Lt. Joshua Jahnke SM ’10
Lt. Joshua Jahnke SM ’10
Photo courtesy U.S. Navy

Joshua Jahnke, a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy who recently completed graduate studies in the Department of Mechanical Engineering (MechE), died on April 28 at his home in Hudson, Mass., after a courageous 22-month battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 29.

Beginning in May 2008, he attended MIT as a graduate student in MechE’s Naval Construction and Engineering Program. Shortly after he joined the MIT community, Jahnke was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. Following several rounds of chemotherapy, he pressed ahead with his studies, determined to earn his degree before his life ended; in February, he received a SM in naval architecture and marine engineering.

“It was something he very much wanted even though he knew he was dying,” said Dean for Graduate Education Steve Lerman, whose office worked closely with the Department of Mechanical Engineering to arrange for Jahnke to receive his degree before the lieutenant passed away.

“Josh inspired all of us through his extraordinary perseverance and spirit,” said U.S. Navy Commander Trent Gooding, associate professor of the practice of naval construction and engineering. “He was a remarkable man, passionate and devoted to the Navy, his family and God. We miss him terribly, but that legacy will live on with each of us who had the privilege of knowing him.”

Jahnke, was born in Florida and was raised there and in Massachusetts. He attended Pensacola Christian College before receiving a BS in mathematics with a minor in law from the University of West Florida in 2003. He received an MBA from Charleston Southern University in 2008.

Jahnke received a direct commission in the United States Navy from Naval Reactors and completed Officer Indoctrination School in Newport, R.I. He reported to Naval Nuclear Power Training Command in April 2004 and served as a Mathematics and Reactor Plant Technology instructor. Subsequently he was assigned to Nuclear Field “A” School and served as the Mathematics Division director and command training evaluator. He was then selected for lateral transfer into the engineering duty officer community.

In addition to receiving his graduate degree from MIT, Jahnke also received the Naval Sea Systems Command Award in Naval Construction and Engineering at MIT. He was authorized to wear the Navy-Marine Corps Commendation Medal, the Navy Achievement Medal, the Humanitarian Service Medal and several other awards.

Jahnke leaves his wife of five years, Tricia L. (Geyer) Jahnke of Hudson, and his two daughters, Grace Marie and Juliana Laree Jahnke. He is also survived by his parents, Jeffrey J. and Marie T. (Green) Jahnke of Derry, N.H.; his sister, Jessica L. Phillips of Ankeny, Iowa; his paternal grandmother, Sarah L. Jahnke of Cuba, N.Y.; his father- and mother-in-law, John and Grace Geyer of Milford, Del.; and his many cousins and friends.

Funeral services were held earlier this week. In lieu of flowers, donations in his memory may be made to: LT Josh Jahnke Children’s Memorial Fund, C/O Avidia Bank, 42 Main Street, Hudson, MA 01749.

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