Teacher: U.S. and World War History
Mentor: Head of Elephant II Dormitory; Founder of Pushups for Patriots
Coach: Director of Athletics, Varsity Wrestling Head Coach
Major John Bourgault (or simply ‘the Major’) has a family history when it comes to Avon Old Farms School. His father, Jack ’49, enrolled after his mother met Headmaster Don Pierpont at a social event in Boston. And while John grew up in Fremont, California, his father convinced him to travel cross-country as a freshman in high school to see if he might attend Avon Old Farms.
When John first set foot on Avon’s campus, it was October and the New England foliage was enhancing the magic of the place he had long since heard about. While he never thought an all-boys boarding school on the other side of the country from where he grew up would be of interest, he quickly fell in love with the Village of Old Farms.
As a sophomore, John began his Avon journey living in Eagle dormitory, played football and lacrosse, and was the captain of the wrestling team by his senior year. He also found leadership roles in the dorm as a monitor.
After graduating from Avon in 1980, John returned to California to attend California State University, Hayward (now Cal State East Bay). It was there he reconnected with and then married his high-school sweetheart, Anna. When he graduated with a B.S. in finance, instead of pursuing a business career he opted to join the United States Marine Corps in the summer of 1984.
“I spent much of my youth watching war movies and reading books about war and wondered how I would measure up. During college I had looked at branches of the armed forces, but never the Marines. I even did summer training with the Air Force, but when the time came to commit, I didn’t because all of the pilot spots were already taken. Then one day leaving the gym, I encountered a Marine Corps recruiter. He had a poster of the new F-18 flying straight up, and asked me if I wanted to do that. Of course, my answer was yes.”
During his 20-year career, John held a number of command and staff positions including infantry officer, CH-53E pilot, and the Deputy Director of the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program. He flew over a dozen combat missions during Operation DESERT SHIELD/STORM in 1990-1991. He is a graduate of the Amphibious Warfare School and the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and was an adjunct faculty member for the Marine Corps University.
“Since graduating I had always thought about coming back, and after my life with the military I could see a lot of similarities in the lifestyle of the two. I called to see if there were any open positions several times, but was always told there weren’t any. I eventually stopped calling, but one day I returned home to a voicemail from Art Custer, then Dean of Faculty. They needed a history and English teacher, and someone who could coach wrestling.”
John and his wife Anna were living in Virginia with their two children: Jenelle was about to start her senior year of high school, and Jake was going into the eighth grade. While on paper the Bourgaults weren’t sure if they could make it work, they decided John should take the job, because it was his dream.
And so, upon retiring from the Marine Corps in 2004, John joined Team Avon Old Farms. John began his new career teaching English and history, working in the dorms, and coaching cross country, wrestling, and track.
“Avon Old Farms made an indelible mark on me during my formative years and I have very strong and fond memories of my time here. From the time I graduated, I wanted to return to the school and provide the same experience to a new generation of Avonians.”
Over the years, his duties expanded to include Assistant Dean of Students. In 2009, he started Avon’s Annual Push-ups for Patriots, a charitable event where participants join in a 24-hour push-up marathon and raise money for wounded veterans by contributing all proceeds to the Semper Fi Fund. In 2011, he became the Athletic Director while still teaching two sections of World Wars and one section of US History.
“There are events each year at Avon dedicated to giving back to the community, which has a lot of overlap with a career in service. Each day, I know that my colleagues and I are shaping good men. When I get an email, a text, or sometimes a hand-written note from a former student, and sometimes years later a wedding invitation, I know that I have done my job well.”
John lives on campus with his wife Anna and their two cats, Sparky and Sweetie.
- John's son, Jake '09 was married on Avon's campus