What We Know About Ben Pontz: Celebrating the Leadership of Our Former Editor-in-Chief

Benjamin Pontz '20, Former Editor-in-Chief of The Gettysburgian (Photo courtesy of Ben Pontz)

Benjamin Pontz ’20, Former Editor-in-Chief of The Gettysburgian (Photo courtesy of Ben Pontz)

By The Gettysburgian Editorial Board

 

Ben Pontz served as the Editor-in-Chief of The Gettysburgian for two years, and has written over 200 articles for the publication. In addition to writing and editing, Ben has led with unparalleled ambition, dedication, and foresight. Under his leadership, The Gettysburgian staff received first-place Keystone Press Awards for both ongoing news coverage and editorials, and this past year, Ben guided our staff through the transition from a biweekly newspaper to a well-received magazine. Our online readership has also continued to grow. Ben’s talent for writing and editing is clear, but our staff wanted to take this moment to thank him for the strong leadership and support he’s demonstrated during his tenure. 

 

Phoebe Doscher, Magazine Editor 

If you ever have the opportunity to get to know Ben, I have no doubt that you’ll be struck by his knowledge and passion. If you ever really get to know him and work with him, you’ll be a better person for it. 

Over the past year, working alongside him on The Gettysburgian, he became somewhat of a mentor figure and I learned more from him than I ever thought was possible—about journalism, writing, leadership, interviewing, and everything you’d ever need to know about Gettysburg College.

Ben works diligently and cares deeply. In his past two years as editor-in-chief, I’ve watched him herald in a new era of the publication—one that garners increasing adoration and respect from the campus community (with more readership than ever before) and that is filled with stories written with integrity that matter. Without his intuition and guidance as a leader, we would not be as successful as a publication—nor would we have pulled off starting a magazine, for that matter.

Ben has been a huge supporter of those who work alongside him—he trusts in his staff and he is always willing to give a detailed discussion or rundown of involved tasks. He perseveres through challenges and both sets an example with his fervor and pushes us to put out the highest quality work possible.

So, it is with great gratitude for the good of the organization and for my personal growth that I say goodbye to Ben. He’s made Gettysburg a better place and made The Gettysburgian an enjoyable and rewarding organization to be a part of. I can’t wait to see what he does next.

 

Nicole DeJacimo, Content Producer

There are not enough words to describe the experience and knowledge I have gained from Ben Pontz over these past two years at The Gettysburgian. Writing and working on the editorial board has truly been one of the hallmarks of my Gettysburg College career thus far. I’m so glad that sophomore Ben ran up to me on Get Acquainted Day, shoved a paper into my hands, and boldly told me to “JOIN THE GETTYSBURGIAN!” Clearly that moment left an impression on me, because I’d written a piece before the first-year move-in day.

As for my time with the editorial staff these past years, I know first-hand just how incredible Ben is as a journalist, editor, role model, and teacher. He knows just how far to push our team to greatness without breaking us. The class sizes and textbook articles are great examples of Ben pushing our team to our limits while managing to still keep us all on the staff after numerous hours of data collection (the pizza and encouraging words certainly helped).  Throughout every article, magazine publication, and hardship, he was there to support and lead us. 

It most definitely will not be the same without Ben next year, and I am forever sorry that we could not finish out our first year as a magazine with his leadership. Regardless, his dedication to The Gettysburgian has set up a strong foundation for all our future endeavors and I could not be more grateful. I wish him all the luck in his post-Gettysburg journey.

 

Emily Dalgleish, Opinions Editor 

The summer before my first year of college, Ben Pontz was assigned to be my mentor for a Gettysburg program. I was excited because he was studying what I wanted to study, and was a drum major like I had been in high school. He answered my questions with in-depth explanations about life in Gettysburg. From those first emails, it became evident that Ben is remarkably hardworking and dependable.

Though we have very different life outlooks and opinions, Ben and I clicked, and he continued to be a mentor far beyond what he was assigned to be my first year. I have shown up in his Gettysburgian office countless times to talk to him about classes, programs on campus, the newspaper, internships, campus updates, and politics. He has always been welcoming and patient in addressing my questions and listening to my concerns. In those conversations, I learned so much from him—not only from his advice about Gettysburg, but also from the way he thinks about and addresses important issues.

Most people who know Ben may know him for his skepticism and sarcasm, but Ben also has an incredible ability to be compassionate and heartfelt when needed. Ben’s cynicism has pushed us to be better writers and better journalists. At the same time, I think each of us editors has had an experience where Ben’s encouragement and kindness has brightened our day or our week. His leadership is clear in his ability to distinguish what the group or the individual needs most at the moment.

I am so thankful that Ben was assigned to me as a mentor two years ago and that I have been able to work with him throughout our time at Gettysburg together. Gettysburg has been made better by his presence, and his work will continue to have an impact after he graduates.

 

Maddie Neiman, Managing Editor 

Technically speaking, I met Ben before I even started at Gettysburg College three years ago. He had emailed me and other incoming first-years about joining the newspaper staff, and I had responded enthusiastically (and probably with too many exclamation points — something Ben strongly dislikes, as I eventually learned).

If I could go back in time, I would high-five my first-year self for signing up for The Gettysburgian and making the decision to be part of an organization that has come to mean a great deal to me. More importantly, however, I would high-five myself for somehow managing to time it perfectly so that I could serve under arguably the best Editor-in-Chief in The Gettysburgian’s 123-year history. 

It’s a bold claim, but I know I’m not the only one to have said it. Over the past four years, Ben has devoted himself to The Gettysburgian and worked tirelessly toward its betterment. Under Ben’s leadership, The Gettysburgian’s online readership has expanded every year, its staff have become more confident and involved, and its content has grown in quality and diversity. Most recently, Ben oversaw The Gettysburgian’s historic shift from a biweekly print newspaper to its new and well-received format as a magazine. 

All of this, he has accomplished along with his other campus commitments, including being Drum Major of the Bullets Marching Band, a Peer Research Mentor in Musselman Library, a Fielding Center Fellow, a Teaching Assistant in the Political Science Department, and a dozen other roles and responsibilities that would take another full paragraph to list. To say that Benjamin Pontz has had a significant presence on campus over the past few years is a massive understatement.

Some friends and I often joke that we aren’t sure how Ben managed to amass so much power at Gettysburg College, but the fact that we were all so comfortable with it speaks to his character. No matter how much praise Ben got for his work on The Gettysburgian, he never failed to share it with his staff and pass the credit onto us. His humility helped make him such a great leader. 

That, and his uncanny ability to delegate. There’s another running joke among the newspaper staff that if you suggested an idea to Ben, you almost definitely found yourself heading up that idea. This wasn’t because Ben had a phobia for work (his resume proves the exact opposite) but because he was good at having confidence in his staff and encouraging us to take the lead on a story or step up into a new position, even if we didn’t have confidence in ourselves.

I have experienced Ben’s unyielding encouragement first-hand. During the spring of my first year, I had the chance to attend a conference for college newspaper editors and writers hosted by The New York Times. Around the same time, Ben suggested I consider applying for the position of Features Editor. I considered it, and I planned on saying no. I was scared of that much responsibility, of taking on a leadership position. I still planned on saying no when Gauri Mangala, a fellow first-year and soon-to-be News Editor, sat next to each other on a train to New York. Somehow (by sheer force of will, I’ve always thought), Ben managed to stall the train (or maybe it was a piece of debris on the tracks, if you believe the conductor) so that Gauri (encouraged by Ben over the phone) could convince me to think more seriously about the Features Editor position and, ultimately, to say yes. Sure, the award-winning writers and editors of The New York Times contributed to my decision, but I would never have even considered taking on the role without Ben and his encouragement pushing me out of my comfort zone and interfering with Amtrak rails. 

Over the past few years, Ben continued to believe in my abilities and to support me as an Editor-in-Chief and as a friend. He made me laugh with his dry wit and self-deprecating humor that, once you realize he isn’t being serious, is very funny. He talked me off of some steep academic ledges — a more impressive feat than it might sound. He gave me second-hand sleep deprivation from all the late nights he spent working in the newspaper office. He indulged my persistent requests for a comprehensive Gettysburgian style guide (I’m still waiting). He shared my interest in the history of the college and of The Gettysburgian (“serving Gettysburg College since 1897”). He never failed to impress me — not only with what he has accomplished but with his plans and lists and agendas of what he hopes to (and will) accomplish. 

All of those past-tense sentences make this feel a little too final, but the best part of saying goodbye to Ben is that I know it isn’t really a goodbye. I’m grateful for the years I’ve had with Ben at Gettysburg College, and I’ll miss him. That being said, I cannot wait to see and hear about all the great achievements in his future. I’ll be rooting for him.

 

Garret Glaeser, Sports Editor

For a campus news outlet to work effectively you need people in leadership roles to have a passion for their school and an unwavering dedication to report on all facets of the college experience and administration. As long as I’ve known him, Ben has demonstrated a daily commitment to Gettysburg and has transformed The Gettysburgian into a more accessible, informative, and thoughtful publication. 

His willingness to put in the necessary time and effort to collect data and report what the facts reveal is honorable and showcases the value he places on reporting on everything, and not just what puts the institution in a favorable light. From a Sports Section perspective, I’m so grateful that Ben allowed and encouraged me to branch out our writing and opinions from the small Gettysburg D3 community to the world of Division I and professional sports. I think it has drawn more positive attention towards a section that was literally and figuratively the back end of the publication. Ben embodies the ideal Gettysburg student, a personable, well versed, and academically motivated individual who pursues their passions and makes the campus better for it. Ben will certainly be missed, but his impact on Gettysburg and The Gettysburgian will certainly continue in the years to come.

 

Katie Oglesby, News Editor 

Admittedly, I don’t know Ben nearly as well as the rest of our editorial board. But in the year that I have known him, he has really made an impact on me. 

Ben is a great leader with the ability to command attention during any meeting—he can even convince his staff to pile into the office on a Saturday morning to crunch class size data. The editors joke about how Ben lives in The Gettysburgian office, but I know I’m not speaking for just myself when I say that the joke underscores our gratitude for how much work he has put into this publication. 

So, while Ben may be the one sending 1:00 A.M. thank-you emails to his staff after the magazine goes to print, he’s the one behind every success. He’s the one editing every article, reworking content, and writing constantly. I know he’s doing so much more than I even know.

Ben does so much for his staff, this publication, and Gettysburg College. He’s involved in more organizations than I thought possible, and really deserves every bit of the praise he receives.

 

Mary Frasier, Social Media Director 

I never expected to find such a true friend when joining the newspaper. I expected to see very little of the Editorial Board when I joined, since I was the Director of Photography and not in charge of any of the writing. But it was soon clear to me that the staff was one big family, with Ben at the helm. His leadership not only turned the paper’s reputation around, but he propelled it forward into a periodical with a large readership within his first year as Editor-in-Chief. By the beginning of year two, he was already putting in place a team that could pull off his vision of changing the format into a magazine that would contain long-term, in depth stories that our previous format did not support. However, these challenges and feats were not half as difficult as they should have been, because our team, under his leadership, could accomplish anything. 

Ben was not just a great Editor-in-Chief, he is a wonderful friend. No matter what work he was tackling, he never hesitated to help me, whether it was with a job for the paper, a homework assignment, or discussing life after Gettysburg. If I was having trouble finding the right article for a research paper, he was searching on the library and the New York Times websites in the blink of an eye. His relentless support and sarcastic jokes were a great relief after a bad day. Joining the Gettysburgian was one of the best decisions I ever made because it brought me so many friendships, including Ben’s.

Because the staff is a family, it is so hard to see Ben leave, especially since we do not get to send him off in proper Gettysburgian fashion with a Montezuma’s staff dinner. However, I know he is going off to do great things and I could not be prouder to call him a dear friend. Plus, I know he will continue to be there for us even after his time at Gettysburg, and he will only be a phone call away.

 

Anna Cincotta, Editor-in-Chief

I first met Ben Pontz when I interviewed for the opinions editor position in the spring of my junior year. As I sat across the table from him, I was immediately struck by his passion for and dedication to The Gettysburgian. Now, a year later, I can say with confidence that I would not be the person I am today without Ben’s guidance. I also consider him one of the most compassionate, patient, and tireless leaders I’ve ever worked with. 

As I sat down for my first editorial meeting in The Gettysburgian office, I remember feeling particularly nervous about the new environment. It didn’t take long, however, for me to realize that Ben’s leadership style allows for collaborative, energetic, and supportive dialogue. 

Ben challenges his staff to prioritize and produce the kind of quality journalism that inspires our campus community to turn aspirations into action. I’ve also noticed that Ben often sees potential in writers and editors before they recognize it in themselves. He values and practices humility and hard work, but also has a knack for building people up and encouraging them to take on the kind of journalistic pursuits that contribute to and catalyze their growth. I credit Ben with pushing me out of my comfort zone. I shouldn’t use the word pushing, though. Rather, he encouraged me out of my comfort zone. I’ve watched him encourage countless others out of their respective zones of comfort, too. He’s patient and generous with his time and energy. 

He also makes us laugh. This is key, and not something to be understated.

One of the things that I admire most about Ben, in addition to his sense of humor, is how he leans into nuance and context. By approaching challenging questions wholeheartedly and shaping The Gettysburgian into a platform for pursuing truth and documenting this complicated time in our community’s collective history, Ben frames stories in a way that opens up opportunities for discussion. He has a talent for encouraging his staff—and the campus community, for that matter—to think deeply and critically about the complex set of issues we’re facing as members of society. Most importantly, though, Ben prioritizes unifying our campus community and cultivating the togetherness that we’ll need as we move forward. Ben’s tenure as editor-in-chief has exemplified just how courageous and impactful real compassion and transparency can be in our increasingly polarized world. 

From a more personal standpoint, though, I’d like to thank Ben for being my friend—and one who challenges me to be better every day. I’ve learned so much from his approach to leadership and life. Here’s to you, Ben Pontz.

I simply can’t thank you enough.

 

Gauri Mangala, Managing Editor

Ben Pontz was the first Gettysburg student I knew. He emailed me during the summer before I got to the college to ask if I was still interested in writing for the newspaper. From then on, Ben became a mentor, a pain in my side, and, most importantly, a great friend.

So here is what I know about Ben. Ben doesn’t drink hot beverages, he much prefers soda, and mostly coke. Ben doesn’t read fiction or watch many movies. Ben hates when people use dialogue as a verb. Ben loves people.

Ben is probably the person I spent the most time with on campus, and is now the person I talk to the most in quarantine. Whether it be for a story, or just about some non-crisis that I have decided is Defcon 1, Ben has always been a sounding board and has helped me put my best foot forward in all things.

Most people in my life that don’t know Ben think one of two things about him: either that he is an old man trapped in a 20-something’s body, or that he is a robot incapable of having fun. Now, yes, Ben is, in some ways, both of these things. But Ben is also one of the most thoughtful people I have had the pleasure to know. For my 20th birthday, Ben got me two 2-liter bottles of orange soda because he had just learned that it’s my favorite drink. If we ever had a late night in the office, Ben would drive me home. When I was abroad, Ben mailed me the first copy of The Gettysburgian magazine, along with a postcard signed by the entire editorial board. 

I have been a part of this organization for three years now, and I can say without a doubt that the success of its work is all Ben. He will disagree. He will say that the work is the product of a lot of people putting in the time and effort to create something great, and that is true. But those people needed a leader in order to succeed, and there was no better leader than Ben Pontz. While Ben is definitely Superman if the superpowers were that of Clark Kent’s journalistic skills, he never forgot that the rest of us are mere mortals. He always remembered that this was a voluntary activity, and that people are only going to put good in if they get good out.

I’ll be honest, I hate writing this. I hate talking about Ben in the past tense. He’s impacted my life beyond the confines of a newspaper and the idea of my friend not being at school with me anymore hurts. But, I know that Ben will remain one of my closest advisors and I can’t wait to be his cheerleader no matter where he goes.

Here’s looking at you Benny Boy, can’t wait to hear all about you taking over the world and making it a better place.

 

Lauren Hand, Former Magazine Editor 

“It’ll take as much time as you want it to.” 

That’s what my friend, Ben Pontz, told me back in the summer of 2017 when he asked if I would come on as a copyeditor with the Gettysburgian. I had (quite innocently) edited a paper for Ben, and later admitted that, grammar junkie that I am, I really enjoy editing people’s work.

Ben is, first and foremost, one of the hardest working people I have ever met. Ben has published well over 200 articles with The Gettysburgian, and has been essential in developing countless others. He’s an excellent writer, and he has a great instinct for news. But perhaps more importantly, Ben knows how to identify the right people– people who are capable writers and editors, people with a knack for art, photography, and graphic design, and people whose unique perspectives can broaden our storytelling– and get them around our table.

These past few years, The Gettysburgian staff have developed a sense of collective identity rooted in a feeling of pride in the work we do, one that I’m sure wasn’t there when I began. I have no doubt this can be attributed to the way Ben has conducted the conversations that happen in The Gettysburgian office. He has encouraged everyone to take initiative and be a part of the discussion, and in doing so he has cultivated a sense of ownership among all of us on staff– we don’t just work for The Gettysburgian, we are The Gettysburgian, and all of us have a stake in the success of the organization.

Ben has led The Gettysburgian with ambition, and, with a dedicated team to back him up, he has not shied away from taking some calculated risks. I am grateful to Ben for entrusting me with the magazine in its first year, for coming to the rescue every time I (inevitably) bit off more than I could chew, and for always staying up with me as long as it took to make it happen.

On a personal note, I have learned these past four years that Ben is as kind as he likes to appear curmudgeonly, and he is among the best friends I could ever ask for. It has been such a joy to drag Ben out of his office to Servo at every opportunity, and the past couple months, I have missed being able to drop in to chat at all hours.

Nonetheless, because of the commitment that Ben has inspired, The Gettysburgian has been, I think for all of us, the one remaining stronghold of our regular extracurricular life on campus. Even while apart, we have found purpose in our reporting, and in telling the stories that continue to matter. Alone in our rooms on March 31st, late into the night, a group of our staff members laughed over Zoom as we worked through our April fools content, and if our readers got even half as much of a kick out of it as we did, I’d call it a success.

That feeling of genuine connectedness and investment, even under difficult circumstances, is a testament to the work that Ben has done, and it has been a privilege to be a part of The Gettysburgian during what I have to believe have been some of its most prolific years. I know Ben wouldn’t like for us to chalk that up to his leadership, but here at The Gettysburgian, we are interested in the truth, and the truth is that none of this would have been possible without him. So from our many different rooms, and from the bottom of our hearts, thank you, Ben.

 

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Author: Gettysburgian Staff

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