Success & Impact

Former Hawk and 9/11 Legacy Finds Brotherhood at St. Joe’s and FDNY

Greg Kumpel ’13, lives his life in service to others, following in the footsteps of his father, who was lost to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.


Left to right, Greg Kumpel '13 and family on graduation day.

by Nicole Glueckert

Greg Kumpel ’13 has spent his life in service to others. Following the examples of his father, mother and many other family members, he had aspirations to give back to his community when he graduated from Saint Joseph’s University with a degree in public policy. But what sets Kumpel’s life of service as a firefighter apart from many others is how his story intersects with American history. On the 20th anniversary of September 11, 2001, he faces his past — and personal connection to the attacks — with a foundation of strong relationships beneath him. 

While many students learn Jesuit values at Saint Joseph’s, Kumpel has been living them since childhood. 

His mother was dedicated to service in their community through their church, hosting food and gift drives every holiday. Two of his uncles are firefighters, too, and so is his brother, Carl, who graduated from Saint Joseph’s in 2014.

“In terms of giving back and charity and having a sense of giving … that was instilled in me and my brother at a really young age,” Kumpel says. “Before September 11, my father was [also] a police officer and then a firefighter. He was in the field of service and always there to help people out.” 

But it was on September 11, 2001, when Kumpel was still in 6th grade, that his life changed completely. 

A Fallen Hero

Kumpel’s father, Kenneth B. Kumpel, was a firefighter on the Upper West Side of New York City with Ladder 25 and one of the 343 firefighters to tragically lose his life in the attacks on the World Trade Center. 

Kumpel recalls coming home early from school that day and watching the news with his mother. No one said a word, the family simply watched the coverage in silence. It was days later that they were contacted regarding his father, but the family already knew he was gone. 

“The day itself was a tragedy for our family. It shaped us for the next couple of years … our mom was so strong and kept everyone together.” 

Greg Kumpel '13

Kumpel remembers that the first few years following the attacks, he and his family would go to ground zero in New York for an official memorial service intended for those families who lost loved ones. The years between milestones — 5, 10, 15 and now 20-year anniversaries — they stay in Cornwall, New York, to be with their neighbors and family members. Some years they give speeches or attend a memorial service near his father’s volunteer firehouse and some years they simply spend time at home or out on their boat with one another.

Finding His Brotherhood

Nearly a decade after he lost his father, Kumpel decided to enroll at Saint Joseph’s University. 

He played infield and outfield on the baseball team and made a lot of close friendships while on Hawk Hill. In fact Kumpel says that it was these relationships that he remembers most about his college experience. He made a large group of friends from his team and his classes whom he still sees each year at games and big events. 

“Even if we go a couple months without talking … we’re all still really close.” 

He says that there will be plenty of other St. Joe’s alumni as well as his former baseball coach, Fritz Hamburg, in attendance at his upcoming wedding this month. 

“Greg always cared a tremendous amount for his family and friends. He was a great teammate,” Coach Hamburg explains. “During his time in our program, he earned 2nd Team All A10 honors, was named to the All Big 5 team and was also the 2013 Raymond Vasquez Award winner, which is given to the student-athlete who best exemplifies the Jesuit value of being a person for others."

Now a firefighter in Harlem’s Engine 80, Ladder 23, Kumpel reflects on his growing foundation of support.

“Firefighting is a great brotherhood,” he says. “That’s something I understood from being part of a team at St. Joe’s.” 

Making a Difference Through Service

This week, Americans acknowledge the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Not only is Kumpel now a full-time firefighter, but his younger brother, Carl, works just a few blocks away. They both honor their father’s legacy everyday in their careers but 9/11 remains a day for them to remember their father’s sacrifice. 

“I knew that if I wasn’t going to make a career by playing baseball, it would definitely be in public service ... My brother, however, knew he wanted to be a firefighter from day one and I followed him later,” he says. 

There’s a certain bond among families who were affected by the attacks. Kumpel’s graduating class at the fire academy had the largest number of “legacy members” ever seen, meaning a majority of his classmates were related to service people lost in the attacks in 2001. 

It is because of this strong bond Kumpel has maintained high hopes for the future. He is most looking forward to getting married this spring and eventually moving up in ranks at his firehouse. This year, he also plans to come back to Hawk Hill for a game or two and catch travel games in the New York area. 

Kumpel wants current Hawks to know how incredibly fulfilling public service can be. 

“Sometimes in life, you can get caught up in money and things society expects you to do,” says Kumpel. “But in a job like this, it’s amazing to go home and rest your head safely on a pillow knowing that you made a difference. Of course there are tough times when you aren’t able to save everyone … but at the end of the day, you can be proud and you’ve made a difference.”