Alumni Voices

King of the Court

From tanks to pickleball: a look at John Giganti’s career and how he continues to give back

School of Engineering and Computer Science

icon of a calendarSeptember 1, 2022

icon of a pencilBy Michael Downes

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John Giganti, SECS ’74, grew up in Detroit with his mother, father and two siblings. His father was a union worker at Ford’s vinyl plant in Mount Clemens and frequently dealt with big machinery.

“He was extremely capable with his hands,” Giganti explains about his father, “He taught me about carpentry, engineering, all kinds of things. He learned through reading manuals top to bottom, to familiarize himself with his equipment.”

Giganti’s father was a master carpenter, building garages, hanging aluminum siding, fixing roofs and laying concrete. When Giganti got older, he would work on jobs alongside him, sparking his lifelong interest in engineering.

“Working with my dad, mechanics and physics became part of my life,” says Giganti, “He encouraged me to continue down this path. He wanted me to have a better life.”

Giganti’s father talked to his employer, who recommended Oakland University for engineering and that’s all it took. Giganti enrolled in classes in 1970.

Post graduation, Giganti weighed his options. It was the middle of the oil crisis and jobs were scarce. He opted to join the Army as a Department of Defense civilian employee, which was offering an engineering trainee position. From trainee to chief engineer and deputy program manager in 10 years, Giganti’s last big job was a $530 million military truck contract with General Motors.

After a decade with the Army, Giganti spent 40 years in positions of increasing responsibility, working for major defense contractors in the U.S. — Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics and L3 Technologies — and traveling the world.

“Then I decided to retire at 56,” says Giganti. “It seemed like it was time. I was wrong. I got a phone call about an opportunity to go and work in Kuwait.”

Giganti became General Dynamic’s customer-facing executive for the Middle East and North Africa. For nearly three years, Giganti sold the Abrams Main Battle Tank to surrounding countries, before retiring for the second time.

In 2014, Giganti and his wife moved from Kuwait to a gated community in Florida. He had come out of retirement one more time, running his own consulting firm, but he retired for a third and potentially final time right before the COVID-19 pandemic, but his services were still needed.

“I got approached by the community’s engineering committee to help with some smaller projects, basic day-to-day things,” explains Giganti. “But then a big project came up.”

The community was looking to transform three of their six tennis courts into pickleball and bocce ball courts. After some extensive research, including the amount of decibels a pickleball hits a paddle with a couple mock-up drawings, Giganti had a plan in place to convert the three tennis courts into six pickleball courts, two bocce courts.

After three days of construction, the first four pickleball courts were ready and being used. Since then, the remaining two more pickleball and two bocce courts have been added. With the new, permanent courts, the community’s pickleball club has grown from six members to more than 175 members. Giganti has become a certified pickleball coach and is working on coaching the community to enjoy the new courts to the fullest.

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