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Aviation reunion well attended

Sept. 19, 2008

KALAMAZOO--Three WMU presidents joined W.K. Kellogg Foundation officials at a reunion earlier this month to celebrate a successful, 10-year effort to increase diversity in the aviation industry.

The event recognized some of the more than 160 WMU women and minority students who have received support to attend the University's College of Aviation. Some 25 alumni--many now civilian and military Pilots--attended and shared information about how their scholarship experiences changed them and helped reshape the field of aviation.

The day's activities featured a luncheon celebration at Kellogg Foundation headquarters in Battle Creek and an open house there at the College of Aviation's W.K. Kellogg Airport facilities.

WMU's College of Aviation has worked since the mid-1990s to substantially boost the number of women and minorities in the aviation industry. A 1995 grant of $2.9 million and a $5.2 million 1998 grant, both from the Kellogg Foundation, combined with support from Battle Creek Unlimited, WMU and the federal government, to create a world-class aviation program in Battle Creek.

Additionally, the funds helped to enhance the college's technical capabilities, and launched an intense effort to recruit students early in their high school careers, give them early flight experience and provide scholarship resources for them to attend WMU. WMU's enrollment of women and minority students more than tripled in the first five years of the initiative.

"Earlier this year, the Kellogg Foundation renewed its commitment to promote racial equality through its grantmaking," said Sterling Speirn, the foundation's president and CEO.

"The success of this legacy program reminds us of what can happen when we provide viable opportunities, especially to young people. These WMU graduates have truly helped changed the face of the aviation industry."

In 2001, Delta Airlines announced $1.65 million over four years to train 24 women and minority pilots. The first eight of those arrived on campus in May 2001 and graduated 14 months later.

Between the Kellogg Foundation and Delta scholarships, WMU has awarded more than $2.5 million in diversity scholarships. The percentage of African Americans in the College of Aviation's student body has risen from 1 percent in 1999 to 6 percent today, and the number of African American women has increased tenfold. Today, a typical class of aviation graduates will include about 30 percent women and minority students.

Along with Speirn from the Kellogg Foundation, other participants in the program included:

  • Dr. Diether H. Haenicke, WMU president emeritus. During his tenure, the W.K. Kellogg Airport facility was developed for WMU's aviation program. The first aviation diversity funding was awarded to WMU by the Kellogg Foundation during his presidency.
  • Dr. Elson S. Floyd, sixth president of WMU and now the president of Washington State University. Under his tenure, the University entered into the training program with Delta Airlines.
  • Dr. John M. Dunn, the eighth president of WMU, who has been in office since July 2007.
  • Joseph M. Stewart, board chair of the Kellogg Foundation and retired senior vice president-corporate affairs and chief ethics officer of the Kellogg Co.
  • Greg Lyman, senior vice president, Kellogg Foundation, who was chair of the WMU College of Aviation Board of Directors from 2001-2004, and served as the college's interim dean in 2002 under an executive loan relationship.

Established in 1930, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation supports children, families and communities as they strengthen and create conditions that propel vulnerable children to achieve success as individuals and as contributors to the larger community and society. Grants are concentrated in the United States, Latin America and the Caribbean, and the southern African countries of Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe. For more information, visit the W.K. Kellogg Foundation online.

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, (269) 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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