In the Tom Whittles clan, the aviation acorn does not fall too far from the tree. But it can still take flight. Now wearing the uniform of Delta Air Lines, Whittles is the third generation in his family to make beautiful machines overcome the laws of gravity. His grandfather was a member of "the Greatest Generation," serving in the Army Air Corps during World War II. Grandpa's son and Tom's dad -- Jim Whittles -- has been part of the WMU College of Aviation faculty for 20-plus years and is currently a lead flight instructor.
Growing up in Calumet City, Ill., at the southwestern edge of Lake Michigan in what is referred to as "Chicagoland," Ed Florek was the youngster who took apart the mechanical alarm clock or the family's lawn mower to learn what made them tick. As a 2020 graduate of the WMU College of Aviation with a degree in aviation technical operations, Florek is one of the first WMU students to take advantage of the AAR Eagle Pathway Program.
Will Doe, a 2015 graduate of the Western Michigan University College of Aviation, was born in Liberia and spent his first 10 years in the southwest African nation located at the top of the continent's ice-cream-cone-like bulge along the Atlantic Ocean. By the time his age hit double "ones," he was living within visibility of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the busiest terminal in the world and the first on the planet to crest more than 100 million passengers in a calendar year.
A single failure doesn't equate to total, abject failure because each setback can be a valued learning tool. Brian DePuy has the life experiences to prove that. For the WMU College of Aviation alumnus who now flies as a first officer for Envoy Air out of Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, compiling a bunch of rejections in his quiver is how he eventually hit the bull's-eye. Don't believe that? Just ask the successful novelists whose work room walls are plastered with rejection slips.
Puchacz majored in what is now aviation management and operations and minored in business on the way to his 2003 WMU degree. During this time, he held his first job in the industry as an intern at the Kalamazoo/Battle Creek International Airport. That stint cemented his decision to focus on the management aspect of aviation and prepped him for his first full-time job -- at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey as an operations coordinator.
Like most of Western's aviation majors, Doug Stutzman thought he was initially on a path to work for an airline. The detour happened in his senior year at Western at a college event -- Aviation Outlook Day. In an exchange with an Army recruiter, he was encouraged to explore an opportunity that he had never considered before. To boost his bid for acceptance in the Army's flight-training program for warrant officers, Capt. Dave Powell, dean of the College of Aviation, and former instructor Felix Esquibel penned letters of recommendation.