Gala celebration to mark 75 years of aviation education at WMU

Contact: Tom Thinnes

WMU celebrates 75 years of aviation education

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—For the past 75 years, Western Michigan University has played a leading role in training thousands of fighter pilots, airliner captains, airport executives, and the technicians who ensure that planes take off, fly and land safely.

The College of Aviation will honor that accomplishment during a gala celebration Friday, Oct. 24, marking the diamond anniversary of aviation education at WMU, which now has the nation's third largest aviation college.

The gala is open to the public and will be held at the College of Aviation's facilities at the W.K. Kellogg Airport, 237 N. Helmer Road in Battle Creek. It will begin with a social hour at 5 p.m. followed by dinner at 6 p.m. The program and awards ceremony will take place at 8 p.m.

The event costs $10 for WMU students and $45 for others, and a cash bar will be available. Each attendee will receive a commemorative coin and a coffee table book that describes the three-quarters-of-a-century legacy of aviation education at WMU.

For more information or make a reservation to attend, visit Direct questions to Tom Thinnes at or (269) 964-5768.

Speakers and honorees

Among the highlights of the gala will be a keynote talk, the induction of the 12th and 13th members of the College of Aviation Hall of Honor, and presentation of the college's third Excellence in Diversity Award.

The gala's keynote speaker will be Nicole Barrette-Sabourin, a technical specialist in training and licensing for the Air Navigation Bureau of the International Civil Aviation Organization. Also making remarks will be WMU Provost Timothy Greene, who will present an overview of the University's aviation history.

This year's honorees are:

  • Honor roll inductee—Dr. Curtis "Doc" Swanson, WMU associate professor emeritus of aviation sciences. Swanson, who earned a master's degree from the University, retired in 1999 after nearly 32 years of service to WMU aviation.
  • Honor roll inductee—Clarence "Pappy" VanDeventer, WMU associate professor emeritus of transportation technology. VanDeventer, who is the author of an aviation textbook that was used nationally, served as a flight instructor from 1955 until his retirement in 1975.
  • Excellence in Diversity Award recipient—Albert Glenn, a captain for FedEx Express and member of the Tuskegee Airmen. Glenn is a past chairman of the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals Board of Directors and now serves as chairman of the organization's Advisors Board of Directors.

WMU's College of Aviation

The College of Aviation offers one of the top aviation programs in the country and the only comprehensive aviation program at a Michigan public university. Its 750 students can earn bachelor's degrees in aviation flight science, aviation maintenance technology and aviation management and operations.

Those students come from nations around the world as well as several airlines with which the aviation college has "bridge" agreements that smooth their way toward employment once they graduate. And WMU's students are able to complete their studies on an airport campus with top-flight facilities and a fleet of 39 sophisticated aircraft.

David Powell, dean of the College of Aviation, notes that aviation education at WMU has continually evolved since its humble beginnings in 1939 training airplane mechanics.

"We're not only a beacon for new generations of young people seeking satisfying career paths, we're also a global player in advancing aviation as a force for economic growth and one of our most efficient modes of transportation," Powell says.

"It's exciting to consider what aviation might look like in another 75 years with new research resulting in lighter composite fuselages, engine-design improvements and sustainable alternative fuels. What I do know is that WMU aviation will be a part of it."

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