MBA Alum Manning Earns OPPD Award
By Dan Silvia, Communications Manager
Laura Manning, who earned her Master of Business Administration from the University in 2004, was recently named the 2016 Engineer of the Year by the Omaha Public Power Districts’ (OPPD) Society of Engineers. Manning is the first woman to win the award.
“Although being the first woman to win is wonderful, I’m more proud of the fact that I won because I am a professional in my discipline that competed against other professionals for the award,” she said.
Manning, a graduate of Lincoln High School in Lincoln, Nebraska, has been at OPPD for close to 15 years. As a Senior Distribution Engineer, she deals with OPPD’s electrical transmission, distribution, and interconnection facility expansions to ensure an adequate electrical system that meets existing and anticipated customer requirements.
“What I enjoy most about my job is the opportunity to continue learning from one day to the next, and apply the latest technological advancements when they provide cost-effective solutions,” she said. The biggest challenges are forecasting future needs and timing the installation of infrastructure to meet those needs at the right time. I write business cases and justify money spent based on anticipated returns. Trying to meet the needs without overbuilding, and therefore overspending, is a constant challenge in this position.”
A long-standing relationship between OPPD and Bellevue University first prompted Manning to look into the possibility of earning her MBA.
“OPPD has had a long relationship with Bellevue University through a partnership that takes advantage of our employee education program,” Manning said “I learned about the opportunity to pursue an MBA at Bellevue University through a career fair at an OPPD event. The tuition reimbursement and deferred billing were important to me, as was the ability to take classes online and work around my work/family schedules.”
Manning took her first class on campus before switching to the online format for the rest of the program.
“When I switched to all online classes, I did so for the scheduling flexibility. I was soon surprised that I learned a lot more online than in class. The required essays, questions and responses challenged me to research more thoroughly. I also was able to read what other students were contributing and respond back and forth with them,” she said. “I was exposed to many more perspectives than what I see in a more traditional (in-class) experience where a few people do most of the talking while many don’t contribute as much. The online experience was more flexible with respect to when I did the work, but required more overall time from me. I didn’t mind the trade-off of flexibility for more total time spent. I really benefitted educationally from the additional research and correspondence.”
Manning credited a strong support system for helping her achieve her academic and career goals.
“My husband and my kids help me get through the days when school and work get in the way and I need a hand. They are my biggest supporters. My parents have always encouraged me to have goals and do what it takes to achieve them. Of course, OPPD helped with financial and flexible work scheduling support that helped make achieving my MBA possible,” she said. “I think most, if not all, of the people who have touched my life know that to be successful in the engineering profession, the OPPD company and the community one person can’t do it alone. It takes a village. Many people have helped me get to where I am today and I am grateful to be blessed with the successes we’ve obtained together. Thanks to all my fellow villagers who helped me become the 2016 OPPD Society of Engineers Engineer of the Year.”
Manning pays that support forward through involvement with several groups.
“Community service is important to me,” she said. “Knowing I might make a difference to one or more of the young people I’ve mentored in the Partnership 4 Kids program is encouraging. I am actively involved as a leader in the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) and a couple OPPD employee resource groups as well.”
Crosston, Kyndt to Lead Nebraska Academic Decathlon
By Dan Silvia, Communications Manager
Drs. Matt Crosston and John Kyndt have been named the co-Executive Directors of the Nebraska Academic Decathlon. Crosston and Kyndt will succeed Dr. John Anstey, a retired professor from the University of Nebraska-Omaha.
“We’re excited because we think it has a lot of opportunity for growth as an event. We see it as potentially the scholastic endeavor for Nebraska high schools,” Crosston said. “It is a little bit daunting trying to figure all this stuff out. We are, thankfully, still having the help of the outgoing executive director.”
The Nebraska Academic Decathlon is an educational growth program for high school students. The program requires participating students to develop an understanding of a specific curriculum and take tests in the areas of Art, Economics, Language & Literature, Math, Music, Science, and Social Science. In addition, they must write an essay, present both a planned and impromptu speech and complete an interview.
Bellevue University’s involvement with the event sprung largely from academic events sponsored by Dr. Rod Hewlett as part of his responsibilities as Grewcock Chair. Examples include recent programs on India and BRICS (an acronym for Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). The events, which served as prep for the Decathlon, brought high school students to the Bellevue University campus and had the students interacting with faculty members such as Crosston and Kyndt.
Crosston said he and Kyndt are excited about the opportunity and intend to be great caretakers for the event. By doing so, they can help high school students look at Bellevue University in a different light.
“If we can be great stewards of that process, people will just naturally see us in a way they didn’t see us before,” he said. “I don’t see how that just can’t end up being a great benefit for us. I see it as the greatest high school outreach we’ve ever done. It certainly should have at least something of a positive impact on the Drive to 2000. These are the people who are the key for the future of the Drive to 2000 campaign. It’s getting students of the traditional high school age to see Bellevue University as a legitimate potential destination.”
The Regional competition for the Decathlon is held on the third Saturday in January. The Regionals are based on the enrollment level of the schools. The State Final is held on the third full weekend in February at Creighton University.
MPA Grad Boynton Earns PMF Appointment
By Dan Silvia, Communications Manager
Emerging from a field of 6,700 applicants, David Boynton is one of 400 Presidential Management Fellows program finalists. Boynton, who earned his Master of Public Administration (MPA) from Bellevue University in 2014, survived a rigorous application process to earn the appointment.
The U.S. Presidential Management Fellows (PMF) program is a prestigious two-year training and development program at a United States government agency, administered by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), for U.S. citizens with a recent graduate degree. Applicants undergo an arduous multistage assessment and testing process. After completing the program, agencies may place PMFs as permanent federal civilian employees.
The testing and application process are considered sensitive, thus Boynton could only share a few details about the journey.
“After making it through to the 2nd round of selection, I had to fly to DC to do in-person assessments. That was an amazing experience as I got to go head-to-head against some of the best and brightest from Yale, Dartmouth, Johns Hopkins, Harvard… you name it!” he said. “It was a great feeling coming away from that day feeling great and knowing that Bellevue had set me up right for the future.”
Boynton credited Dr. William P. Kittredge for helping him through the process.
“He discovered that I was selected as Bellevue University’s only 2016 PMF Finalist and immediately reached out to me. He has been a fierce advocate and kept me on target throughout the whole Appointment process,” Boynton said. “Because just being selected as a finalist is not the end, it is only the beginning; and without a doubt, it was his mentorship, experience within the federal government and wisdom that helped me achieve my appointment within National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).”
As part of the program, Boynton, a retired 21-year veteran of the United States Air Force, has been assigned to NOAA in the Department of Commerce. He’ll be working with the fisheries budgets, which could lead to an appearance on Capitol Hill to defend the budget.
“I have worked very hard in my academic and military career to be able to continue to make a difference in the world once I took the uniform off,” Boynton said. “Until this program came my way, I was not really sure how I would be able to do that… city or state government… but I never dreamed I would be able to contribute to our future to this degree.”
Originally from St. Augustine, Florida, Boynton is an avid scuba diver and is looking forward to the opportunities the NOAA presents.
“The ability to work in NOAA is an amazing one and I believe I will stay with them for quite some time,” he said.
Prior to earning his MPA, Boynton completed his Bachelor of Science in Healthcare Management at the University.
“I first heard about Bellevue University from an education briefing at Offutt Air Force Base,” Boynton said. “My education plan took a back seat when I volunteered to become a Military Training Instructor at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio Texas. Once I was done in San Antonio, I somehow managed to find my way back to Offutt and almost immediately enrolled in the Healthcare Management program. The process was incredibly easy. I brought all my transcripts and Community College of the Air Force (CCAF) grad certs and was in class the next semester!”
“Every single professor that I had during my time at Bellevue University was nothing short of outstanding. The two who had the biggest impact on me however and still do to this day are Dr. Adrian Petrescu and Professor Denny Wilson,” Boynton said. “Those two professors challenged me to be more than I was and to always strive for excellence within myself. They never let me lose sight of what I could accomplish or what I was capable of becoming. For that, I will be eternally thankful to them.”
In addition to his professors, Boynton credited his wife, Allana, who completed her Master of Science in Human Resources Strategic Management on August 31 at Bellevue University, and their family, with motivating him throughout the program.
“There were days in my MPA class where I felt completely out of my depth and she kept me grounded and always moving forward to achieve the goal,” he said. “My children, though they may not realize it, are why I work so hard as I want them to understand that nothing is ever free and everything worth having must be worked for.”
Barahona helps Proseeds grow roots
By Dan Silvia, Communications Manager
If you’re going to grow a start-up business, it’s important to have a good root system.
With software developer Gio Barahona laying out a solid root structure, a new fundraising endeavor, Proseeds is ready to sprout in Omaha. Proseeds (www.giveproseeds.com) works like AmazonSmile, but on a local level. You sign up, indicate what causes you wish to support, and register your credit card. Whenever you go to a participating merchant, they’ll donate five percent of your purchase to the cause that you care about.
“The idea is that you’re going to choose merchant A over merchant B because they give back to your community,” Barahona explained.
Barahona, who earned his bachelor’s degree in Computer Information Systems from Bellevue University in 2011, receives rave reviews from his fellow partners in the Proseeds venture, Jared Bakewell and Josh Kelley.
“When we took the idea to Gio, he got it instantly. He understood the technical challenges that we’d be facing to make our idea a reality. He joined the team as a partner in our venture and helped us build it into what it is now,” said Bakewell. “Gio built the system from the ground up. Without him we would not have been able to do it.”
Kelley echoed those thoughts.
“Gio is an amazing person to work with and just a really genuine guy all around. He really cares about people and making good quality work,” Kelley said. “We would tell him ideas for building the system. He was not only able to execute those ideas perfectly He would add things on that we didn’t even think about.”
Originally from El Salvador, Barahona immigrated to Los Angeles with his family when he was around nine years old. The family moved to Omaha when he was about 15 to take advantage of the lower cost of living. Barahona graduated from Omaha Bryan High School before earning an associate’s degree in graphic design at Metro Community College.
A friendly credit transfer policy made Barahona’s decision on where to pursue his bachelor’s degree an easy one.
“By going to Bellevue I wouldn’t lose the credits that I had already earned. It made a lot of sense,” he said.
While he is passionate about Proseeds, Barahona works full-time as a programmer for Nelnet. He helps write and maintain the cashiering system.
“When students go up to pay their tuition or pay for books. The person behind the counter, the system they’re using, that’s what I build,” he said.
At both Nelnet and Proseeds, Barahona’s Bellevue University education is paying off.
“It’s changed my life. Without that degree…,” Barahona said. “Without getting the degree I’m not sure Proseeds would necessarily be a thing. We’re going to reach the point where it is going to be a game changer for a lot of people.”
Builders of Bellevue University: Across the Years and Generations
In celebration of Bellevue University’s 50th Anniversary, we take time to recognize the many individuals and organizations that have helped to build the University into Nebraska’s largest private college or university. Early in its history, Bellevue University received stalwart support and involvement from Mallory Kountze, a key Board member and philanthropist. His son Neely Kountze continues that legacy as President and Trustee of the Gilbert M. and Martha H. Hitchcock Foundation.
Mallory Kountze: A Pioneer Builder of Bellevue University
In 1969, the late Mallory Kountze became the first “non-founder” member of Bellevue College’s Board of Directors. He was one of several Omaha business leaders recruited to the Board in an effort to attract both students and support from the greater Omaha area. Kountze was a Trustee of the Omaha-based Gilbert M. and Martha H. Hitchcock Foundation, named for Omaha World-Herald newspaper founder and former U.S. Senator Gilbert M. Hitchcock.
According to Mallory Kountze’s son, Neely, current Hitchcock Foundation President, his father initially learned about Bellevue College from his longtime friend, Joe Dennis of Bellevue. “It was through that keen friendship that he came to know and love what was at the time Bellevue College,” Neely Kountze recalled. “Joe introduced dad to (Bellevue College President) Dick Winchell, who convinced him to get the Hitchcock Foundation involved through a key “loan” made to the school in the early 1970’s. That loan would be forgiven over a number of years at our Hitchcock annual meetings. I was told that loan helped keep the doors open at the school at a time when there was not enough cash to pay the payroll taxes due.”
After joining the Board, Mallory Kountze immediately threw the Hitchcock Foundation’s support behind the College’s capital campaign, including the first large classroom building, the 20,000 square-foot Gilbert M. and Martha H. Hitchcock Humanities Center. When a key donor withdrew pledge support for the $1.3 million project, Kountze encouraged the foundation to increase its support, which kept the project on track for completion in 1981.
Mallory Kountze died in 1984. In 1991, a major addition to the Hitchcock Humanities Center was named the Mallory Kountze Addition. The University’s Mallory Kountze Award is presented periodically to charitable foundations and corporate donors who have provided long-standing major support to Bellevue University.
Today, the Hitchcock Foundation, under the leadership of Neely Kountze, supports a variety of non-profit organizations in Nebraska and western Iowa, with special emphasis on the Greater Omaha-Council Bluffs area. In recent years, the Foundation has provided grant support to Bellevue University for the expansion of campus facilities and outreach initiatives that increase the impact and values that characterize the University’s Undergraduate Kirkpatrick Signature Series courses.
“At the Hitchcock Foundation we believe the Kirkpatrick Signature Series is very worthy of our support, and I personally look forward annually to attending the fall Signature Event speaker presentation,” Neely Kountze said. “I also feel the fact that the American Values courses are a requirement for every undergraduate degree candidate of Bellevue University is an excellent standard. I only wish more universities and colleges would make the same commitment to teaching about the importance of democracy and free economies, and American values. My father would be very proud to see these high standards upheld at Bellevue University.
“To this day, Bellevue University is our 2nd largest recipient of total Hitchcock Funds, with over $2.5 million Hitchcock dollars granted since 1970. We continue to support Bellevue University because we see it as an outstanding investment,” Neely Kountze said.
Hawkins, Shrestha Research Potential Nepalese Partnerships
By Dan Silvia, Communications Manager
Dr. Mary Hawkins, President of Bellevue University and Ani Shrestha, Director of Administrative Operations at the University, traveled to Nepal July 2 through July 8 to investigate partnership opportunities within the South Asia nation.
The University has had about 600 students from Nepal over the years including nearly 400 graduates. Hawkins and Shrestha, a native of Nepal, visited the cities of Kathmandu and Pokhara and met with officials from the Himalayan Education Network, Pokhara University, and Tribhuvan University to discover what those organizations might be looking for in a partnership and how Bellevue University might be able to meet those needs.
“We introduced Bellevue University to them and talked about opportunities for a number of things, student exchanges, faculty cooperation, and faculty exchanges. We look at building relationships, not just recruiting students,” Hawkins said.
Hawkins saw some potential to draw in other collaborators including some of the University’s community college partners.
“You’ve got a lot of investment in that area in manufacturing, ag business, ag science, ag tech,” she said. “To start making those connections is intriguing to me.”
The University just completed the first year of its partnership with China’s Guangzhou College of Commerce. Discussion with that school started three or four years ago, Hawkins said, so potential partnerships with the Nepal schools are in their infancy.
Hawkins was interviewed by two television stations and the Himalayan Times.
“The reception and the enthusiasm and the interest in partnering were really strong,” Hawkins said.
Ph.D. Alum Takes Helm At Clarkson College
By Dan Silvia, Communications Manager
On August 1, Clarkson College will welcome Dr. Tony Damewood as its President.
A variety of experiences have combined to lead Damewood to the top spot at the Omaha-based health sciences college. One of his final steps was earning his Ph.D. in Human Capital Management at Bellevue University in 2014.
“In higher education, Ph.D. is always the ultimate in credentials,” Damewood said. “I started realizing that maybe being President of the College was an option, but it certainly wouldn’t be an option if I didn’t have the right credentials. When Bellevue started its Human Capital Management program, I felt like it would be a good option.”
“As an administrator in higher education, I have kind of different perspective. We were the first class and I kind of expected there to be some bumps in the road. One of the things that I was always impressed with about Bellevue was that they always tried to work with you to smooth those bumps out in a fair way,” Damewood said.
Good content and quality instruction helped smooth out those early bumps. Damewood praised the efforts of then-Program Director Dr. Jennifer Moss Breen, Dr. Greg Ashley, Dr. Carolyn Youssef-Morgan, and his Dissertation Advisor, Dr. Stephen Linenberger.
“I’d have to thank Dr. Linenberger. Without him it would have been rough to get through. I think he’s great and send people to him all the time,” Damewood said. “Dr. Ashley was an excellent faculty member. I always enjoyed his classes. Dr. Youssef was by far the hardest. She added legitimacy to the program because of the difficulty of it.”
Damewood started his Clarkson College career in 1999 as the Director of Admissions and has progressively earned more responsibility. He’ll be replacing Dr. Louis Burgher, who will remain on as President Emeritus.
“The gist of it will be more about strategic planning, big-picture planning — anything that might have to do with legislative issues, legal issues, acquiring new space-types of issues. I’m not a micro-manager by any stretch. I will stay out of the way of the experts and let them do their jobs much like our current president does,” Damewood said. “I have a feeling there are a host of things that I’m not quite sure of that will be coming my way. That’ll be exciting too.”
A family atmosphere and measurable success in the classroom are two areas of strength at Clarkson that Damewood hopes to build on in his tenure.
“The size of our institution (about 1,200 students) allows our culture to be family oriented,” he said. “We continue to have measurements in place that prove our education is of high quality. Most of our programs require that our students take a licensure test at the end and our pass rates are extremely high. Higher than the national average and sometimes the highest in the country, we’re very excited about that.”
Damewood earned his bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Graceland College, in Lamoni, Iowa in 1990 and worked for five years as the Director of Admissions and Head Baseball Coach at Iowa Wesleyan in Mount Pleasant, Iowa. From there he took a job as Head Baseball Coach at Bluefield College in Virginia before heading back to the Midwest to begin his Clarkson College career.
So did he have his eye on the Presidency back in 1999?
“There was no way that that was in my mind. We were moving back to be closer to family. I knew that I wanted to stay in higher education and this was the best opportunity, but leading the institution was never in my mind at the beginning,” he said.
While Damewood has carved out his career on the administrative side of higher education, his college coaching career is also of note. He coached Marc Rardin, the highly successful head coach at Iowa Western Community College, at Iowa Wesleyan. Rardin’s teams have won three Junior College World Series titles. The pair also coached together at Bluefield College.
While at Iowa Wesleyan, Damewood also coached Darrell Einertson, who appeared in 11 games for the New York Yankees in the 2000 season. Einertson played a role, albeit a relatively inactive one, in Damewood’s first interaction with Bellevue University.
In 1995, the year the Bruins won the NAIA College World Series; Damewood’s Iowa Wesleyan squad faced Bellevue University in a first-round Region III contest in Topeka, Kansas. Einertson was unavailable for the game having pitched just a few days prior.
“I decided to throw the No. 2 guy at Bellevue. We ended up losing 5-1. We’re in the loser’s bracket. The coaches talked and we decided that if we can’t win with our No. 3 in the loser’s bracket and then come back with (Einertson) against Bellevue then we’re not going to win the whole thing anyway,” Damewood said. “We lost and I had a guy who could throw 95 that didn’t pitch in a meaningful game.”
What lesson was learned?
“Always go with your No. 1.”
Professors Host Cybersecurity Camp
By Dan Silvia, Communications Manager
Bellevue University, led by Professors Douglas Rausch and Ron Woerner, hosted the Silicon Prairie Gencyber camp, July 18-22. The first three days of the camp were spent on the Bellevue University campus, while the final two were at the University of Nebraska-Omaha.
The camp attracted 20 students who were exposed to the roots of computer hardware and software and how to operate in that arena. As part of the camp, each student received a Raspberry Pi, a small computer that can assist with learning how to program.
Understanding how computers work at those basic levels can help students learn how to close down cyberattacks.
Woerner and Rausch hopes the camp inspires students to consider a career in cybersecurity. The pair makes a point to let students know about the main career opportunities are available in the field. They also want to make sure students use their new-found skills in the right way.
“We make a big deal about ethics,” Rausch said. “It’s a tool. I can give you a hammer and you can build a house or smash a window.”
Sebastian Hanus, a camp participant from Fremont, Nebraska, enjoyed the event.
“I have some previous experience, so there was some review, but I learned some new programming as well,” he said. “I’m pretty sure I want to something in engineering and most likely in software. I’ve done programming in the past, but nothing quite like this.”
MPA Alum De Jesus Delivers Tasty Message
By Dan Silvia, Communications Manager
Carne Asada! Churrasco! 烧烤
No matter how you say it or spell it, barbecue means good eating. As the Director of Multicultural Marketing for the National Pork Board, it’s part of Jose De Jesus’ job to get that message out to people of all nationalities across the country.
“I am responsible for multicultural marketing strategy development and implementation as well as execution of marketing, public relations and social media campaigns in the U.S. for multicultural segments, including Latinos and African Americans,” said De Jesus, who earned his Master of Public Administration degree through Bellevue University in 2009. “This is a very rewarding job because I work on behalf of America’s pork producers. Our charge is pretty simple: to promote an amazing, inspiring and delicious product – pork. Aside from that, marketing is fun in that you are constantly looking for that one idea that can disrupt the market, and the journey to get there makes it extremely rewarding. From the creative brainstorming with our teams to program execution and everything in between, the job is exciting.”
A native of Puerto Rico, De Jesus graduated from Colegio Nuestra Señora del Pilar before earning his bachelor’s degree in Communications at Clarke University in Dubuque, Iowa. He worked as a journalist at the Green Bay Gazette-Press and the Des Moines Register and was the Chief Communications Officer at the American Institute of Business before joining the Des Moines, Iowa-based National Pork Board in September 2013.
A master’s degree had always been on his radar and he took the plunge with Bellevue University in the Fall of 2006.
“I wanted to make sure I was working with a deeper understanding of the business world before deciding what degree to pursue,” he said. “Being able to apply some of my learnings from my career into the Master’s program was one of the things I enjoyed the most. I quickly felt the Master of Public Administration program was the perfect fit for me. I felt all of our professors were well prepared and added significant and real-life point of views to the curriculum.”
While his degree has paid off at the non-profit National Pork Board, De Jesus sees additional benefits as well.
“I’d like to think that it has impacted my career positively, but earning a master’s degree was also a decision I made for personal reasons,” he said. “No matter what happens in life, no one can take away your education. Whether in business or personally, we are constantly learning and striving to get better and that’s how I approached it.”
One of De Jesus’ latest initiatives is the ¡PRENDE EL SABOR! campaign, designed to reach Latino customers in the United States.
“It’s about bringing to life the idea of ‘What would the grill say’ if he or she could describe the grilling experience as a fan of grilling and pork,” De Jesus said. “To build on this fun approach, we added a layer of cultural relevance by creating this “Gloria” persona who has certain traits that Hispanic consumers can relate to such as eating pork at every celebration and wanting to put together the perfect BBQ to entertain family and friends.”
The campaign enlisted popular Mexican actress, comedian, and singer Angélica Vale as the voice behind “Gloria.”
“ ‘Gloria’ gave a voice to the campaign and allowed the National Pork Board to communicate key messages about healthy cuts, recipes, flavor, inspiration and creativity in a fun and unexpected way,” De Jesus said. “We took a multi-channel approach – earned media, digital influencers, social media, digital video content, and digital media – to create awareness of pork in the market and drive consumers to our Spanish-language website, www.PorkTeInspira.com, for relevant seasonal content.”
Memorabilia from the Tuskegee Airmen will be on display at the Hitchcock Humanities Center from Monday, July 18-30. The display will consist of posters, photos, models, uniforms and other items provided by the Alfonza W. Davis Chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen, Incorporated.
Tuskegee Airmen is the popular name of a group of African-American military pilots who fought in World War II. Officially, they formed the 33rd Fighter Group and the 477th Bombardment Group of the United States Army Air Force. The name also applies to the navigators, bombardiers, mechanics, instructors, crew chiefs, nurses, cooks, and other support personnel for the pilots.
“The official definition of Tuskegee Airmen is anyone who was stationed at or worked at Tuskegee Army Air Field from 1941 to 1949,” said Bob Rose, an Air Force Veteran and President of the Chapter. “The operative term there is anyone. It doesn’t say black, it doesn’t say male, it doesn’t say pilot. It says anyone.”
The group was formed at a time when the military was segregated.
“In 1925, the Air War College actually released a study that said blacks were incapable of handling sophisticated equipment — couldn’t and wouldn’t take orders,” Rose said. “Organizations such as the Tuskegee Airmen and Red Ball Express – the combination of success by these groups led to President Truman signing the executive order to integrate the military. In my humble opinion, that changed the fabric of American Society.”
The exploits of the Tuskegee Airmen have been documented by Hollywood over the last decades, first with the HBO movie The Tuskegee Airmen in 1995 and more recently with George Lucas’ Red Tails in 2012.
“It was kind of fascinating. Most Tuskegee Airmen didn’t know that they were Tuskegee Airmen until the movie came out in 1995 and they certainly didn’t know that they were heroes,” Rose said. “Most of the awareness took place after the HBO movie.”
The mission of the Davis Chapter today is to educate and inspire.
“Our mission is to perpetuate and preserve the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen. We use aviation, aeronautics, and airplanes as a hook to get kids interested and then try to convince them that, just like the Tuskegee Airmen, if you’re prepared you can do anything,” Rose said.
“In today’s world, prepared is spelled STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. We have various programs. Our primary program at the moment is out at Offutt Air Force Base. We have nine kids out there today flying the KR 135 flight simulator. It’s a very unique program — a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
In addition to being the namesake for the chapter, Alfonza W. Davis has a middle school named for him in the Omaha Public School System. Davis was the first African-American aviator from Omaha to be awarded his wings. A recipient of the Purple Heart, Distinguished Flying Cross and the Distinguished Unit Citation, Davis was assumed to be dead after going missing on or about July 30, 1945 over the Adriatic Sea.