June 05, 2006

Aviation group honors SIUC faculty, students

by Tim Crosby

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Southern Illinois University Carbondale students and faculty received honors recently during the annual induction banquet for the Illinois Aviation Hall of Fame.

Ronald D. Kelly, longtime administrator, instructor and volunteer at the SIUC Department of Aviation Management and Flight, was one of four people statewide inducted into the hall of fame for his service in promoting aviation in Illinois.

The group also honored the Rotor and Wing Association of America, an SIUC registered student organization whose members mostly are students in the SIUC Department of Aviation Technologies.

The organization presented the awards during a May 10 banquet in Moline, organized by the Illinois Department of Transportation, Division of Aeronautics,

Kelly started his career in aviation in the U.S. Air Force from 1956 to 1960, as an airman stationed in Alaska. After his discharge, he enrolled at SIUC and began volunteering at Southern Illinois Airport. He became assistant to the airport director of operations in 1964 and became assistant to the director of the Air Institute and Service in 1972, while retaining his other title and job duties.

He served as director the Air Institute from 1977 to 1989, overseeing a period of rapid growth in the SIUC program. He retired in 1991, but remains active in the program's off-campus efforts.

David NewMyer, chairman of the aviation management and flight department, said Kelly basically started the program that he now manages and is well deserving of the honor.

"It's very prestigious," NewMyer said. "For Ron to be included in that company is wonderful. He's done great things for aviation in the state."

The Illinois Aviation Hall of Fame is comprised of a variety of aviation groups. A selection committee typically selects a handful of new inductees each year. The award is considered the top aviation award in Illinois, with inductees exhibiting good character, major impact on aviation and community service over their careers.

Past inductees with SIUC ties include Charles Rodriguez, assistant professor of aviation technology; Gene Siebert, founder of the flight program; Thomas A. Young, past coach of the Flying Salukis aviation team; and Arthur E. "Gene" Abney and Rudy Frasca, both members of the program's advisory board.

Rodriguez serves as academic advisor for the Rotor and Wing Association of America, which received the Spirit of Flight Award from the hall of fame. The group presents the Spirit of Flight annually to organizations that make substantial, excellent contributions to aviation in Illinois over a long period of time.

Rodriguez, who began working with the club in 1985, said its 20 or so members make it possible for aviation enthusiasts throughout the area to enjoy the experience and spectacle of flight. The group organizes and operates air shows, plays host to youngsters during aviation science camps at SIUC and arranges rides for them through the local Young Eagles program.

"You'll not find a more dedicated bunch," Rodriguez said.

Members of the group in 2001 began flying in the International Aerobatic Club Collegiate Aerobatic Contest, winning four of the last five national championships in the primary and sportsman categories. Rodriguez said members, who also include aviation management and flight students and a few from other departments, gain a variety of experience.

"The growth they experience is incredible," Rodriguez said. "They work their hearts out and do a lot for the community. They demonstrate that SIUC has a lot of hard-working, dedicated students who are interested in learning."

Seeking and celebrating faculty excellence and promoting excellence in undergraduate education are among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint the University is following as it approaches its 150th anniversary in 2019.