May 01, 2014

Priester to receive Distinguished Service Award

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill.  -- Charles Priester, a widely recognized aviation industry leader whose commitment to Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s program spans more than 30 years, will receive the Distinguished Service Award during commencement ceremonies. 

Priester, the chair of Priester Aviation, LLC will receive the award May 10 during the 5:30 p.m. commencement exercises at the SIU Arena. The SIU Board of Trustees approved a recommendation by Chancellor Rita Cheng and the university’s Honorary Degrees and Distinguished Service Awards Committee to honor Priester. 

Priester’s numerous contributions include serving as member and chair of the university’s first air institute and service advisory committee, which strongly advocated for creating an aviation flight degree that was established in 1984; helping launch a first-of-its kind “United Airlines-SIU Flight Operations Internship” program, and assisting in strengthening corporate partnerships.  

Priester has worked diligently to foster the passion for flight in others and he contributes much to SIU’s aviation programs.  In nominating Priester, Andy Wang, dean of the College of Applied Sciences and Arts, said Priester’s dedication help the aviation programs “garner the national attention they so richly deserve.” 

“His passion for all things aviation and SIU’s mission to train and educate future aviation leaders form the basis of a great partnership.” Priester “is always willing to share” aviation industry connections with the university, Wang wrote. 

Wang also noted that Priester is “SIU aviation’s biggest cheerleader.” 

Priester established and endowed the George Priester Memorial Aviation Scholarship through the SIU Foundation in honor of his father, and is establishing a scholarship to honor Esther Noffke, a Women’s Air Service Program aviator during World War II who was one of George Priester’s initial partners in forming Priester Aviation.  Charles Priester helped secure historical pieces for the SIU Aviation Library, including planning maps and items from Noffke’s private aviation collection and the Palwaukee Airport Library collection. 

Priester has also served as a leader of the SIU Aviation Captains Club, a group of Chicago-area aviators formed in 2005 to offer guidance and resources to benefit the aviation programs. He assists with the annual SIU Aviation Scholarship Golf Scramble, and hosts and underwrites the annual SIU Aviation Alumni Gathering at Priester Aviation at the Palwaukee/Chicago Executive Airport in Wheeling. Along with introducing many in the aviation corporate world to SIU, its programs and its students, Priester’s company also recruits heavily at the university. 

Priester’s company manages and charters nearly 60 jet aircraft on a global basis and provides various aircraft administration and management services.  The services include assisting buyers and sellers in negotiating aircraft sales, charter and flight department management and aviation consulting. 

Priester earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration at the University of Notre Dame and he holds an honorary doctorate from St. Norbert College.  He earned the Reservist Award for Leadership while serving as a maintenance chief in the United States Marine Corps.  

But Priester’s true passion is flying.  He is a certified airline transport pilot with type ratings on 13 models of jet aircraft, a certified flight instructor and has logged more than 20,000 hours of flight time.  He is also a Federal Aviation Administration-designated pilot examiner for pilots seeking FAA certification. 

Aviation is an interest inherited from Priester’s father, George, who became an instrument pilot instructor for the War Training Service in 1938, the year Charles was born.  George Priester purchased what would become Palwaukee Airport in 1953, and the father and son built the field into the busiest privately owned airport in the world.  The Priesters sold the airport to the cities of Wheeling and Prospect Heights in 1983, but the family continued to facilitate its growth and development into what is now Chicago Executive Airport. 

The aviation legacy in Priester’s family continues as Charles Priester’s son, GJ, came to SIU to study aviation and he is now a pilot for United Airlines.