Two Academy grads win NSBE awards|
by Tammie Adams
U.S. Air Force Academy Admissions
1/29/2010 - U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. (AFNS) -- Two Air Force Academy grads will be honored at the upcoming 36th National Society of Black Engineers Annual Convention April 3 in Toronto. Retired Col. Fred Gregory, Class of 1964, was selected as the Golden Torch Legacy Award winner, and Col. Jeff Butler, Class of 1988, was selected for Lifetime Achievement in Government.
Colonel Gregory garners an impressive set of lifetime accomplishments, according to the nomination package. After graduating from the Academy, he served as a pilot until he was selected for the astronaut program in January 1978. After his selection as an astronaut and subsequent training, he flew three shuttle missions, making history with two.
According to Colonel Gregory's official NASA biography, STS-51B/Spacelab-3 launched from Kennedy Space Center, Florida, April 28, 1985, with Colonel Gregory as the pilot. On that day, he became the first African-American to pilot a spacecraft. Years later, STS-33 launched from Kennedy Space Center Nov. 22, 1989. This was the first space mission commanded by an African-American
After working for NASA until 2005, Colonel Gregory retired as NASA's deputy administrator. He now serves on the board of advisors at the Howard University School of Engineering and at the University of Tennessee Space Institute. He continues to be a consultant for NASA and serves on the Smithsonian Board of Regents.
When asked his feelings about the award, Colonel Gregory said, "I just don't have the words to summarize my feelings other than to truly acknowledge the fact that the Air Force Academy shaped and prepared me, and thousands like me, for a role at the time yet undefined and unanticipated, and it did it in a way unchallenged by other academic institutions of higher learning."
Col. Butler also displays inspiring development and ingenuity while serving as an Air Force officer, according to his nomination package. He currently serves as an Air Force Academy permanent professor and head of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.
After graduating from the Academy with a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics and Electrical Engineering, he obtained his Master of Science in Electrical Engineering from Florida State University in 1991. While acquiring his doctorate in Computer Engineering, Colonel Butler was selected as the Air Force Institute of Technology's IEEE Student of the Year in 1998.
Just scratching the surface of Colonel Butler's career, according to his award nomination letter, he developed new electronic warfare techniques; served as an engineer and program manager for the development of the F-22 Raptor, performed research on the combination of unmanned aircraft and intelligence gathering, and studied Eurasian security policy at several universities, resulting in a published book.
"I am extremely honored by the selection," Colonel Butler said. "NSBE is one of the largest student-run organizations in the country, and it's very humbling to receive such a prestigious award. I am also excited that this gives me an opportunity to encourage all students and especially fellow African Americans to pursue engineering and make great contributions to their communities."
The NSBE was founded in 1974 with a mission "to increase the number of culturally responsible black engineers who excel academically, succeed professionally and positively impact the community."
Air Force Academy officials are helping to meet this objective with a recently established NSBE chapter, whose goal is to inspire and develop cadets to become outstanding officers of the Air Force and technical community, while educating and providing communities with a positive image of the Air Force and Air Force Academy.
"The group members will all work on various projects and activities that will help build a better relationship with our community and also help retain more minorities at the Academy," said Capt. Steven Brooks, the Academy's NSBE Chapter officer in charge.
The Academy's chapter currently has about 34 members.