Yes, I did take that photo of a 16th Tactical Fighter Squadron F4E flying in formation with us. And if you really look closely, you might be able to make out that my fellow WSO, “Red,” is holding up a Playboy centerfold circa 1970. We were at altitude looking for our KC-135 tanker on the way home from a long TDY in Korea. He took his helmet and oxygen mask off too, so perhaps he was a bit giddy from lack of oxygen. Other than that, I can’t explain why Red chose that moment to read Playboy. (The following picture I took of Red and Tedesco preflighting before our long return flight home from Korea.)
I graduated from the US Air Force Academy in 1967 with a BS in Civil Engineering – USAFA was the first of the military academies to allow cadets to earn anything other than a general engineering degree. We were able to choose among civil, aeronautical or astronautical engineering; political science; and pre-law/medicine. I “chose” civil engineering primarily because my squadron air officer commanding (AOC) had his degree in Civil and was angling to get a faculty slot at the Academy. I figured knowing someone in the headshed wouldn’t hurt and I fully intended to complete my career in the cockpit, so any old degree should work.
Of course, sometimes fate has its own ideas and I ended up separating from the Air Force as the war in Vietnam was winding down and found myself actually having to use that civil degree. But not having any practical experience in civil engineering and a 5-year old degree, I felt I had better brush up my engineering skills first. So I found myself at Auburn University on the plains of southeastern Alabama, not studying engineering, but rather in the school of architecture. Due to a particular set of circumstances, I was unable to get registered in my intended civil engineering master’s program, and luckily met the Dean of the School of Architecture who just happened to also be an Air Force vet of the Korean War. Long story short, he appealed to my love of art – I was a closet painter throughout my years at the Academy and in the Air Force – and I ended up spending almost two years studying architecture. Although I loved what I was doing, my spouse persuaded me that staying at Auburn for the full five years it would take to get the B.A. in Architecture was not the wisest course and so I finally found my way back to engineering. It took me a little over a year to earn my master’s degree in environmental engineering (mine was one of the first and last group of Environmental Engineering degrees they awarded).
We moved to Mobile and I began what turned out to be a long, successful career practicing engineering. I landed at a great engineering firm, J.B. Converse, and worked myself up from the drawing board to the board of directors of BCM Engineers (the “C” for Converse), one of the top engineering firms in the US. I left the firm after just about 25 years as Executive Vice President.
Having always wanted to teach in higher education, I thought of getting my Ph.D. back at Auburn in civil engineering, but reality again led me to South Alabama and the school of education. While at BCM, I had directed a number of training programs for certifying engineers and technicians in the latest environmental techniques, especially those using the rapidly advancing “computer” explosion. One of my close friends was a professor at South and he advised me that there was an opportunity to get in on the ground floor of what was becoming to be known as educational technology by getting my doctorate in Instructional Design and Development, as the Ph.D. program at South was known at that time. I signed up and found myself loving the synergism between the increasingly powerful Internet and what became known as online learning, now eLearning. And it has lived up to my expectations.
Dr. Dawn Wright, email@example.com