U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. --
The Air Force Academy hailed its origins April 7 with its annual Founders’ Day celebration.
Founders Day is a traditional celebration of the legacy and future of the Air Force Academy and its founders.
Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson and the William Thompson, the president and CEO of the Academy’s Association of Graduates, presented four Academy alumni with the 2016 Distinguished Graduate Award in Mitchell Hall. The recipients are retired Generals George Butler and Charles Holland, retired Col. Gary Payton; and David Yost.
Butler, a 1961 graduate, led the move to incorporate Air Force Strategic Air Command into the Joint Forces’ Strategic Command.
Holland, a 1968 graduate, commanded Special Operations Command during Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. He graduated in 1968.
Payton, a 1971 graduate, is an astronautics professor here and recipient of the 2014 Outstanding Educator Award.
Yost, a 1969 graduate, became the president and CEO of one of the largest distributors of pharmaceuticals in the U.S.
Johnson, Thompson, and retired Brig. Gen. Roger Carlton, the AOG’s chairman of the board, also presented the award to the recipients later that evening at a Founders’ Day dinner in the Falcon Club.
The superintendent said today’s cadets are inspired by the character of the award recipients and other graduates.
“What’s not changing is our values and commitment to warrior ethos,” she said.
Johnson said graduating cadets are equipped to be the leaders the U.S. needs.
“We’re expecting more from our cadets than ever before because more is required by the modern battlefield than ever before,” she said.
The Academy prepares cadets to be top aircraft and remotely-piloted-aircraft pilots, Johnson said. Its aeronautics and astronautics programs and ratings among U.S. universities stand among the best.
President Dwight Eisenhower established the creation of an Air Force academy in 1954, when Congress signed Public Law 325.
Since the Academy opened in 1954, nearly 50,000 cadets have graduated, including Chesley Sullenberger and Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson.
Sullenberger is a retired airline captain who landed a passenger jet on the Hudson River in January 2009. Wilson is a former New Mexico representative.
“I am proud of where the Academy is heading,” Johnson said. “Our cadets continue to shine.”