Senior faculty members confirmed as permanent professors

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Benjamin W. Stratton
  • U.S. Air Force Academy Public Affairs

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- The Air Force Academy recognized two new permanent professors at an investiture ceremony in Polaris Hall, Dec. 6.
Academy superintendent, Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria, formally invested Col. Richard Cooney, department of behavioral sciences and leadership, and Col. Douglas Wickert, department of aeronautics. 
Their ceremony represents a formal empowerment with responsibilities in four areas: responsibility to the nation, the mission of the Air Force to defend that nation, the mission of the Air Force Academy to prepare young men and women to that end and the role of the permanent professors to lead that effort. 

“As a permanent professor, the Academy looks to you to help lead our institution,” Silveria said. “Leadership is integral to our Academic mission. You create the environment of dignity and respect, and find ways to inspire and encourage innovation.” 

Wickert is a distinguished graduate of the Naval Test Pilot School and holds advanced engineering degrees from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Air Force Institute of Technology. Prior to his assignment at the Academy, Wickert served as the Pentagon’s division chief of policy, programs and resources. 

“I feel truly honored to be back at the Air Force Academy,” Wickert said. “Today’s cadets are far more impressive and capable than I remember us being in the mid-90s. Their optimism and commitment to make the world a better place gives me great hope for the future of our Air Force.”

As a 20-year-old cadet, Wickert said he did not fully appreciate the value of the curriculum from the technical engineering and science classes completed by the humanities and social science courses. 

“The Academy’s academic foundation prepared me to be a successful fighter pilot, test pilot, engineer, program manager and commander because I was taught how to learn,” Wickert continued. “The Academy fostered an intellectual curiosity, made me a life-long learner and that has made all the difference in the world.”

Cooney is a 1993 distinguished graduate of the Air Force Academy and has served in a variety of leadership, staff and academic positions. Prior to his assignment at the Academy, Cooney served as the dean of students at the AFIT, Air University, Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, and dean of students and support at Air Command and Staff College, Air University, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama. He holds a doctorate in sociology from the University of Maryland.

“I am humbled and honored to be selected to return to the Academy as a permanent professor,” said Cooney. “I feel a great sense of responsibility for arming our cadets with the character, education and training to be successful in our future conflicts and to face the complex challenges that will shape our nation.”

The department of behavioral sciences and leadership supports the Dean of Faculty, the Cadet Training Wing and other DOD agencies in leadership training and development, and most notably, running the Warfighter Effectiveness Research Center, which conducts human-machine teaming, social robotics, readiness and leadership research. The department of aeronautics supports cadets and the Air Force with their three DOD research centers and the world-renowned Aeronautics Laboratory, conducting a variety of studies in aerodynamics, flight mechanics, propulsion, aircraft structures and experimental methods. 

The dean of faculty, Brig. Gen. Linell Letendre, introduced the new permanent professors alongside the superintendent. Letendre highlighted how both celebrants are “Airman scholars” – bouncing back between the classroom and operational units, bringing their experiences and expertise between the two. 
The Senate confirms the president’s nomination for each of the permanent professor positions which is a final stop in an Air Force career. 
President Dwight Eisenhower appointed Brig. Gen. Robert McDermott as the Academy's first permanent professor in 1957 and as the first permanent Dean of Faculty in 1959. Since then, 108 men and women have served as permanent professors.