The Dee Howard Foundation recognized members inducted into the Aviation Hall of Fame along with local educators promoting STEM learning.
The Dee Howard Foundation recognized members inducted into the Aviation Hall of Fame along with local educators promoting STEM learning. Credit: Emily Donaldson / San Antonio Report

At the Dee Howard Foundation, the phrase “You can’t be what you can’t see,” is common. It drives the foundation’s mission, which is to nurture future innovation and cultivate a pipeline of aviation and aeronautical engineers.

The foundation partners with San Antonio schools to introduce curriculum intended to help spark a passion for space and flying in young students.

On Thursday night, hundreds of educators, industry officials, and San Antonio community members gathered to celebrate the foundation’s mission by inducting four people into the San Antonio Aviation and Aerospace Hall of Fame and celebrating two educators who further STEM education in local elementary schools.

The Hall of Fame inductees, all people connected with San Antonio and chosen for their contribution to the aviation industry, were aviation entrepreneurs Earl Slick and Tom Slick, Air Force Gen. Mark A. Welsh III, and NASA astronaut Lt. Col. Francis R. “Dick” Scobee.

Former astronaut and scientist Bonnie Dunbar delivered a keynote address in which she recognized the teachers who played a role in her own future with the aerospace industry. She acknowledged an eighth-grade teacher who told her she would need to take algebra, and a high school physics teacher who advised her to become an engineer.

“You can really do anything you want to, especially with the right people around you,” Dunbar said, noting that she grew up on a cattle farm and her parents grew up in homes without running water.

The difference for her was her parents’ passion for education. Dunbar’s education permitted her to achieve a dream of becoming an astronaut and spending more than 50 days in space.

Looking ahead, Dunbar now wonders whether there will be enough energy and excitement to fulfill future goals of space exploration.

“Do we have the workforce to explore the moon and go to Mars?” she asked.

To nurture that potential workforce, the Dee Howard Foundation is working to foster interest in aviation and aerospace in students through its Pre-K through 12 education initiative.

In the past, the foundation has partnered closely with Southwest Independent School District to deliver aerospace and aviation curriculum in fifth- through 12th-grade classrooms, but at Thursday night’s awards dinner, board chair Wayne Fagan announced the foundation would be expanding its partnership into Edgewood, South San, and Judson ISDs starting next school year.

JoAnn Browning, chair of the foundation’s education committee, also announced that UTSA would begin offering a new aerospace engineering certificate program in fall 2019.

Later in the evening, the foundation honored two local STEM elementary educators: Lisa Rollins, a science academic support teacher at Cody Elementary in Northside ISD, and Angela Ortiz Pichardo, a STEM, aeronautics, and aviation teacher at Bob Hope Elementary in Southwest ISD.

At Cody, Rollins added a STEM lab for her students and coaches the campus’ LEGO Robotics Club, Young Astronauts, Flight Club, and the campus Solar Car team.

Pichardo created the Bob Hope Young Eagles Club, one of the first pre-kindergarten through fifth grade aviation clubs at a San Antonio elementary. She was the first teacher in San Antonio to implement the foundation’s aeronautical STEM curriculum. H-E-B also selected Pichardo as the winner of the 2018 H-E-B Excellence in Education Award for Outstanding Teachers.

“This has allowed for the growth of big dreams,” Pichardo said of the curriculum’s work on her students.

Emily Donaldson reports on education for the San Antonio Report.