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University of Central Missouri
Warrensburg, MO 64093
Contact Mike Greife
WARRENSBURG, MO (Feb. 16, 2010) – Growing up in rural Johnson County, Warrensburg resident Wayne Thomason was fascinated with flying. As a pilot in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II, he had the opportunity to make his dream come true, flying 141 missions over North Africa, Corsica and Italy and earning the Distinguished Flying Cross.
Upon his return to Johnson County following the war, Thomason gave up his career in aviation to assist his family. Throughout the years he maintained his passion for flying, and he now has provided the means to allow students in UCM’s aviation program to do the same.
With an initial gift of $100,000 to the UCM Foundation and a pledge of the remainder of his estate, Thomason recently established the Kenneth Wayne Thomason Aviation Opportunity Scholarship. The endowment will provide annual scholarships to students in the UCM aviation program who demonstrate financial need, with preference given to freshman students. The scholarship is renewable for up to four years.
“Mr. Thomason’s lifelong passion for flight continues, and he understands the passion that these students feel when they decide to enter a career in aviation,” said Joe Kremer, UCM’s chief development officer, during a recent gathering honoring Thomason. “We’re very grateful for his generosity, which will have an impact on UCM students for years to come.”
“Our aviation students have a dream. They want to fly, but some feel they cannot,” said Alice Greife, dean of UCM’s College of Science and Technology. “Mr. Thomason, you have told them that their dreams are important and can be realized. You are a true friend of our aviation program.”
William Rankin, chair of the Department of Aviation, noted that the aviation program is one of UCM’s more expensive degree programs due to the required hours of in-the-air training required.
“This gift will enable future aviation students to fulfill their dream of earning a degree and entering the field of aviation,” Rankin said.
Prior to the presentation, Thomason took the controls of the Department of Aviation’s Boeing 737NG advanced aviation simulator, located in the university’s T.R. Gaines Building. He later commented on the changes in aviation since his days as a military pilot flying missions over the Po Valley in Italy.
Thomason noted that he never would have been able to fly if it had not been for the training he receiving during World War II. It was a one-time opportunity that has had a lasting effect.
“If I can use what I have to help somebody get an education in aviation, it’s worth it,” he said. “It was, and still is, a big part of my life, and it’s an honor to be able to provide an opportunity to the next generation.”
The first Kenneth Wayne Thomason Aviation Opportunity Scholarship will be presented during the spring semester 2010. For more information about the scholarship, and other opportunities for providing financial assistance for UCM students, contact Kremer at 660-543-8000.