“To take off at sunset and just in a few minutes climb up to 38,000 or 40,000 feet, to be able to literally see the sun set a second time and then see that big canopy of stars come out overhead – the best way I can express it is, it makes you really realize that we human beings are only a very small speck in a mighty grand universe.”
That’s how Col. Charles McGee ’78 USAF described flying a military plane, which he certainly did often in his storied career as a Tuskegee Airman. McGee, who was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor by President George W. Bush in 2007, was one of a select group of black World War II fighter pilots. He also served in the Korean and Vietnam wars. When he retired, he held the Air Force fighter combat record of 409 missions and 1,151 combat hours.
Soon after his retirement in 1973, McGee enrolled in Columbia College. “Good school!” he says. “Timing was right, location was right. Throughout my service career, wherever I had a chance to take additional courses, or night courses, I did. I had done a number of studies as I moved around, and I decided it was just time to put them all together and go on and get the degree. The courses that were offered were right in line with where I was, and I became an alum.”
“Education is extremely important,” says McGee, who was president of the Tuskegee Airmen Inc. from 1983 to 1985 and again from 1998 to 2002, focusing on education, aviation and space careers for minorities. “It brings out talent and capability that’s latent; when the individual grows, so does our community and our country.”
McGee’s commitment to education lives on in the Colonel Charles E. McGee Scholarship, which was established in 2010 to help qualified veteran students achieve their education goals. Each year, the $1,000-award recognizes the efforts of a veteran student who embodies the spirit and courage of Col. McGee in his or her service and pursuit of education.
“I’m proud to be a graduate on the roll of Columbia College,” says McGee, who was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame in Dayton, Ohio, in 2011. “It’s good to see what’s going on and the growth still taking place and what that means.”
To learn more about Col. McGee, read his full interview.
Deadline: Applications must be received no later than 5 p.m. CST, March 31, 2013 (please note, the deadline has been extended).
- A fully completed and signed application form
- Copy of DD214 (veteran copy)with honorable discharge status
- An essay of no more than 500 words written by the student describing his or her personal circumstances and how education has or will make a difference in his or her life.
- Two references as outlined in Section III of the application form.
- Incomplete applications will not be reviewed.
The Col. Charles E. McGee Scholarship Committee
Ousley Family Veterans Center, MOH 226
1001 Rogers Street
Columbia, MO 65216
All applicants will be notified of the selection committee’s decision by letter by April 12, 2013.
For the application, and more information please see the official McGee Scholarship page.