Air Force Academy grad pledges $10 million to elevate honors program
The Gazette March 20, 2022
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Tribune News Service) — Honor courses will become more readily available for Air Force Academy cadets thanks to a $10 million pledge, the largest philanthropic gift supporting academics in academy history, according to the Air Force Academy Foundation.
Philanthropist and 1970 academy graduate John Martinson — a longtime venture capitalist — pledged the funds, which will create additional opportunities for cadets and faculty. The Academy Scholars Program will be renamed the Martinson Honors Program.
“The Martinson Honors Program will greatly bolster the academy’s ability to recruit and successfully compete for the finest students and immerse each cadet in rich academic experiences,” Jack Kucera, chairman of the Air Force Academy Foundation board of directors and 1978 graduate, said in a news release. “We are grateful for John’s enduring dedication to our academy’s mission to develop scholars and leaders of character.”
A new space in the McDermott Library will allow the 250 current cadets and future cadets a place for collaboration, study areas and offices for staff.
“One of the things we want to do is create an exciting and dynamic space for scholars,” Diana Polley, director of the program and associate professor of English, said in a release. “Much like a library, the honors space is particularly important. It is a learning community; we are creating and building community. That will happen in part through space.”
A new space for collaboration is only the beginning.
“We will be offering options for cadets who are especially excited about intellectual curiosity and giving them the opportunity to really thrive,” Polley said in the release. “We’ll keep raising that bar for those who want to be challenged academically. We’re looking to push them as far as they can go and want to go.”
The mission of the 15-year-old honors program is to develop superior officers and academic leaders ready for continued academic work and challenging command positions.
“Academic development will be enriched. The cadets will become well-rounded, capable, decisive, critical thinking officers in the Air Force,” Martinson said in the release. “It will also prepare them to enter graduate school, win scholarships and accelerate their Air Force careers.”
Polley wants to expand honors courses availability to first-semester cadets and for those in STEM disciplines.
The $10 million commitment — which will be given over several years to provide annual funding and to build up an endowment — can help fund staffing positions and professional development opportunities.
In the late 1960s, Martinson and his fellow cadets were encouraged to take a full load of courses in their major plus enrichment courses outside of their major, according to the release. Today’s curriculum has grown to include second majors, minors, a broader selection of courses and focused experiences within a major.
“I want to ... allow cadets to have a more advanced method for taking some of the academy’s core courses,” said Martinson, a founding director of the Air Force Academy Foundation and member of its Academic Committee.
Martinson is the largest individual graduate donor to the academy, according to the Air Force Academy Foundation.
“I encourage my fellow grads and others to consider steady giving and support impactful projects. I have donated annually for over 24 years and enjoyed collaborating with cadets, grads, faculty, academy leadership and the foundation staff,” he said.
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