When Cadets of the US Air Force Academy return to their studies next month, they will find a new source of scientific and technical information in books of the Dr. Theodore von Kármán Memorial Collection. The collection, to be housed in the Academy library, was made possible by a $35,000 grant from the Air Force Association’s Aerospace Education Foundation.
The first installment of funds for the collection, together with a bust of Dr. von Kármán inscribed to the “scientific architect of the modem United States Air Force,” and memorabilia of his distinguished career on two continents, was formally turned over to the Academy by officers of the Foundation on May 31.
Among those attending the ceremonies were Dr. Alexander Flax, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Research and Development, representing Secretary of the Air Force Eugene M. Zuckert; Lt. Gen. James Ferguson, Deputy Chief of Staff for Research and Development, representing USAF Chief of Staff Gen. Curtis E. LeMay; Brig. Gen. Robert C. Richardson, III, representing Gen. Bernard A. Schriever, Commander, AF Systems Command; Dr. H. Guyford Stever, Chairman of the Scientific Advisory Board; Dr. Lindley J. Stiles, Dean of the School of Education at the University of Wisconsin and president of the Aerospace Education Foundation; Gen. Laurence S. Kuter, USAF (Ret.), the Foundation’s Board Chairman; AFA President W. Randolph Lovelace, II; Maj. Gen. Robert H. Warren, Superintendent of the Air Force Academy; and Dr. Frank L. Wattendorf, Vice Chairman of NATO’s Advisory Group for Aeronautical Research and Development (AGARD), an organization that was created and led by Dr. von Kármán.
The proposal to honor the memory of Dr. von Kármán with a memorial book collection was made by members of the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board, of which Dr. von Kármán was the founder and first chairman. It was adopted by the Aerospace Education Foundation as an appropriate means of honoring the distinguished scientist and educator, and in furtherance of the Foundation’s purpose to sponsor new and important projects in aerospace education.
President Lyndon B. Johnson endorsed these objectives in a message read at the May 31 ceremonies, in which he said:
“I am very grateful to learn that the Aerospace Education Foundation has chosen to honor the memory of Dr. Theodore von Kármán by presenting the Theodore von Kármán Book Collection to the United States Air Force Academy.
“No memorial could be more fitting. As scientist, engineer, and educator, Dr. von Kárrnán’s contributions to the free world, to his adopted country, the United States, and to the United States Air Force, have left a deep impact on our society.
‘This was recognized at the highest level of our government when the late President Kennedy awarded Dr. von Kármán the first National Science Medal in February 1963.
“It is my hope that Dr. von Kármán’s achievements, honored by this memorial collection, will be an inspiration to the young Cadets who are being trained for future leadership in the United States Air Force.
“Dr. von Kármán was both a pioneer and a prophet of the Aerospace Age. I join with you in paying high tribute to his memory.”
Establishment of the von Kármán book collection is one of many projects undertaken by the Aerospace Education Foundation to advance aerospace education and to increase public understanding of the sociological, economic, and cultural impact of aerospace technology on our society.
The Foundation sponsors national and regional aerospace education seminars for teachers and school executives; the biggest of these each year has been held in conjunction with AFA’s National Convention, bringing together educators from the US and dozens of foreign countries. The Foundation also sponsors the Arnold Air Society, the professional society of the AFROTC program, supports a growing number of scholarships in related fields, and maintains a large awards program for achievements in science and education.
A current project, in which the Foundation is cooperating with the US Office of Education and the University of Wisconsin, involves a nationwide survey in depth of the concepts, resources, and techniques involved in teaching and learning the full impact of the aerospace sciences on modern society.
The Foundation’s endeavors are made possible by contributions and sponsorships from individuals, organizations, and industry. It serves as a focal point to bring educators and students into contact with the resources necessary to develop and foster a better understanding of the aerospace age.
A close parallel between the Foundation’s purpose and Dr. von Kármán’s philosophy was drawn by AGARD’s Dr. Frank L. Wattendorf, a long-time associate of Dr. von Kármán, who came from Paris to participate in the Academy dedication ceremonies.
He explained that he had been with Dr. von Kármán in his last days and was with him when he died. In those final hours, he said, von Kármán spoke of his early years and his work.
“He said he learned from his father the training and inspiration of young people,” Dr. Wattendorf re called. “The coming generation was of prime interest, and he kept that foremost in his mind.
“He was very strong on … the role of science and defense. He said that … you cannot help to mold a better world if you deal from a position of weakness, that you have got to deal from a position of strength. …
“Books to him were his most cherished possession. His great liking for books and young people are really combined here, and very much in his spirit.”
Dr. Flax, in accepting the collection on behalf of the Air Force, said it is “especially fitting that this memorial to Dr. von Kármán has been established here at the Air Force Academy, reflecting his contributions to the modern Air Force as a whole, not just to research and development.
“I think also,” Dr. Flax added, “that the project demonstrates again the harmonious cooperation toward common objectives that characterizes the relationship between the Air Force Association, the Aerospace Education Foundation, the Scientific Advisory Board, and the organizations of the Air Force itself.”
General Warren pointed out that it was “particularly appropriate” that the collection should be established at this time, for a change in the Academy curriculum this fall will require each Cadet to major in some field.
“The additional section of the library in the technical area will certainly be a great contribution to the academic advancement and the achievements of our Cadets in future years,” he said.
Dr. Stiles explained that the Foundation’s grant to the Academy provides for five annual installments of $6,500 each for the purchase of books and periodicals “not normally available through appropriated funds” for the science and technological section of the library.
“This plan to purchase the books and periodicals over a period of five years is designed to help ensure that the materials purchased will be current,” he said.
Also included in the grant was the bust of Dr. von Kármán created by Miss Judith Bland of Reseda, Calif.—a noted sculptress whose father was a colleague of Dr. von Kármán and often entertained him in their home—and a display case to house Dr. von Kármán’s memorabilia, including the National Science Medal presented to him by President Kennedy and the letter from President Johnson cited above.