Andrew G. Talbott, 2005 graduate of the Polytechnic Campus, named Kansas State University Alumni Fellow

Andrew G. Talbott, a 2005 graduate of the professional pilot program on the Polytechnic Campus, is selected as one of this year’s Kansas State University Alumni Fellows.

Andrew G. Talbott is one of 12 distinguished Kansas State University alumni honored as 2017 Alumni Fellows.

Talbott is an Alumni Fellow for the College of Technology and Aviation, which is located on K-State’s Polytechnic Campus, and will be honored during a celebration April 19-21. He will return to his alma mater to present guest lectures and discuss current trends while meeting informally with students and faculty.

Talbott, along with the other 11 Alumni Fellows, was chosen for the award based on his high level of professional accomplishment and distinguished service within his respective career. Based in Hanford, California, he is a strike fighter pilot for the U.S. Navy and a former member of the Blue Angels. Talbott has accumulated more than 3,600 flight hours and has 335 carrier arrested landings. His decorations include a Meritorious Service Medal, a Strike Flight Air Medal, four Navy and Marine Corps achievement medals and various personal and unit awards. He holds the rank of lieutenant commander.

Prior to joining the Navy, Talbott was a flight instructor for K-State for two years and earned a bachelor’s degree in airway science in 2005 from K-State Salina, now Kansas State Polytechnic. A native of Sedan, Kansas, Talbott completed two deployments aboard the USS Enterprise and flew in support of Operation New Dawn and Operation Enduring Freedom. He and his wife, Missy, have two children, Noah and Cora.

For more information about the Alumni Fellows program, including a full listing of the 2017 Alumni Fellows, visit www.k-state.com/fellows.

Kate Fraser named Kansas State Polytechnic’s 2016 Alumni Fellow

Kate Fraser, a 2009 graduate of the professional pilot program, is this year’s Alumni Fellow selection from the Kansas State University Polytechnic Campus. She is one of 12 distinguished alumni honored throughout the university, representing the College of Technology and Aviation, which is housed on the polytechnic campus.

Kate Fraser, center, enjoys a reception for the Alumni Fellows at President Schulz's home in Manhattan.

Kate Fraser, center, enjoys a reception for the Alumni Fellows at President Schulz’s home in Manhattan.

Currently living in Washington, D.C., Fraser returned to K-State April 6-8 for a variety of events, including a reception at President Schulz’s home in Manhattan and a celebration of her accomplishments with faculty and staff on the polytechnic campus. Fraser even spoke to several aviation classes about current trends in the industry and her professional experiences.

Fraser is an operations research analyst for the Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of Accident Investigation and Prevention. In this role, she is responsible for safety and accident analysis, and developing tangible solutions to improve safety for both commercial and general aviation.

Prior to joining the FAA, Fraser worked for more than five years as the director of safety with the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, where she represented the world’s leading manufacturers of general aviation aircraft, engines, avionics, components and service providers. A native of McPherson, Kansas, Fraser is also a commercial pilot and certified flight instructor.

Fraser receives a plaque from Dean Verna Fitzsimmons celebrating her Alumni Fellow award.

Fraser receives a plaque from Dean Verna Fitzsimmons celebrating her Alumni Fellow award.

“I am so proud to be an alumna of K-State because I would never have had the opportunity to be doing what I’m doing if it weren’t for my education at the university,” said Fraser.

Fraser is the twenty-fourth Alumni Fellow from the Kansas State Polytechnic campus. The requirement of a fellow is that he or she has distinguished him or herself in their respective career field. The purpose of the program is to bring prominent and outstanding alumni back to campus to recognize their efforts and to learn from their expertise and life experiences.

In Memoriam: Kansas State Polytechnic honors former president, professor and campus innovator Tom Creech

By Julee Cobb

Creech-Memorial-squareBe positive. Believe in yourself. Think ahead to get ahead. Don’t look back lest you fall back. People are the reason for progress – love them, encourage them, believe in them. No matter how frail they seem to be or how many faults they have, think of their potential and help them achieve that.

When Rick Zajac started his journey as a professor of physics at Kansas State Polytechnic in 1996, the first lesson of his campus career ironically was taught to him instead of his students. Zajac walked into his new office in the Science Center to find the above message written on a blackboard in the space. The memo was honest and straightforward, almost simplistic in nature, yet contained advice so powerful it has stayed with Zajac to this day.

The counsel was that of Tom Creech ­– one of the founding fathers of the campus, the property’s third president and an engineering technology professor. Creech retired in 1996 and wanted to ensure the intrinsic values that had made the campus so successful were preserved and performed by the next generation. So Creech scribbled his 30 years worth of real life know-how into those six points, hoping his office successor would be inspired. Zajac got the message.

Creech has left many impressions on both past and present members of the Kansas State Polytechnic campus. Ask anyone about his contributions, and there is a consensus among the answers: Creech dedicated his life to education and was committed to investing in people – both students and faculty – to create the best learning experience possible.

“Tom always arranged his priorities to put our college at the top of the list,” said David Delker, a 1973 graduate of then Kansas Technical Institute, professor and associate dean emeritus. “His determination and enthusiasm laid the groundwork for a very successful institution and his influence continues to be with us today.”

On Nov. 15, a little more than 50 years after Creech helped establish the now Kansas State Polytechnic campus, he passed away at 84 years old. News of his death has had a lasting affect across the campus, in alumni circles and on members of the Salina community.

“I appreciate all that Tom accomplished for the stability of the college and the success of the graduates,” said Ken Barnard, a former student in the airframe and powerplant program at KTI and aviation department head during the K-State Salina years. “History is a valuable asset if one will only take the time to recognize who we are is in large part because of where we once were.”

To further understand Creech’s impact, it’s important to travel back to the mid 1960s. Creech, at that time, was a faculty member at Kansas State University in Manhattan. He and his colleague, Hank Neely, had been tasked with designing a degree program for a potential engineering technology college. Creech and Neely met with Col. Mike Scanlan who was commander at Schilling Air Force Base in Salina. The previous year the base had been ordered closed and both Creech and Neely were hoping to use some of their equipment and space for the engineering technology college.

Once the Kansas Legislature approved House Bill 1101, Creech and Neely’s months of hard work, research, dreaming and scheming came to fruition with the establishment of Schilling Institute on April 26, 1965. Creech was appointed as the campus’s inaugural director of academic affairs while Neely became the first president. Before the college even opened, Creech, along with other newly hired faculty and staff, put in sweat equity acting as carpenters, electricians, plumbers and painters to make the buildings and barracks suitable for students.

The campus would see additional transitions throughout its history, changing from Schilling Institute to Kansas Technical Institute in 1969; then to Kansas College of Technology in 1988; K-State Salina in 1991; and finally its current identity, Kansas State Polytechnic, this year. Though those name transformations have been necessary to the livelihood of the campus – staying relevant in an educational world that is always developing and undoubtedly competitive – the principle of providing hands-on learning and professional programs that students will immediately find success with in industry has remained the same. And this is a standard Creech initiated and held during his 30 years of service to the campus.

From Zajac, he tells of an old lab report he found that Tom had written to his students to help them better understand the process of experiments and their results; from Barnard, the explicit message that when Tom was president, he knew just how important active learning is to the aviation program, approving the purchase of essential lab equipment and six flyable TH-55 helicopters to improve the student experience; and from Larry Farmer, a 30-year electronics engineering professor and department head on the campus, a rave about Tom’s commitment to modernity, opening the Technology Center in 1985 – the property’s first new building since its educational inception.

In an interview with Creech last spring during a celebration of the campus’s fiftieth anniversary, Creech was adamant about his admiration for the property and how much content he felt about its trajectory over the years.

“I still think very highly of the campus and I’m interested in watching the process,” said Creech. “What K-State’s Salina campus is today is the vision of what we started with in 1965.”

With Creech’s passing, there is a sadness that comes knowing a pillar of the campus’s foundation is gone. Yet, when a legacy is built as strong, impactful and dynamic as Creech constructed his, the feeling of loss is only temporary, as his footprint will be etched into the success of Kansas State Polytechnic forever.

Reminisce about Tom Creech along with current and former members of the campus: 

About two or three weeks after I started as dean and CEO, Tom showed up in my office because he wanted to personally share the history of the campus with me. He even debunked the story floating around about how the president of Schilling Institute was decided. Even though the rumors said Tom had lost a coin toss to Hank Neely, Tom really didn’t want the foundational presidency. The real story was less “glamorous” than the rumor, so they both let it go!

Verna Fitzsimmons, Kansas State Polytechnic CEO and dean

I was a faculty member from 1982 until the year Tom retired. I will always remember Tom as a person who treated me as if he was my equal, even though he was president of the school. He was always friendly and helpful to those of us who worked at then Kansas Technical Institute and K-State Salina. I will miss his friendly nature.

Dave Ahlvers, former professor of arts, sciences and business

Tom was an integral part of my first experience with an accreditation evaluation team; in fact, I remember that day quite vividly. It was a bitterly cold Monday morning following a huge snowstorm. The Engineers’ Council for Professional Development (later known as ABET) had arrived in Salina the day before to meet with Kansas Technical Institute program coordinators and administrators the next morning. Even though the campus was essentially closed due to inclement weather, Tom insisted that we proceed with the accreditation meeting. Unfortunately, Tom’s car got stuck in the snow less than a block from his house, so I picked him up in my four-wheel drive truck and we plowed through the snow to get to campus. I don’t recall much else about that day, except that Tom was adamant that neither snow nor anything else would get in the way of our engineering technology programs’ successful accreditation!

David Delker, 1973 KTI graduate, professor and associate dean emeritus

Tom was a consummate tinkerer. I have a photo of the carefully crafted platform he built for his students on which to perform optical refraction. For Tom, it wasn’t enough that the platform is functional, he also had to make sure the wood that was used was properly stained and polished. Typical Tom.

Rick Zajac, Kansas State Polytechnic physics professor

Former President Creech was keystone in the effort to save KTI from closing. In his tenure, there was a concerted effort to close the campus. He led the effort and rallied the students and faculty to attend many sessions in the Kansas Legislature, pleading our cause to remain open. We produced top quality graduates to a deficient industry and our placement rate was 100 percent. The entire campus community personally knew each other and worked together to insure students were qualified, and the faculty personally made hiring contacts and recommendations for job placement and follow-ups. Tom Creech dedicated his life to the college and I am convinced he saved it from closing.   

Ken Barnard, KTI student and former aviation professor and department head

View Tom Creech’s obituary here.

Ride of a lifetime: Kansas State University Salina pilots provide flights to children in Wichita aviation program

By Julee Cobb

Though much of the program is geared toward educating students over the age of eighteen, Kansas State University Salina’s aviation department is always looking for opportunities to inspire a younger generation.

Five K-State Salina certified flight instructors participated in the Flying Challenge, giving airplane rides to Wichita middle school children.

Five K-State Salina certified flight instructors participated in the Flying Challenge, giving airplane rides to Wichita middle school children.

For the third year in a row, K-State Salina exhibited its passion for educating youth on aviation when it joined United Way of the Plains and Airbus Corporate Foundation for their Flying Challenge – a mentoring program for middle school children in Wichita that is rooted in aviation, math, science, engineering and technology. On May 11, the university flew five airplanes to the National Center for Aviation Training in Wichita where K-State Salina certified flight instructors gave thrilling rides to more than 50 students from Hadley Middle School.

At the beginning of the school year, Hadley students were matched with advisors from Airbus and Wichita Area Technical College to see how professionals apply science and math every day during weekly mentoring visits, field trips and hands-on experiences. The Flying Challenge is the last event of the year and is designed, not only as a final educational component, but also as a reward for the students’ hard work in the program.

The Flying Challenge also gave students an opportunity to learn about the emerging aviation field of unmanned aircraft systems as well as participate in a virtual paint lab and design and composites labs.

The program first launched in the hometown of Airbus – Toulouse, France – in 2011 in connection with a local United Way, and then branched out to Wichita in 2012.

Good as gold: K-State Salina’s journey of 50 revolutionary years

By: Julee Cobb

The year was 1965. “The Sound of Music” was released in theaters and shows like “Green Acres” and “I Dream of Jeannie” ruled on television. The average price of gas was 13 cents a gallon and a new car cost around $2,600. Martin Luther King, Jr. made his famous march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama – a demonstration that later led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act.

In Salina, change was afoot on the Schilling Air Force Base on Centennial Road. It was announced the previous year that 150 military installations would close across the country. At the same time, Henry Neely and Thomas Creech, both faculty members at Kansas State University, had been tasked with designing a degree program for a potential engineering technology college. With Schilling Air Force Base shutting down, Neely and Creech met with base commander Col. Mike Scanlan about using some of their facilities and equipment.

K-State Salina is celebrating the 50th anniversary of their campus in 2015.

K-State Salina is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its campus in 2015.

Much to Neely and Creech’s surprise, the Kansas Legislature approved of their plans and officially established Schilling Institute on the base property on April 26, 1965 after the passage of House Bill 1101. The college would offer two-year degree programs in electronic engineering technology, detail design technology, civil engineering technology and aeronautical technology. Neely was appointed the president of Schilling Institute and Creech was named director of academic affairs.

Once the base was officially vacated in the summer of 1966, Neely and Creech, along with the other hired faculty and staff, moved onto the campus and started making the buildings and barracks suitable for students. They acted as carpenters, electricians, plumbers and painters as there was no extra money available to hire any tradesmen to complete the necessary work. Students arrived for classes in the fall and an additional program, computer science technology, was created – the first of its kind in the state. In 1968, Schilling Institute graduated its first 10 students.

The next year, the college was placed under the control of the State Board of Education and changed its name to Kansas Technical Institute, or KTI. Creech was selected as the campus’s third president in 1976 and during KTI’s reign, seven more degree programs were added. Students even picked the peacock as an unofficial mascot for the school, frequently appearing in the campus newspaper and yearbook.

In 1988, the property on Centennial Road would see another name change, to Kansas College of Technology. By this time, there were around 800 students enrolled and 11 programs led to an Associate of Technology degree. Kansas College of Technology, or KCT, also offered an Associate of Applied Science and an aviation maintenance certificate program.

In a full circle moment – as two K-State faculty were instrumental in founding the first institution on the grounds – KCT merged with Kansas State University in 1991 and became its ninth college, the College of Technology and Aviation. K-State Salina upgraded many of the previous two-year degrees to bachelor’s degrees. Most recently, it has added an unmanned aircraft systems program as well as family studies and human services, personal financial planning and social work. The landscape of the campus has also evolved, with the building of two residence halls, the College Center, the Student Life Center and a renovated Welcome Center.

Now the year is 2015, and popular comedic series aren’t just watched on television anymore. There are cell phones that are really smart phones, allowing access to the Internet and streaming music and social media. Movies are seen in theaters with 3D glasses and the price of gas continues to fluctuate between $2 and $3. Agreeably, times have dramatically changed since that day in 1965 when Schilling Institute was born. The students on campus now bleed purple, but K-State Salina wouldn’t be what it is today without the three colleges that came before.

K-State Salina is honoring the 50 years of those four educational institutions with a golden anniversary. If you would like to participate in the celebration, click here for the listed signature events that run April through September.

Kansas State University Salina honors 50 years of higher education, kicks off anniversary celebration at open house

By: Julee Cobb

The Kansas State University Salina campus established itself on the educational landscape in 1965, and the university will honor its 50 years of tradition starting April 11 with a kickoff to the golden anniversary celebration at the K-State Salina Open House.

From 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., K-State Salina will open its campus to the community to showcase programs, student projects, clubs and achievements. Many of the displays and activities will have a 50th anniversary theme, such as every 50th person that stops by the welcome booth will receive a prize; the gerontology program will exhibit population pyramids from the 1960s; the alumni booth will test visitors’ knowledge of campus history; and a special timeline from 1965 through 2015 will be presented in the library. The university also will serve ice cream and cake in honor of the campus’s 50 years.

“We are very proud of our campus history and the traditions created throughout the years,” said Verna Fitzsimmons, K-State Salina CEO and dean. “Open house is the perfect way to start the 50th anniversary festivities because we want to share the celebration with Salina and the surrounding communities who have supported this campus from the beginning.”

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K-State Salina’s UAS program boosts fleet with special filmmaking aircraft

Kansas State University Salina’s unmanned aircraft systems, or UAS, program has grown its fleet to 27 with the recent addition of the DJI Inspire 1 — a vehicle designed primarily for cinematography. The university becomes one of the first entities in the country to have access to this particular aircraft.

K-State Salina's unmanned aircraft systems program manager, Mark Blanks, flies the new DJI Inspire 1 in the Student Life Center.

K-State Salina’s UAS program plans to use the DJI Inspire 1 for indoor demonstrations with prospective students and industry partners and at conventions because of its stability, dual flight control system and a unique computer vision system that allows the aircraft to hold position without GPS. The DJI Inspire 1 is configured with two controllers — one for the aircraft and one for the camera — allowing qualified UAS staff to pilot the vehicle while interested parties operate the camera. And with its dramatic filmmaking quality, the program’s latest addition can also be utilized for special research projects after proper approval from the Federal Aviation Administration.

“This new aircraft gives us the opportunity to show visitors and audiences what a small UAS can do and will help build excitement around the capabilities of UAS technology,” said Mark Blanks, K-State Salina’s UAS program manager. “Two to three years ago, this kind of video from the Inspire wasn’t even possible, at any price. Now we have Hollywood quality imagery.”

Blanks worked with K-State Salina alumnus Bill Badnaruk, ’09, when purchasing the DJI Inspire 1. Badnaruk, a technology management graduate, is employed with Troy Built Models, which builds, customizes, services and distributes small unmanned aircraft systems from Sarasota, Florida.

The DJI Inspire 1 has many unique features that are putting it in high demand. It is an electric quadrotor that can fly for 20 minutes after each charge and only weighs about 6 1/2 pounds. The airframe transforms after takeoff from an A-shape to a V-shape, giving the camera full 360-degree unobstructed views. And the video is filmed in up to 4K resolution at 24 frames per second with full streaming capabilities to tablets mounted on the controllers and optional TV outputs.

K-State Salina is one of the first universities in the nation to offer a bachelor’s degree in unmanned aircraft systems, which started in 2011. Since then, the program has doubled its enrollment every year and has been selected for numerous research projects by many widely known enterprises such as the Federal Aviation Administration and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

K-State Salina student and alumnus team up to represent the university in Fly Kansas Air Tour

By: Julee Cobb

Three days, nine Kansas cities and almost 1,000 miles logged. In an effort to spread their passion for flying and the university, a K-State Salina student and alumnus joined together to participate in this year’s Fly Kansas Air Tour. The expedition, which ran from Sept. 22-24, united pilots from across the state and gave them a platform to educate interested children and adults on aviation.

Kansas State University Salina alumnus Nathan Gorrell, left, and professional pilot junior Taylor Spangler fly a K-State Cessna 172 in the Fly Kansas Air Tour.

Flying pilot-in-command, Taylor Spangler, junior in professional pilot and senior certified flight instructor, Andover, and sitting right seat, Nathan Gorrell, a 2008 professional pilot graduate, represented K-State Salina on the tour with a Cessna 172.

“This is some of the most enjoyable flying I’ve ever done,” Gorrell said. “The people that you meet at all of the stops as well as the pilots are what make this event so special.”

Gorrell, a pilot with Marathon Oil Co. in Houston, Texas, saw the tour dates online and immediately contacted K-State Salina’s aviation interim department head Barney King. Gorrell flew in a similar event as a senior and he says that experience left a notable impact on him, one for which he is grateful.

“I’m very blessed by all of my opportunities from K-State Salina,” Gorrell said. “I got to where I am today through the assistance of my professors and scholarships. If I can help promote the university, which has been so good to me, I feel like I’m returning the favor.”

Spangler also volunteered for the tour and decided to get involved because of the opportunity to interact with children curious about flight. Spangler says both of his parents are pilots and he began learning about aviation at a young age.

“I started flying at 12 years old,” Spangler said. “And since I’m still young, I think kids feel like they can identify with me and are more likely to approach me with questions about flying. If they see that a young person can be a pilot, hopefully they’ll be inspired to pursue it.”

At each of the stops on the Fly Kansas Air Tour, schools and community members were invited to watch the planes land and takeoff as well as speak with the pilots and view other aircraft on display. At the stop in Salina, K-State Salina exhibited the unmanned aircraft systems program with a flying demonstration and setup computer flight simulators for event guests to tryout. Spangler says at every stop almost every child got especially excited when they saw the Powercat on the university’s plane.

Gorrell, Spangler and the other participating pilots followed a circular pattern in the state, starting off in Wellington and traveling to Hutchinson, Dodge City, Scott City, Salina, Topeka, Pittsburg and Independence before completing their trip in Benton. The Fly Kansas Air Tour was just one part of the 2014 Kansas Aviation Expo that also included business seminars and speeches from two around-the-world pilots.