JEK Aviation Scholarship – Who Was John E. Kirk?

John E. Kirk Aviation Scholarship – Who was John E. Kirk?


A note from Tom Davis, president of Crystal Aero Group:

I have always referred to John E. Kirk as a friend and a mentor, but never as a role model, as I felt it would be presumptuous of me to believe I could emulate to any great degree one of the most extraordinary, intelligent and gifted men I’ve ever known. It was my privilege to serve under his command during the Korean War, which was only a sliver of his distinguished career as naval officer, scholar, scientist, and most of all, a warm and caring human being.

Growing up in Oklahoma, John excelled in high school scholastically while taking state honors in tennis and wrestling. He later graduated from the United States Naval Academy, and was serving aboard a destroyer during the attack on Pearl Harbor. He later distinguished himself as a fighter team leader in World War II, in nuclear weapons research in Los Alamos, and as a squadron commander during the Korean War.

Knowing that higher ranks generally meant less (or no) flying, John resigned from active duty as a Commander. But his military days weren’t over yet. He then became a consultant to the Department of Defense, dispatched to serve as science advisor to General Abrams during the Vietnam War. True to his nature he was always in the thick of things — although a civilian at the time, he frequently came under fire while flying with helicopter combat crews, serving his country the best he knew how.

John admired and encouraged excellence in others and felt that everyone should try to be the very best in some endeavor, be it sports, art, science, or his first love, flying. When he passed away in 1991, I felt there would be no memorial more fitting to this extraordinary patriot than to continue his encouragement of others with the John E. Kirk Aviation Scholarship.