UWF alumnus receives Aerospace Education Teacher of the Year award

For many military personnel, the thought of a desk job or a teaching position after retiring from their glory days in the field is a dreaded prospect. Lt. Col Bill Powley, University of West Florida alumnus, avoided teaching at all costs while on active duty, but after retiring from the U.S. Air Force he became a JROTC commander at Unicoi County High School in Tennessee, a county without even an airport to speak of. Now years later, he has been awarded the 24th annual A. Scott Crossfield Aerospace Education Teacher of the Year Award by the National Aviation Hall of Fame for his inspiring work with the program.

In addition to the $1,500 cash stipend granted with the award, Powley was also honored at the National Aviation Hall of Fame President’s Dinner and Reception where the award was presented to him.

Powley was recognized for exhibiting effectiveness, creativity and the ability to hold both students and himself to high standards.

After graduating with his master’s degree in business administration from UWF, Powley attended the U.S. Air Force Academy, from which he graduated in 1967. His accomplishments in the Air Force included flying various fighter planes, executing 347 combat missions and receiving the Distinguished Flying Cross twice over.

Since retiring and becoming a teacher at Unicoi County High School, Powley has raised numerous funds for the JROTC program, began a new unit at Sullivan South High School in Kingsport, Tenn., and inspired many students. He has aided more than 4,000 students in completing orientation flights and soloed 86 cadets since 1996. Many of his students have continued on to join the military and become pilots.

“His exemplary performance as my JROTC commander, my flight instructor and my ground school teacher resulted in true learning, beyond the walls of the classroom,” said USAF Capt. Seth Bennett. “This program affected my life in incalculable ways.”

In his acceptance speech, Powley spoke of how remarkable his time with JROTC has been, as well as emphasized the importance of helping others achieve their goals.

“This award is not so much for me as it is for a program,” stated Powley. “There are hundreds of adults who have supported this program and thousands of students who have benefitted from it. This award is for every one of them who have made this journey possible.”

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By Kelly Dieckmann, University Communications