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Carl Ben Eielson Memorial Aviation School


On March 28, 1930, the University of North Dakota's student newspaper, the Dakota Student, reported on a student petition to establish a Carl Ben Eielson Memorial Aviation School. Professor Norman T. Bourke, head of UND's department of mechanical engineering, scoffed, “There is no more a place here at the University for a school of aviation than there is for a school of chauffeurs. After all, the University is a place for mental development and not a place to learn the art of flying.”


The Dakota Student's editorial page differed, “We must take issue with Professor N. T. Bourke on his view that it would be inadvisable to establish a school of aviation at the University. We believe that such a school, or at least a nucleus of one, should be established at the earliest possible moment.”


This exchange inspired some spirited commentary from letters to the editor in later issues of the Dakota Student. On this date in 1930, a contributor called AVIATOR remarked, “Who would wish to ride in an aeroplane piloted by one who had never ridden in one – piloted by a man who had read all about it in a book. Or who would like to ride in an aeroplane constructed by a man trained in a school where the instructors had scarce been off the ground? Does the Navy train men by placing them out in the Sahara Desert with a couple of books and a man disguised as a teacher who once in his childhood had the privilege of sailing a paper boat in a bath tub?”


On April 4, 1930, Monroe Wright said, “It is lamentable that the higher authorities of the U. of N. D. should take such a negative stand on the question of aviation.”


Finances were tight during the Great Depression. Yet, the dream of an aviation school lived on. Thirty-eight years later, John Odegard founded an aviation school at UND, which would later be named the John D. Odegard School for Aerospace Sciences. It is nationally renowned, and its new dean, Dr. Robert Kraus, is an aviator, an aeronautical engineer, and a former Air Force colonel.


Dakota Datebook by Andrew Alexis Varvel




“University No Place For Aviation School”, Dakota Student, 28 March 1930, page 1, 4.


“That School of Aviation” (editorial), Dakota Student, 28 March 1930, page 2.


Letter from “AVIATOR”, Dakota Student, 1 April 1930, page 2.


Letter from “Monroe Wright”, Dakota Student, 4 April 1930, page 2.





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