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Graduate Enters Nebraska Aviation Hall of Fame

Don Nyrop, a 1934 Doane graduate, was inducted into Nebraska's Aviation Hall of Fame Thursday, Jan. 24 in Kearney.

Nebraska's Aviation Hall of Fame was started in 1991 to preserve the memory of Nebraskans who have made outstanding contributions to aviation. Nyrop was inducted during the banquet of the Nebraska Aviation Symposium at the Kearney Holiday Inn.

Nyrop devoted more than 35 years to the aviation field, beginning with his service in the U.S. Air Force, where he earned the rank of lieutenant colonel and the Legion of Merit. By age 38, he was head of the Civil Aeronautics Administration, responsible for a federal agency of more than 18,000 employees. When President Harry Truman asked him to assume leadership of the Civil Aeronautics Board, he held the highest civilian aviation post in the U.S. government.

But Nyrop is best known for his years at the helm of Northwest Airlines, resurrecting an ailing company into a global leader. At age 42, he became the youngest chief executive of any major airline. Summoned to "rescue a foundering airline," a Minneapolis Star article recalls, under his watch, Northwest became a "model of financial efficiency" whose performance for years "made mouths water on Wall Street." He also led the company to the best safety record among major air carriers, even as it grew to span the globe.

An Elgin, Nebraska native now living in Edina, Minn., Nyrop graduated from Doane College in 1934 with a degree in history and then went on to George Washington University to earn a law degree. Now an honorary member of Doane's Board of Trustees, he spent many years on the board and in 2007 earned Doane's prestigious President's Award for Leadership.

Aviation Hall of Fame inductees are honored with a plaque recognizing their achievements. Their names and a record of their achievements are also permanently placed on file at the Nebraska State Historical Society.