Doane College mourns the loss of one of its longtime leaders this week, following the death of emeritus Board of Trustee member Don Nyrop on Nov. 16 in Edina, Minn.
An Elgin native, Nyrop graduated from Doane College in 1934 with a degree in history and then earned a law degree from George Washington University. He went on to a remarkable career in aviation that included heading the Civil Aeronautics Administration and running Northwest Airlines. He spent many of his retirement years in service to Doane, serving on the board of trustees from 1983-88 and 1994-2003.
"Don Nyrop was a remarkable man and very valuable Board member, as well as supporter of Doane. He was an independent thinker, and not bashful about this opinions. He would frequently challenge the Board to think broader and bigger on various issues. Doane was privileged to have been part of Don's interests," said Ken James, chair of Doane's Board of Trustees.
When Nyrop joined the Board, he brought of wealth of experience in big business, government and management. 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 he 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.
When he retired 24 years later, Doane became a fortunate recipient of his energy and talent. He is credited for strengthening the college's ‘class agent' alumni program, boosting the Board of Trustee numbers, alumni events and the alumni giving rate. He received Doane's prestigious President's Award for Leadership in 2007. He also received Doane's 1989 Doane College Alumni Fundraiser of the Year Award and the 1994 Doane Builder Award, both recognizing his passion and work on behalf of Doane. He was also inducted in Nebraska's Aviation Hall of Fame in 2008 in Kearney, an honor intended to preserve the memory of Nebraskans who made outstanding contributions to aviation.