Anderson gift supports leadership priorities

Five programs at the Air Force Academy focused on academics, professional development and cadet mental health have received significant funding from former Commandant of Cadets retired Lt. Gen. Marcus Anderson and his wife, Ginger.

The significant gift from the Andersons will help fund several priorities of the Academy commandant of cadets and dean of the faculty: the sponsor wing program, Peak Performance Center, Exemplar Program, course-related cadet research and scholarship, and capstone courses. Marcus Anderson graduated from the Academy in 1961 and served as its commandant in the mid-1980s.

“When I was a cadet, these programs didn’t exist. As the commandant 23 years later, some existed, but not all. All of these programs enhance the cadets’ opportunities and experiences,” Anderson said. “I think every graduate has benefitted from his or her four years at the Academy, so it seems logical to help those who follow and enhance their opportunities. And the government can’t provide everything. The extra margin of excellence has to come from donations.”

The donation from the Andersons, facilitated through the United States Air Force Academy Endowment, has the potential to touch every cadet and a few faculty members currently at the Academy. Cadets will have more opportunities for firsthand military experiences as well as stronger connections to those who have distinguished themselves in their military service.

“This gift will have far-reaching impacts on our cadets. The experiences they will have through the supported areas will make them stronger leaders and decision makers,” said Mike Gould, president and CEO of the Endowment. “The generosity shown by the General and Mrs. Anderson allows us to help expand the excellence of the cadet experience and, ultimately, the future of the U.S. Air Force.”

Sponsor wing program

Nearly half of the Anderson gift will go to the sponsor wing program. It will help 1,000 cadets visit Air Force bases around the country during the current academic year. Participants observe and learn how the bases operate and discover the variety of Air Force careers they can pursue after graduation.

“The program has always had the goal to allow about one quarter of the cadet wing to travel to their respective sponsor wing each year. Limited funding always meant that cadets could only go if additional support was available. The Anderson gift allows greater range and flexibility to send out twice as many squadrons,” says Rusty Meyer, deputy director for training support.

Research and capstones

Travel is also a component of the cadet research and scholarship gift. Cadets and faculty will benefit from travel to student conferences and other academic research opportunities. Participants will be able to share their experiences and newfound expertise with classmates and peers.

Capstone courses at the Academy typically allow cadets to use the cumulative knowledge they’ve gained to work on large and complex problems. The courses can take a semester or a year, and they often culminate in a competition with other universities. The focus is on the design process and presentation skills as much as it is on a final product.

Exemplar Program

The Exemplar Program will be fully funded for five years. Each Academy class identifies a past military giant to honor and emulate during their time at the Academy. The program provides a historical link and inspiration to cadets as they prepare to become leaders in the U.S. Air Force. The class of 2020, for example, recently named their class exemplar, 1st Lt. Bob Hoover. He was a fighter pilot, test pilot, instructor and famed air show pilot.

Peak Performance Center

The Peak Performance Center provides primary mental health and counseling resources for the entire Cadet Wing. It offers short-term counseling, education, outreach and prevention initiatives. Its education programs focus especially on areas pertinent to young adults, from suicide prevention to sexual assault awareness and stress management. In the last year, the staff logged more than 1,500 counseling sessions.

The Anderson gift will help the PPC improve its programs and facilities, according to Lt. Col. Tammy Schlichenmaier, deputy director for culture and climate at the Academy.

“This gift greatly enhances the care of our cadets, ensuring we are able to better serve a population of future leaders who will go on to excel operations around the world,” she said.

The gift will allow the PPC to continue work on a virtual reality program, with the help of cadets, to clinically treat cadets experiencing performance-based difficulties associated with aquatics. The new program should launch in the fall of 2018. The staff will also improve its two relaxation rooms, available to all cadets, and update their literature used for clinical care. 

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