As part of Air Academy High School’s 60th Anniversary, we honored at Homecoming distinguished alumni, faculty, and staff representing Air Academy’s 60-year history. A tradition was born, and now every year we recognize Distinguished Kadets who represent the Kadet Spirit.
60th Anniversary Distinguished Faculty and Staff
Doug Lundberg taught biological sciences at AAHS from 1976-2002, and during that time, he started the AP Biology program and the Genetic Engineering Program. He did summer research for the U.S. Government at various laboratories and biotechnology firms such as Genetech. In the 1980’s, he was a grader for the written part of the national AP Biology tests, and in 1992, he developed and taught the first on-line class in Colorado.
Lungberg’s awards are numerous, including the John Asbury School District 20 Secondary Teacher of the Year Award, the National Presidential Award for Science, the Colorado Governor’s Award for Teaching, the Milken Award, the Colorado Biology Teachers Award, the National Biology Teachers Molecular Biology Award, the Fotodyne Molecular Biology Award and the Colorado Athletic Director Association Award.
In 2006, four years after retiring from teaching, Lundberg was elected to the Academy District 20 Board of Education, where he served until 2014, including two years as the board president.
Lundberg says,“ I have been very lucky. I not only served the students of AAHS by teaching at the best school in Colorado, but I also served the patrons of our district by being on the D20 Board of Education. It does not get any better!”
Chris Kingsolver Palmer taught English at Air Academy High School from 1971-2007. During her 36 year career she taught most subjects in the English Department: Business English, College Prep Composition, Shakespeare, British Literature, Freshman English, World Literature, and AP Literature and Composition. She also twice served as the Chair of the North Central Evaluation and as Co-Chair of the English Department.
She describes her years of teaching at AAHS as a joy and says that the students, parents, teachers, staff and the District 20 community provided her with the best teaching experience imaginable. It isn’t often that someone stays at one school for an entire career, but she often said there was no reason to look elsewhere since AAHS had the best students and was the best possible school for teaching what she loved.
Since retiring from AAHS Chris has served on the Board of Directors of the District Twenty Education Foundation and is passionate about continuing to serve and support both students and teachers. In addition, after retiring she felt compelled to share some of what she had learned over the years of her career and has worked as a College Board Endorsed Consultant and as an independent consultant helping schools develop curriculum and presenting workshops for educators through the United States. Once a teacher, always a teacher!
Chris’s honors include:
Distinguished Teacher Award—Rochester Institute of Technology--2002
Air Academy High School Teacher of the Year--2000
Boettcher Foundation Outstanding Teacher Award—1993
Who's Who Among America's Teachers--1992-3
Colorado State Board of Education Commitment to Excellence and Dedication to Teaching Award—1987
Air Academy Educator of the Year—1987
Air Academy High School Teacher of the Year--1986
Outstanding Young Woman of America--1981
Angela Adams Scholarship--Oxford University--1978
We came to Colorado Springs via orders from the military, in our case, my husband’s assignment to teach at the AF Academy. I worked as a secretary in the beginning of our marriage, but had been a stay-at-home Mom with our five children for sixteen years. When a friend told me about an opening at AAHS, the timing was right for me to apply for a job having a complementary family schedule.
In August, 1978 I was hired by Julie Fairley and George Bolte to join two others in the attendance office. Our duties were to record in pencil the presence of students in every class throughout the day and to call parents for any unexcused absences. We took this job very seriously, but not without memorable moments which still bring a smile.
I subsequently worked in the counseling office, for assistant principals, and then my favorite job of all, the secretary to the principal. I interacted daily with that talented person who is ultimately responsible for assuring a safe and learning atmosphere in the school; I worked with capable assistant administrators, highly regarded faculty, excellent and troubled students, fellow staff members, parents and other district employees. It is a unique position and I loved every minute of it, even when I had to give up my beloved electric typewriter for that intimidating computer screen. It was all a blessed time in my working life.
Except for the esteemed Mr. Asbury who had already retired, I had the pleasure of working with every person honored in this anniversary award and know they either initiated or carried forward the enviable and special culture experienced at Air Academy High School. May it always be so!
I retired September 1, 1997 having worked my final four years with outstanding educator-administrators and staff at the District Office.
In 1967 I began the work of transforming AAHS’s small library into a vibrant library media program. Concurrently, I worked with the leadership of District 20 to envision and implement a progressive library media program for Air Academy High School and our district schools. Early in my tenure Vivian Zazzaretti and Lila Moore joined the LMC staff, followed a few years later by Sally Kelly and Barry Young. Together we provided a wide range of learning opportunities and services for students. As technology was developed, I was one of the first library media specialists in the state to offer students access to the use of computers and worked with a software developer to create special programs to enhance their learning. We installed a satellite dish and eventually the internet that enabled AAHS students to gain technology skills including the ability to gain knowledge from many sources around the world. The media center was also home to our foreign students and those who needed extra help in many ways. It was a place of gathering for a variety of school events and our staff lunches became legendary. I was active and held office in local and national library media organizations. I enjoyed working at AAHS because I had the best students, teachers, administrators, staff, school board members, and parents with whom to work. Of special note are former principals Julie Fairley and Greg Pearson, and John Asbury, our legendary superintendent, for their leadership and support of our vision for a library media program that would best serve the educational needs of our students.
I loved my many years at AAHS.
60th Anniversary Distinguished Alumni
Writer and conservationist, Barron graduated from AAHS in 1970. He was named a Rhodes Scholar after graduating from Princeton and went into business after extensive traveling. In 1990 he left a successful career in business to pursue his earlier dream of becoming a writer. Now the author of more than thirty highly acclaimed books, many of which are international bestsellers, he has been the recipient of many awards including the de Grummond Medallion for “lifetime contribution to the field of children’s and young adult literature” in 2011 and the Nautilus Award Grand Prize in the Children’s Fiction and Nonfiction category in 2010. His works include the Merlin Saga (now being developed into a feature film by Disney). The Great Tree of Avalon (a New York Times bestselling series), The Ancient One (the tale of a brave girl and a magical tree), and The Hero’s Trail (nonfiction stories of courageous kids).
In 2000, Barron founded the Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes, a national award that each year honors twenty-five highly diverse, public-spirited kids who have helped their communities or the environment. He has also produced a documentary film, Dream Big, profiling seven winners of the Barron Prize.
When not writing or speaking, Barron serves on many boards including Princeton University, where he helped create the Princeton Environmental Institute and The Wilderness Society, which honored him in 1997 with its highest award for conservation work, the Robert Marshall Award.
Two-year letterman in both football and basketball at AAHS, co-captain of both teams as a senior. Honorable Mention Denver Post All-State football team as a junior. Also a member of the infamous powder puff cheerleader squad, homecoming 1982.
Graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism. Chosen as the outstanding news-editorial student in the graduating class of '87.
Worked 17 years at the Louisville Courier-Journal -- two years covering high schools, one-year covering regional colleges, two years covering the University of Kentucky and 12 years as a general sports columnist. Was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in 1991 for an investigative series on academic failings in the University of Louisville athletic department. Twice had stories published in the Best American Sports Writing anthologies.
Went to work for ESPN in 2004, primarily covering college sports. Did work across all ESPN platforms -- TV, radio, online -- including regular appearances on "College GameDay" and "First Take."
Went to work at Yahoo Sports in 2011 and remain working there today, primarily covering college sports plus the Olympics, horse racing and golf. Official title is National College Columnist. Also a college football analyst on the Big Ten Network and Fox Sports Radio.
Has written two books: "Rebound Rules," with Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino; and "The Contract," with NBA guard Jimmer Fredette.
Lives in Louisville, KY., with wife, Tricia. They have three children: Mitchell, a Missouri grad and former swimmer at Mizzou; Clayton, a student and swimmer at Georgia; and Brooke, a student, and swimmer at Stanford.
His research interests grew out of his time at Air Academy High School where he enjoyed computer programming as a hobby and thinking about evolution as one of the world’s most fascinating natural processes.
During her time at AAHS Erica Linz served as captain of the gymnastics team and was heavily involved in performing arts including acapella, theater and Montage. Though very active, she did not always feel like she fit in as a Kadet and was even voted “Most Unique” in the class of 2001. Six months after graduating, Erica joined Cirque du Soleil’s legendary Las Vegas show, “Mystère” as an acrobat and actor. In 2005 she moved to Cirque’s mega-production “KÁ” and gained notoriety as a featured aerial performer. During this time, Erica’s life was touched by pediatric cancer. First volunteering for other organizations and quickly founding her own non-profit, Erica became a young, and unlikely leader in Las Vegas philanthropy. Her organization “Circus Couture” has used avant-garde circus, fashion and art to raise over $1.2 million so far, funding the only clinic in Nevada treating kids with cancer regardless of insurance. She is also a known source of whimsy and magic to little cancer warriors at difficult times.
In 2012 Erica became one of the world’s most famous circus performers when she starred in James Cameron and Andrew Adamson’s 3D film “Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away”. Since then she’s enjoyed a diverse career as an acrobat, stunt woman, acrobatic choreographer, aerial designer, and live entertainment director. Erica is grateful that her work has allowed her to travel extensively worldwide, continually broadening her horizons.
Erica is deeply honored to be chosen as a distinguished AAHS alumni and hopes that students who feel like outsiders will remember this: It’s ok if you don’t feel like you fit into the world you are assigned. Some of you are simply destined to build our own world…
2018 Distinguished Kadets Ceremony
2018 Distinguished Faculty and Staff
(1978 – 2002 & 2008 - 2011) Imagine that Brink Spear’s old 1964 AAHS letter jacket also tells the story of his life as a teacher. Obviously, the big blue letter A with its pins and bars tells of his youth, but it is the big silver A on the opposite side that tells of his career, a career spent walking the same halls he did back then. Very little silver is visible on this letter, however, because of all the pins and bars that represent the subjects, sports, and clubs that he taught, coached, and sponsored over the more than a quarter of a century at AAHS.
Three most important additions to the jacket are the silver felt stars representing three mentors who through words and especially through actions taught him how to be a teacher. The first star is the John Asbury Star, named after John Asbury, his high school principal at AA, who demonstrated to his students that, in addition to demanding rigorous classroom work, an educator must care personally for each one of his or her students. The second star is the Fairley Star. Julie Fairley, AA’s irrepressible principal in the 80’s, showed that a school full of love and laughter from the administration through a dedicated faculty and staff to a lively student body can result in high academic, athletic, and social achievement. The third star is the Pierson Star, for it was Greg Pierson, AA’s principal in the 90’s, whose constant thinking of new and different ways to challenge his faculty and staff to take risks in order to become better teachers, learners, and ultimately better people was couched in true kindness and thoughtfulness. Following the guidance of these three stars helped Brink realize that teaching wasn’t his job but his calling.
Above the stars are two silver felt apples, the smaller one representing the year he was recognized as Air Academy High’s Teacher of the Year and the larger one representing the year he was presented the Academy School District 20’s John Asbury Secondary Teacher of the Year Award.
What he cherishes most about his jacket, however, are the signatures, crammed together in every possible remaining space of the jacket, all of the students he taught, coached and touched over his career at AAHS, for they all truly touched him.
Just imagine a letter jacket like that!
(1976 – 1996) Judy grew up in Florence, CO and graduated from the University of Northern Colorado. She was married to Harold Williamson for 56 years. He was also a teacher, coach, and guidance counselor. Judy has two sons, Kyle and Kurt and twin grandsons, Carter and Reese.
Judy found her passion for teaching when she realized how much she loved helping her elementary school classmates learn about fractions. She had an excellent high school English teacher and thought she wanted to teach English. However, after one year in college, she realized how much she missed studying and learning mathematics.
Judy began her career teaching at the junior high level. She was given classes of students that struggled with learning and therefore, not liking math. She realized she needed more skills in order to help these students learn about a subject that for them wasn’t fun. She joined a group of Denver teachers who were working on developing activities that would provide different approaches to learning mathematics. She continued using these techniques as a foundation for expanding her classroom teaching methods.
In 1976, Judy joined the staff at AAHS. During those 20 years, she is most proud to have started the Advanced Placement Calculus program. During her years of teaching AP Calculus, the school had one of the highest passing rates in Colorado. The AAHS Math Team dominated other Colorado High Schools and the Mathematics Department was recognized for working as a team by the district.
Judy said, “I am very proud of all those accomplishments but what was most important to me was the look in a student’s eyes when the light bulb went on.”
2018 Distinguished Alumni
I was privileged to be a part of a high school that not only offered me the opportunity to be involved as a three-sport athlete, but also prepared me academically for the next level. I am grateful to all the teachers and coaches who gave me their time and attention and who believed in me.
After graduation, I played college basketball, majored in mathematics and spent eleven years as a Colorado State Trooper and eventually finished my career as a high school teacher and coach. On a personal note, I married my high school sweetheart (48 years ago), we have two great children who then blessed us with four terrific grandchildren. It has been a fantastic ride. Thanks AAHS for the memories!
With the childhood dream of producing documentary films for National Geographic, Rob attended Colorado State University where, in 1982, he earned a degree in Journalism.
Rob began working in “the business” at KCNC in Denver during his Junior year at CSU. Upon graduation he continued in news at KOAA-TV before taking director and cinematographer jobs at an independent production company in COS and a corporation in Denver. But the yellow brick road that leads to the Oz that is National Geographic didn’t run through Colorado in those days so, in 1988 Rob left the towering Mountains of Colorado for the towering skyscrapers of New York City.
In New York Rob began directing and shooting films on-locations in the Middle East, the Mediterranean and in Africa. (Note: none of these films were for Nat. Geo, but he was getting closer!)
In 1990, with Cable television beginning to flourish, Rob left Manhattan for an opportunity to join a Tennessee based company that produced programming for A&E, HISTORY and Discovery. Almost nine years later – after the E.W. Scripps Company bought the family-owned company in order to launch HGTV – Rob folded his Tennessee tent and moved to Washington DC where National Geographic is headquartered. Shortly after making the move, and with 20 years of experience under his belt, the production doors to Geographic opened fulfilling Rob’s childhood dream.
Today, Rob still directs and shoots programs for Nat. Geo., the Smithsonian, and the Discovery Networks, as well as for broadcasters outside the US. As trite as it is to say it – that KADET is “Livin’ the Dream.”
After graduating from AAHS, Lieutenant Commander Bradley Monger attended the Naval Academy Preparatory School and graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 2003. Upon completing 16 months of flight training, he was designated as a Naval Flight Officer in 2004. In 2014, he earned a Master’s degree in Security Studies of East Asia from the Naval Postgraduate School.
LCDR Monger’s operational assignments have included one tour as the assistant navigator about the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) and two tours with the “World Watchers” of Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron ONE (VQ-1), where he accrued over 2000 flight hours in the EP-3 aircraft, the Navy’s only dedicated airborne reconnaissance platform. He has supported worldwide operations to include IRAQI FREEDOM, ENDURING FREEDOM, INHERENT RESOLVE, and ODYSSEY DAWN, as well as the 2011 relief efforts for the tsunami disaster in Japan.
LCDR Monger now serves as the Operation Test Director for the MQ-4C Triton, the Navy’s first unmanned high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft. He currently resides in Maryland with his wife, Jennifer.
Kristin Nielsen Ray graduated from Air Academy High School in 1998. After high school, she studied biology as an undergraduate at Harvard University and medicine at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, graduating in 2006. She completed a residency in pediatrics at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia in 2009. After residency, she worked as a pediatric hospitalist at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and as a pediatrician for the Indian Health Service in New Mexico. She then pursued a research fellowship in general academic pediatrics at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, completing a Master’s of Science in Clinical Research in 2014.
Dr. Ray is now an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. She practices as a general pediatrician at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh Primary Care Center, and oversees a research program focused on improving the effectiveness, family-centeredness, equity, and value of pediatric health care delivery systems. Dr. Ray also leads quality improvement initiatives for a large network of pediatric primary care sites. She is a member of the Academic Pediatric Association Health Care Delivery Executive Committee and the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Pediatric Workforce. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and their two children.
Anna was born in Russia and moved to the U.S. at the age of four. She continues to speak fluent Russian. While a student at AAHS, Anna volunteered over 800 hours at the Memorial Health System where she was named Volunteer of the Year. Anna was also an accomplished figure skater. She earned a Gold Medal from the U.S. Figure Skating Association in the areas of Ice Dance and Moves. Anna was accepted to the 7-year accelerated Honors Program in Medical Education at Northwestern University in Chicago where she received her medical degree. She remained at Northwestern for medical school and residency in Family Medicine, where she served as Chief Resident, and has since become a member of the faculty. Anna is currently a Fellow at the Osher Center of Integrative Medicine at Northwestern. Anna continues to be passionate about volunteering, working to bring access to medical care to low income communities. In her free time, Anna love spending time with her fiancé, friends and family, participating in marathons and triathlons, skiing, cooking, writing, and anything outdoors in nature.
Anna would like to credit AAHS for the strong foundations and incredible mentorship from teachers that led her to where she is today. She deeply regrets not being able to be present at homecoming and would like students to know she is always available for questions and mentoring.