March 29, 2007
UI College Of Engineering Alumnus Receives Congressional Gold Medal
When surviving members of the legendary Tuskegee Airmen gather in Washington, D.C. on Thursday, March 29, to receive the Congressional Gold Medal, a University of Iowa College of Engineering Alumnus will be among them.
Luther H. Smith of Villanova, Pa., will join some 300 colleagues at a 1 p.m. ceremony in the Capitol rotunda to receive the Congressional Gold Medal from President George W. Bush, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and President Pro Tempore of the Senate Robert Byrd, D-W.Va. First awarded to George Washington in 1776, it is the highest civilian award bestowed by Congress.
Smith, who earned his bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering in 1950 and was inducted into the College of Engineering Alumni Hall of Fame in 2005, has lived a truly remarkable life of achievement.
An original member of the famed Tuskegee Airmen, he is a retired U.S. Air Force captain who flew 133 missions and is credited with destroying two German enemy aircraft in aerial combat and 10 German aircraft in ground strafing missions. A native of Des Moines, Iowa, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with six Oak Leaf Clusters, Purple Heart, eight European and Mediterranean Theaters Campaign Ribbons, and the Prisoner of War Medal after being permanently injured on his final combat mission, parachuting while unconscious from his burning P-51 Mustang aircraft, and held as a prisoner for seven months until the war ended.
After earning his degree at the UI College of Engineering, Smith began a career with General Electric Co. as an engineer, a position he held until his 1988 retirement from GE's Missile and Space Operations in Philadelphia with 37 years service and two U.S. patents. His special assignments included work with the U.S. Air Force, NASA, and U.S. Navy Submarine Command. Captain Smith is a recipient of the Franklin W. Kolk Aerospace Industry Award from the Society of Automotive Engineers.
Since his retirement, he has served on the Engineer Architect Evaluation Board that chose the design for the World War II Memorial on the Mall in Washington, D.C., and helped establish a memorial to the Tuskegee Airmen. In addition, he has contributed significantly to the achievement of racial equality in the United States and the world and helped change the face of the U.S. military in a remarkably short period of time.
In February 2006, Smith received an honorary doctorate degree in public service from Tuskegee University. In June 2006, he was awarded the UI Alumni Association Distinguished Alumni Award for Achievement and in October 2006 he was inducted into the Iowa Aviation Hall of Fame.
STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.
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