The Tuskegee Airmen, the Apollo 11 astronauts, Amelia Earhart: these are just a sampling of the historic portraits hanging along the wall of the second floor of Elizabeth City State University’s STEM Complex, celebrating the pioneers of aviation.
They are part of a collection of 75 portraits that are on loan from the First Flight Society. The loan of the portraits are thanks to a Memorandum of Agreement between the organization and ECSU.
The First Flight Society, based in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina, entered into the MOA with the university to store and exhibit the 75 portraits. It is part of ECSU’s recently dedicated STEM Complex – formerly the Pharmacy Complex – and the home of the university’s signature aviation program.
The First Flight Society and ECSU will also cooperate in educational, promotional, and aviation-related activities. That part of the agreement began on August 19 during the commemoration of National Aviation Day at the Dare County Regional Airport. ECSU participated with the inclusion of the university’s mobile STEM lab and planes. [Click to watch Dare Co Current TV’s interview with FFS President Joe Lamothe and Lifetime member, Peregrine White]
Included in the MOA is what First Flight Society officials say is a “long-needed, permanent location” to house the 75 portraits. The portraits have been displayed at the National Park Service Visitor Center at the Wright Brothers National Park in Kill Devil Hills, but must be stored in a climate-controlled environment. The portraits’ new home at the ECSU STEM Complex provides the environment necessary for the preservation of the paintings. While the portraits will be rotated inside the STEM Complex, displaying a small number at a time, the entire collection is kept on campus. The portraits, however, remain the property of the First Flight Society. These portraits will also be available for display at other state educational and government facilities approved by the First Flight Society. To view the portraits, and an interpretive display of African American pioneers in aviation designed and installed by the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center, go to the second floor of the STEM Complex Monday through Friday during regular school hours.
ECSU is home to North Carolina’s only four-year aviation degree program. The program trains pilots with its fleet of 10 fixed-wing aircraft and one gyrocopter. Also, beginning this fall semester, ECSU launched a Unmanned Aerial Systems, or drone, degree program.