Charles Armstrong, Kickapoo High School, Class of 1975
Charles Armstrong has spent the past 33 years playing a central role in space exploration projects directed from NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. He contributed his expertise to the Space Shuttle, Shuttle-Mir, International Space Station, Assured Crew Return Vehicle and Orbital Space Plane, as well as the Orion Program.
Always fascinated with math and science, he began taking classes at Southwest Missouri State University while still in high school. He served as president of the science and math clubs during his senior year at KHS, where he was inspired by geometry teacher Bill O’Neal and science instructors J.W. Mount, Horner Askins and Jose Flores.
After graduating from SMSU in 1979 with bachelor’s degrees in math and physics, he immediately began working as a NASA intern. Today Armstrong acts as a liaison between universities and NASA in Houston, while working on the integration of Project Orion, an operation expected to launch humans farther into space than ever before. Among his awards and honors are a NASA Exceptional Achievement Medal and a Silver Snoopy, which recognizes outstanding individual performance.
Betty Cole Dukert, Springfield Senior High School, class of 1945
Betty Cole Dukert got her start in journalism at Springfield Senior High School as a member of the Quill and Scroll club. When the new frontier of television broadcasting emerged, she became a female pioneer in the television news industry, spending 41 years working as producer of NBC’s Meet the Press.
Although Dukert’s family moved between Missouri and Oklahoma several times during her adolescence, she considers Springfield her hometown. She attended Rountree Elementary School and Jarrett Junior High School, and graduated from Springfield Senior High School, now known as Central High School.
At age 13, she knew that she wanted to pursue a career in journalism so she set her sights on obtaining the education and experience required to be successful. Dukert attended Lindenwood University and Drury University prior to completing her journalism degree at the University of Missouri.
After working for KICK radio in Springfield, Dukert made her way to Washington, D.C., where she worked as a secretary for an NBC executive who later helped her make the transition into television. She spent the bulk of her professional life working on Meet The Press until she retired in 1998.
A Trustee Emeritus at Drury University, Dukert returns to Springfield at least once a year. She is the recipient of such awards as the Honor Medal for Distinguished Service in Journalism from the University of Missouri, the First Amendment Service Award of the National Radio and Television News Directors’ Foundation and the Distinguished Alumna Award and an Honorary Doctorate from Drury University.
Dr. Stewart Fulbright, Lincoln High School, Class of 1937
Tuskegee Airman, Dean of North Carolina Central University’s School of Business, and French teacher are all titles that describe the late Dr. Stewart Fulbright’s professional accomplishments. It was his commitment to education, however, that defined him as a person.
Born and raised in Springfield, Fulbright enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1943 and trained in Tuskegee, Ala. The African-American pilots trained there, overcame segregation and adversity, and played crucial roles during World War II. Fulbright was among the Tuskegee Airmen present in 2007 in Washington, D.C., when they were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.
Among his other accomplishments, Fulbright was appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnson to the advisory committee for the Commodity Credit Corporation and was named professor emeritus by North Carolina Central University.
Always committed to education and learning, Fulbright earned three academic degrees: a BA in French from Lincoln University, an MBA from University of Chicago and a Ph.D. in business administration from Ohio State. He spent the majority of his professional career as a member of the faculty and later, the first dean of the School of Business at NCCU, retiring in 1982.
Fulbright passed away January 1, 2012, at the age of 92. His son, Edward, of Durham, N.C., will accept the award on his father’s behalf.