Fast Five – Questions For Amy Spowart
How did you become involved with the Hall of Fame?
Spowart: In 1998, I met Mike Jackson, then its executive director. Knowing my majors, he invited me to attend Enshrinement. As soon as I arrived, he shoved me toward John Glenn and other enshrinees. I was enthralled to be among such heroes and soon started volunteering. Once I graduated from WSU, the Hall hired me and I have been here in some capacity ever since. I love the place because of our enshrinees. It’s spending time with these national treasures that keeps me motivated and involved.
The Hall’s location at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base might make some wonder if it is owned by the service.
Spowart: It is not. We are a totally separate 501(c)(3) established by Congress in 1964. We are located on land leased by the state of Ohio from the federal government. Visitors to the Hall enter through the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, which is filled with an amazing array of historic aircraft. We have a truly synergistic relationship with the museum. People coming to see the “hardware” of aviation can see the world’s best collection there. Then, at the Hall, they can learn about the people of aviation — the amazing “software.”
As you note, there are quite a few aviation museums. What makes the Hall of Fame special?
Spowart: We are aligned with several museums. While they focus on things, we celebrate people. The Hall exists to memorialize and promote the achievements of individuals. We honor them to motivate the following generations. We believe the stories of their tenacity and triumph inspire. When Charlie Bolden, a Marine Corps major general, shuttle astronaut and former NASA administrator, was enshrined in 2017, he was moved to tears. I asked him why and he said, “Amy, it doesn’t get any bigger than this.” These are aviation’s heroes, and it is everything to them. It is a tremendous privilege for us to be able to do this for them and for our nation.
Do you think the younger generations get it, or for them is aviation on the wane?
Spowart: It is up to all of us in aviation to change the narrative in a way that helps kids understand and embrace their calling. We need to inspire them, but on their terms. Let us ensure they get the tools they need to thrive. If members of the next generation are bothered by jet pollution, want electricity to power aircraft, find a way to Mars or reduce airport noise, they need to step up. Let us ask them, “Why don’t you figure it out?” But also give them the tools to achieve that passion. Future enshrinees of the National Aviation Hall of Fame are in the making right now and they will solve these matters and more. We can also help them by casting the widest net for those who will guide them. Today we must include more people of both genders and all races. The bias and bigotry of the past must remain there.
How has COVID-19 impacted the Hall?
Spowart: We were closed for eight weeks. During that time, we found creative ways to keep members engaged and worked with our development committee to refocus fundraising. We also made the difficult choice to postpone our 2020 Enshrinement. Prior to the pandemic, we were on target to launch a capital campaign. For now, most support has been redirected to COVID relief. In the days ahead, our vision, outreach and path may look a bit different than it did earlier this year, but our mission is clear and good and we will honor it. BCA
Editor’s note: To support the NAHF mission, go to www.nationalaviation.org