HEHS NDEA Electronics Class of 1965
HEHS NDEA Electronics Class of 1965
HEHS NDEA Electronics Class of 1965

HEHS NDEA Electronics Class of 1965

                     HEHS NDEA ELECTRONICS CLASS OF 1965

         
                                                                            
On May 31, 1965, fifteen students graduated from an unexampled Electronics Technology curriculum at Huntington East High School in Huntington, West Virginia.  
 
We need to turn back the pages of our history books i
n order to appreciate how these particular students came to be enrolled in that unprecedented program.  The setting was the second decade following World War II.  The era was marked by frequent threats and “rattling of nuclear sabers” between the United States and the Soviet Union.  Long-range bombers armed with nuclear warheads were in the air at all times.  Children practiced bomb drills at schools and almost every family had some kind of “fallout shelter plan” for their home.  Radio and TV stations broadcast daily “Civil Defense” and “Emergency Preparedness” instructions during the years of peak hostilities.  Those were, indeed, perilous times for most Americans.  Today, we we refer to that time period as “The Cold War.”
 
October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union shocked the whole world by putting the first manmade satellite into Earth orbit.  “Sputnik I” could be easily seen in the night sky.  It was making daily passes over the heartland of the United States.  The U.S. government was stunned and embarrassed.  If the U.S.S.R. had ballistic missiles that could put a satellite in orbit, they could use those same missiles to drop undetected nuclear bombs on the United States from outer space.  On top of that, our government was convinced the Soviets were using the satellite to spy on us.  There was absolutely nothing we could do about it.  One historian described this event as "the Pearl Harbor of the Cold War."  In less than a month, the Russians had a second satellite orbiting the Earth.  Our military timeline was still years away from putting an effective weapon in Earth orbit.  It was apparent to everyone that the U.S. had seriously underestimated the capabilities of the U.S.S.R.   
 
Congress declared a national emergency.  They quickly enacted emergency legislation creating the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).  President Eisenhower told the nation the U.S. needed to develop a cadre of scientists and engineers with state-of-the-art skills required to counter the Soviet Union’s obvious technological supremacy.  Congress reacted by passing a second piece of emergency legislation known as the National Defense Education Act.  NDEA funding was responsible for development of the Electronics Technology program that started at Huntington East High School in the fall of 1962.
 
That first class of students entered the most demanding and most competitive curriculum ever offered in Cabell County high schools.  Electronics students were required to enroll in the HEHS college-preparatory curriculum, take the most advanced science and math classes being offered and attend summer school for more specialized technical training.  All of that was in addition to three years of rigorous electronics instruction lasting two class periods every day.  The electronics and one of the math classes were taught by an electronics engineer.  County educators knew the intensity of this technical training would not be suitable for most students.  They surveyed roughly 1,500 junior high school students to identify and recruit 45 students most likely to succeed in the program.  High achievements in math & science, faculty recommendations and “some minimum” IQ score were just three of the requirements to get in.  Admission to that first class would be “by invitation only.”  The recruits came from five high school districts.  Most students were offered seats in the program while still in the eighth grade. 
 
Electronics was the first “technical” curriculum offered at Huntington East High School.  As far as we have been able to determine, it was the first “technical” high school program in the state of West Virginia.  This particular course of study had been designed to provide students with an academic background to jump-start future studies toward an electrical or electronics engineering degree.  It had also been tailored to provide all the applied technical skills required for direct entry into the workforce as an electronics technician.  The dual-path educational concept would later be known as a “Tech-Prep” curriculum.  We are relatively certain this was the first “Tech-Prep” curriculum offered in West Virginia.  We believe it to be one of the first in the United States. 
 
The electronics teaching facilities were not just new.  They were outstanding.  Federal money provided a spacious classroom area combined with fully equipped, state-of-the-art electronics laboratories.  The electronics class even had a private restroom and its own water fountain - prestigious accommodations for West Virginia classrooms in those days. Entry to the electronics facilities was restricted to students enrolled in the program.  

Robert H. Irvin was selected to teach some of the math in addition to electronics classes.  He was not just an experienced electronics instructor.  Mr. Irvin had also been a production & development engineer for Sylvania Electric.   Records of-the-day show Sylvania was a prime defense contractor dealing in both vacuum tube and solid-state technologies.  Mr. Irvin had been recruited from a company providing high-tech “communications and other sensitive electronics equipment” to the U.S. military. 
 
Three classes of ambitious students started the NDEA-driven electronics class in the Fall of 1962 but there was a major obstacle at the end of that first year.  In order to make room for the next “first-year” class, one-third of the original students had to be dropped from the program.  For that same reason, half the students surviving the first cut had to be dropped at the end of the second year.  These reductions were sad because some really good students were forced out of the program.  However, the cuts were not a surprise.  Recruiters had been up-front in describing the attrition process with prospective students.  All of those first students were fully aware, from the beginning, that a new class had to be started every year.  Everyone knew the unprecedented lab facilities only had room for the top third of the inaugural students to actually complete the course. 
 
Four hundred eighty-four students graduated from Huntington East High School in the spring of 1965.  Only fifteen of them earned one of the prized 
Electronics Technology certifications in addition to their high school diplomas.  These best-of-the-best survivors had not only mastered conventional AC and DC electronics theories.  They had also studied the integration of electronic circuits for sophisticated applications including radio, television, RADAR, X-rays, motor controls and medical devices.  They had been trained to use many of the latest electronic sensors and controls found in commercial, industrial and military applications.  Their laboratories had provided valuable hands-on experience using state-of-the-art instrumentation to perform alignment, diagnostic and test procedures. Troubleshooting exercises in the labs helped develop cognitive skills needed to analyze complex circuits with multi-variable interactions.  These graduates became part of an elite group of electronics engineers and technicians competent to work with both solid-state and vacuum tube technologies in 1965. 
 
Some Cabell County educators said the Electronics Class of ‘65 was leaving high school with a better electronics education than anything available in college associate degree programs of that time.  There are several strong testaments to support that claim and validate the strength of the curriculum.  One classmate passed both the “Fundamentals of Engineering” and the “Engineering Principles & Practice” tests required to become a licensed Professional Engineer - before taking his first electrical engineering class in college.  These are tightly controlled, national engineering tests.  The eight-hour “Fundamentals” test covers mathematics, chemistry, physics, and elements of all the engineering sciences.  The eight-hour “Electrical Principles and Practice” test requires applicants to solve complex engineering problems in electrical and electronics disciplines. The difficulty of each test has been equated to passing ten college-level final exams at one sitting.  Well over half the students who start electrical engineering degree programs drop out before completing degree requirements.   Less than 10% of electrical engineers in the United States have earned one of these P.E. licenses.
 
One primary objective of the NDEA has been met in that ten of the graduates either served directly in the military and/or have worked for defense contractors.  Much of that service and some of those Department of Defense contractors have been linked to “black projects” involving some of our government's most secret military technologies.  Several of these guys have been associated with advanced avionics and radar imaging systems, night vision technology, electronic mine detection, cryptography and other forms of electronic security and electronic warfare.  Some have worked in the research and development as well as the design of these systems.  Classmates involved in these technologies are not at liberty to discuss details of their work.  However, published histories of electronic warfare clearly show that some members of this class have been “in the right places,” “at the right times,” “with the required skills” to have made significant contributions to the development of leading edge technologies which did, in fact, help close the technology gap with the Soviet Union and reestablish global dominance of the U.S. military. 
 
Other graduates who became design engineers and responsible leaders in high-tech automation, electronic controls, computing, aerospace, robotics and pharmaceuticals have accomplished additional NDEA objectives. 
 

Eighty-seven percent of the class went on to earn college degrees.  Seventy-three percent of them have bachelor’s degrees.  Four have advanced degrees and 20% of them have doctorates.  To put these academic statistics in perspective, only about 17% of West Virginia high school graduates were completing college in the 1960s and 1970s.

Over half of the members of this electronics class have some form of electrical engineering credential.  In addition to the engineers, there is a prominent Doctor of Pharmacology, a Medical Doctor, three Certified Public Accountants and a Cryptographer that started their careers with this NDEA Electronics class.  The group also has its fair share of entrepreneurs, executives and managers.  Four classmates have help propagate the legacy of their technical roots as part-time teachers.  Three of them have been instructors at colleges or universities and the fourth has been a high school math & science teacher. 
  
College degrees are by no means the only indicators of successful careers.  Both graduates who chose not to complete degree requirements did attend two years of college.  They have been successful entrepreneurs and businessmen.  One of them has been vice president of a computer company and president of two other businesses.  The other had a distinguished career as an Air Traffic Controller, held responsible positions with national corporations, started his own business and even made an unsuccessful run for the U.S. House of Representatives.  Several members of the class have owned their own businesses.  Most of the1965 Electronics Technology graduates have been employed by nationally-recognized, high-technology, industry-leading companies. 
 
A 25-year follow-up study of the class was presented to the West Virginia Academy of Science in 1992.  Authors of the study Robert Fischer, from Marshall University Community & Technical College and Lee Olson, from Marshall University, concluded that this was, without doubt, an exemplary program. The follow-up provided concrete evidence that students completing a quality “technical education” curriculum can compete and prosper in both the academic world and in the professions.  A summary of the study has been published 
in the Vocational Education Journal.  Huntington's Herald-Dispatch newspaper has also written two nice stories about the 1965 electronics class.  Twenty-five years before “Tech-Prep” was a buzzword in educational circles, the concept was successfully applied in Huntington, West Virginia. 
 
 

                                                                                         The National Defense Education Act of 1958

Title I reads in part that “The Congress hereby finds and declares that the security of the Nation requires the fullest development of the mental resources and technical skills of its young men and women. The present emergency demands that additional and more adequate educational opportunities be made available. The defense of this Nation depends upon the mastery of modern techniques developed from complex scientific principles. It depends as well upon the discovery and development of new principles, new techniques, and new knowledge.”

Dwight
Dwight D. Eisenhower
243 - Statement by the President Upon Signing the National Defense Education Act.
September 2, 1958
Public Papers of the Presidents
o

I HAVE TODAY signed into law H. R. 13247, the National Defense Education Act.
This Act, which is an emergency undertaking to be terminated after four years, will in that time do much to strengthen our American system of education so that it can meet the broad and increasing demands imposed upon it by considerations of basic national security.
 


                                      The HEHS Electronics Technology Class of 1965
 
John T. Ashworth:  Air Force - Airborne Navigation Systems;  Bachelor’s Degree in Human Resource Management, Master’s Degree in Management; Served as Finance Manager, Director of Facilities, and Vice President of Operations for Boeing Aircraft in the aerospace industry;  Teaches College Business & Management courses;  Sells Real Estate
 
Mary Gene Caldwell Beheler:  Bachelor’s Degree, Early work in drafting and PC board design followed by service in several capacities of an Adult Literacy Program.  Suffered life-changing injuries when her car was hit by a train.
 
Roy V. Castle:  B.S. in Pharmacy, M.S. in Hospital Pharmacy, Doctor of Pharmacology;  Pharmacist, Author, Lectures at several colleges;  Ice Skating Gold Medalist;  Freedom of Information Officer for the U.S. Food & Drug Administration’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.  Several FDA recognition awards.  Named in a $1.2 billion lawsuit over something he released.  He successfully defended the lawsuit for 7 years before it was finally dismissed.  Retired with a “Distinguished Career Service” award after 35 years with the FDA.  Worked as a pharmacist after retiring from the FDA. 
 
Charles C. Crickmer:  Air Force, Avionics, RADAR Specialist, Pilot, BSEE Degree, Electronic Weapons Systems Engineer, EG&G
 
James M. Dilworth:  U.S. Army Reserve, BSEE Degree, Civilian Engineer for U.S. Navy;  Plant EE for Ford Motors, Senior Instrumentation & Control Systems Design Engineer, Fluor-Daniel
 
Robert F. Dodrill:  BSBA Degree – Quantitative Methods;  CPA;  State of Florida Financial Analyst, Public Service Commission Audit Manager;  Hotel Executive;  Real Estate Manager, Consultant,  ITT Sheraton, Holiday Inn
 
Robert L. Fischer:  Bachelor's Degree in Physics & General Science, MS Degree in Voc-Tech Education, Ph.D. in EE;  Engineer, P.E., Electrical & Instrumentation Manager, Plant Engineer, Author, Inventor, Consultant;  Teaches College Physics, Robotics & Solid-State Electronics courses;  Polan Ind., Calgon Carbon, PECO/Marathon Petroleum, Fischer Technical Services
 
Jackie Hesson Kiser:  BSBA Degree, CPA, High-School Math & Science Teacher
 
Kenneth L. Lancaster:  Air Force, Air Traffic Controller, Novell-Certified Engineer, Computer Software Executive, Business Owner, Federal Aviation Agency
 
Jack H. Mullens:  Air Force, Electromagnetic Security Service, Computer Company VP, Business Owner
 
Ernest Edward Murray:  ASEE Degree, Field Service Engineer, Real Estate Appraiser, Ensign Electric Co., (January 16,1947 – October 5, 2012)
 
Robert Chris Mynes:  U.S. Army Reserve, Banking & Finance Degree, CPA, Bell Labs
 
Ernest L. Orem:  Air Force, AAS Degree-Cryptography, Cryptographer, Photographer, Computer-Aided Design, Intergraph/Dow Chemical
 
Charles E. Young:  Air Force, RADAR, Avionics, BSEE Degree, Engineering Development Manager, Chief of Logistics for Electronic Warfare, JT3, EG&G, GE-Aircraft Engine Division
 
William P. Zitter:  Marine Corps Reserve, BSEE Degree, Civilian Engineer for U.S. Air Force;  M.D. - Retired Emergency Medicine Physician


Herald-Dispatch Article

50 years later
Jul. 19, 2015 @ 11:25 PM
HUNTINGTON - Our story begins at a time where Huntington was a lot like Andy Griffith's Mayberry.
America was in the middle of what is now known as the Cold War with the Soviet Union. Children practiced bomb drills at school, and families had fallout shelter plans. Radio and TV stations broadcasted daily civil defense and emergency preparedness instructions.
Then, in October of 1957, the Soviet Union launched the first man-made satellite into Earth's orbit, shocking the world. "Sputnik I" could be seen in the night sky, making passes over the heartland of the United States. Could it drop bombs? Were they using it to spy on us?
The U.S. government was stunned and embarrassed. It was apparent the U.S. had underestimated the U.S.S.R.'s capabilities.
Congress reacted quickly with emergency legislation creating the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). That same Congress decided the U.S. needed to immediately develop a group of scientists and engineers with state-of-the-art skills required to counter the Soviet Union's technological supremacy. They passed another piece of emergency legislation known as the National Defense Education Act of 1958.
NDEA funding was responsible for the development of the Electronics Technology program at Huntington East High School in the fall of 1962. Fifteen students from Huntington, Barboursville, Milton and St. Joseph High Schools graduated from the inaugural program in 1965, 50 years ago.
These students ended up working for the FDA and the U.S. Air Force with top-secret jobs at places like Area 51, owning their own businesses and running companies, to name a few.
This is their success story.
The technicals
The Electronics Technology program was a rigorous curriculum. Students were required to enroll in the HEHS college-preparatory curriculum, take all science and math classes offered in high school and attend summer school for additional technical training, all in addition to three years of electronics instruction that lasted two class periods every day.
Students needed to excel in math and science, along with boasting a high IQ, to be invited to participate in the program. Three classes of students started the in the fall of 1962, but one-third of the original students had to be cut at the end of the first year. Half were cut at the end of the second year, leaving just 15 students working toward a certificate in electronic technology.
The graduates mastered conventional AC and DC electronics theories. They learned to integrate electronic circuits for practical applications including radio, television, RADAR, X-rays, motor controls and medical devices. They were trained to use many of the latest sensors and controls found in commercial, industrial and military applications. Their laboratories had provided valuable hands-on experience using sophisticated state-of-the-art electronic instrumentation to perform alignment, diagnostic and test procedures. Troubleshooting exercises in the labs helped develop cognitive skills needed to analyze complex circuits with multi-variable interactions. The graduates joined a relatively small group of electronic technicians who were competent to work with both solid-state and vacuum tube technologies in 1965.
Robert Fischer was one of those students. He was in eighth grade when he was approached about the program.
"Back in those days, electronics engineering was somewhat of a field, but back in those days electronics was still considered as much as a branch of physics as it was an engineering science," he said. "So we didn't know what we were signing up for, only that it was going to be tough."
Fischer went on to get a degree in physics and general science at Marshall University, eventually getting a Ph.D. in electrical engineering. He now runs his own business, Fischer Technical Services, and teaches college courses.
But Fischer is adamant this story is not his, it's theirs.
Results
Fischer followed up with the class 25 years after they graduated to find out if the students that completed a quality "technical education" curriculum can compete and prosper in both the academic world and in the professions.
With the help of Marshall professor Lee Olson, Fischer tracked down his classmates and their achievements following completion of the program.
West Virginia has never had a federally funded "tech prep" program, but Fischer points to the legal definition of "tech prep" - an advanced placement program providing students with academic and applied technical skills together - to say the Huntington East program was the first in West Virginia.
Regardless of what you call it, though, the program certainly succeeded.
Fischer said some Cabell County educators said the class of '65 left high school with a better electronics education than anything available in college associate degree programs at the time. One student's achievement certainly supports that notion.
The young man passed both the "Fundamentals of Engineering" and the "Engineering Principles and Practice" tests required to become a licensed professional engineer before ever taking an electrical engineering course in college.
These tests equate to taking 10 final exams in one day. Only 10 percent of electrical engineers in the United States have P.E. licenses.
Fischer said at the time, they had no idea why the program had been started or what the objectives were. It wasn't until much later when he spoke with one of his teachers, Robert H. Irvin, did Fischer realize there was a bigger picture.
One primary objective of the NDEA was to help close the technology gap with the Soviet Union and reestablish global dominance of the U.S. military. Nine of the graduates either served directly in the military and/or worked for defense-related contractors. At least one of those Department of Defense contractors have been linked to "black projects" involving some of the government's most sensitive military technologies. Most are not at liberty to discuss their work, Fischer said.
Others went on to become leaders in automations, electronic controls, computing, aerospace, robotics and pharmaceuticals. In addition to the engineers, there is a doctor of pharmacology, an M.D., three certified public accountants and a cryptographer. Three have served at colleges and universities, and one as a high school math and science teacher.
Only 17 percent of West Virginia high school graduates were completing college in the 1960s and 1970s, but 87 percent of the electronics class went on the earn college degrees. Four have advanced degrees, and 20 percent have doctorates.
College degrees are by no means the only indicators of successful careers, Fischer said. Both graduates who chose not to complete degree requirements did attend two years of college. They have become successful entrepreneurs and businessmen.
"Twenty-five years before 'tech prep' was a buzzword in educational circles, the concept was successfully applied right here in Huntington, West Virginia," Fischer said.
Funding for the program eventually ran out, and the teachers, which were paid by the federal government and Cabell County schools, had to move on.
The class
This class was a collection of the brightest students in Cabell County, so they probably would have been successful without the program. But Mary Gene Caldwell Beheler, one of the female students, said the program made her grow a set of wings and gave her a sense of adventure.
"What I was doing was different," she said. "It wasn't normal. At the same time, I realized I was just like everybody else, I just had a different opportunity and different mindset."
She said the program gave them a boost and a new world.
Beheler went on to get an engineering degree at Marshall, though she wanted to go to what is now Virginia Tech. It was a historically all-boys school, but this was after the Civil Rights Act. She was told her grades, test scores, everything was perfect, but freshmen were required to live on campus and the women's dorms were too far away from the engineering building. So she wasn't accepted.
"It opened doors for me eventually, but pushing that door open wasn't easy to begin with," she said. "It was an adventure."
She became a drafter, raised a family and worked for the Tri-State Literacy Council, which she said was the most rewarding work.
She said she doesn't know what she would have been if she hadn't had the opportunity to go on a different path.
"I got to go into a subject people weren't going into at the time," Beheler said. "It was things that has made me go, 'It looks like that, but maybe it's not,' and being able to have a little more adventure in me than most people have."
Something else she learned, she said with a laugh, is the doctors, engineers and all the other professions these men have where people do exactly what they say, she knows they can make mistakes, too.
"I've seen them make mistakes in labs," she said. "They made things go pop that shouldn't go pop. ... They usually get things right, but they can goof."
Fischer said in retrospect, they were the nerds and the geeks of Huntington East.
"We were in clubs, we played on sports teams, but we knew where we belonged," he said. "We belonged in this first class."
The class will get back together in September for their 50th high school reunion. The world has changed since they graduated in 1965, and it's safe to say they helped change it.



                      
                                 

 
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