Honoring fellow Thunderbirds

Jim Latham and Howard Attarian created a scholarship to honor a student enrolled in the Department of Aerospace Studies.

Jim Latham’s favorite K-State memory happened to him 22 years after he graduated. He was a fighter wing commander in Japan when he was meeting with the new pilots, and one of them related he had been an engineering student at K-State when he heard Latham speak about the Air Force on campus in 1983.

“He told me we had never met, but he joined the Air Force because he had heard me speak and watched the Thunderbird team I led in a 1983 fly-in airshow in Topeka. The next week he went to the Air force recruiter and signed up to become an officer and pilot in the USAF,” Latham said. “That is a very rewarding memory for me. He became an outstanding fighter pilot and eventually obtained the rank of general officer.”

For Latham and Howard Attarian, the United States Airforce Thunderbirds demonstration team created a foundation which led to years served in the USAF and in later careers. This foundation inspired them to create a scholarship for undergraduate junior and senior students enrolled in the Department of Aerospace Studies in the College of Arts and Science at K-State.

“My 20-year-plus military career began as a cadet in ROTC at Kansas State University. The values that experience and education imparted to me helped shape my career as well as my current role as a Senior Executive Officer for a major airline,” Attarian said. “I wanted to acknowledge the foundation K-State and ROTC gave me by paying it forward with the hope this will provide for others who follow.”

Attarian, grew up in a small northeast Kansas town, got the opportunity in 1983 to return home as a Thunderbird pilot and fly air demonstrations in front of his family and those closest to him. He recalls this experience as being one of his biggest thrills. Another great memory is when his father, who at the time was an active duty USAF LT. Colonel, spoke at his Dining Out formal event and pinned his second Lieutenant bars. Attarian hopes the scholarship he and Latham created will provide the opportunity for students in the department of aerospace studies to make their own lasting memories.

“It is my hope that this gift will provide funds for deserving students so as to enable his or her dream to serve our county in the future to come true,” Attarian said.  

Howard Attarian and Jim Latham from their time on the Thunderbirds Air Demonstration team in the early 80’s.

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