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Big donation set to boost Air Force Academy programs

By: Tony Peck, Special to The Gazette
January 3, 2018 Updated: January 4, 2018 at 6:14 am
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photo - Retired Lt. Gen. Marcus Anderson.
Retired Lt. Gen. Marcus Anderson. 

A "significant" donation from a prominent Air Force Academy graduate will double the number of cadets who can visit bases around the country, the Air Force Academy Endowment announced on Wednesday.

The gift, with an amount that's undisclosed, comes from 1961 academy graduate retired Lt. Gen. Marcus Anderson and his wife, Ginger. It will help fund several major programs that aim to further develop and support cadets during their time at the academy, the endowment said.

"When I was a cadet, these programs didn't exist. As the commandant 23 years later, some existed, but not all. All of these programs enhance the cadets' opportunities and experiences," Anderson said in a statement. "I think every graduate has benefited from his or her four years at the Academy, so it seems logical to help those who follow and enhance their opportunities."

The "sponsor wing program" will double in size after the donation. Every year, hundreds of cadets travel to active-duty units to observe and learn how bases operate and discover the variety of Air Force careers.

"The program has always had the goal to allow about one quarter of the cadet wing to travel to their respective sponsor wing each year," said Rusty Meyer, the academy's deputy director for training support. "The Anderson gift allows greater range and flexibility to send out twice as many squadrons."

The boost to traveling budgets doesn't end there - cadets conducting research for senior year projects will be able to travel to related conferences and competitions.

Money from the gift is also heading to mental health programs and a cadet-driven effort to recognize outstanding airmen of the past.

While most of the Academy budget comes directly from the Defense Department, many programs rely heavily on the endowment to cover operational costs.

"There is a common misperception that everything that happens at the academy is covered by federal money," said Jermaine Johnson, the Associate Vice President for Marketing with the Air Force Academy Endowment.

The decade-old endowment, with assets topping $50 million, drew in more than $14 million in contributions and revenue in 2016, the most recent year available in public records.

The academy's generals can't openly beg for donor cash due to federal rules, putting the task on the endowment, which is a separate nonprofit.

Anderson said he saw the need and decided to help.

"The government can't provide everything," he said. "The extra margin of excellence has to come from donations."

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