A Tactical Education
While some students walk to class, others bike and a few drive, Richard Glitz rented a plane and flew in.
The quick trip to the University of Idaho College of Engineering for final exams was one of just two times the fighter pilot, then stationed at Mountain Home Air Force Base, set foot on the Moscow campus.
The Cessna rental included, not much about Glitz’s U of I education can be considered traditional as a distance student in the Engineering Outreach program in the 1980s. He graduated in 1984.
Getting an advanced degree is necessary for credibility and advancement within the military, and while others in his U.S. Air Force cohort were eyeing degrees “down the path of least resistance,” Glitz said he wanted something more useful.
“My peers were trying to fill a square by getting a master’s that wasn’t useful to them. I wanted a degree for whatever the future might bring,” he said. “When I was introduced to the Engineering Outreach program at U of I, I’d never seen anything equivalent to that.”
A toll-free number connected Glitz to faculty members available for questions, and every week he would receive a box of three to four VHS tapes of recorded classroom content. He had all week to watch — and rewatch — the tapes as needed in order to complete assignments to be mailed to a trusted proctor.
I wanted a degree for whatever the future might bring. Richard Glitz
“I could see the backs of the heads of other students,” Glitz said. “By watching the videos, I could get a feel for some of the other studentsʼ personalities in the class, although they didn’t have any idea who I was. To them, I was just a camera in the back.”
U of I’s Engineering Outreach courses were administered this way until 1995, when the transition began to DVDs and thumb drives. Today, high-definition streaming is available to students across the world an hour after classes are recorded.
While traditional students balanced homework and part-time jobs, Glitz spent his time outside of class instructing pilots new to flying supersonic, low-level, tactical attack aircraft. Illinois-born, he was stationed in Mountain Home for five years after attending pilot’s school and graduating from the Air Force Academy with an undergraduate degree in aeronautical engineering in 1978.
Glitz’s love for flying is familial. Both of his brothers were in the Air Force, and his first plane ride was with his brother after he returned from Vietnam.
“Flying is a freedom thing, it’s being in total control,” he said. “The plane doesn’t fly you, you fly it.”
After 30 years in the Air Force and 15 years working for a commercial airline, Glitz has spent a lot of time in the sky. Working at the Air Force Research Laboratory at Mesa, Arizona, Glitz developed advanced training systems and simulations. He also spent some time working on new aerospace designs related to the B-2 bomber at the Northrop-Grumman Corporation’s Advanced Technology and Design Center.
After nine years working as the technical director for the Joint Integrated Air and Missile Defense Organization in the Pentagon, Glitz now works for the Air Force’s Nuclear Weapons Center in New Mexico.
Glitz, 62, attributes his career trajectory to his engineering skillset.
“Choosing an engineering degree paid great dividends and opened doors for me,” he said. “It taught me a logical, ordered way of thinking, and a methodical approach to problem-solving that applies generally, regardless of whether the problem presented is specifically an engineering one.”
Article by Alexiss Turner, College of Engineering
Published in the spring 2019 issue of Here We Have Idaho.