Office of Alumni Affairs

Department News

View all AFIT news | View ALUMNI Department news

AFIT Honors 2006 Distinguished Alumni
Posted: 11/02/2006 by AFIT Public Affairs

The Air Force Institute of Technology honored the two 2006 Distinguished Alumni October 27 at the Wright-Patterson Club & Banquet Center. Mr. Robert A. K. Mitchell and Dr. Vincent J. Russo were selected by the AFIT Association of Graduates for their pioneering roles in science, engineering, and education.

"The title of 'distinguished alumnus' is the highest honor that AFIT awards to a graduate, and we award very few," said Maj. Andrew Learn, who served as Master of Ceremonies for the evening. "These men are pioneers in science, research, development, and acquisition, and are staunch supporters of the critical role education plays in enhancing the capabilities of our military. They are the epitome of an AFIT distinguished alumnus."

Mitchell, who graduated in 1973 with a master’s degree in astronautical engineering, served in the Royal Air Force, making him one of AFIT’s first international students. After leaving the Royal Air Force he worked in Ontario, Canada, from 1976 to 1978, for Spar Aerospace and served as Manager of Systems Engineering. He continued his contribution to the space program from 1978 to 1987 with Teledyne Brown Engineering, in Huntsville, Alabama. From 1988 until the present he has been the driving force in High Altitude Unmanned Air Vehicle development, first as the president of Teledyne Ryan Aeronautical, a legacy Northrop Grumman company, and then as Vice President of Northrop Grumman Unmanned Systems in San Diego, California. As such, he was the guiding force in building the Global Hawk. His vision was realized as the Global Hawk became the most significant contributor of battle field information during combat in Afghanistan and Iraq over the last five years. Mitchell received the AIAA's Prestigious Reed Aeronautics Award in April 2002 for the development and international deployment of the Global Hawk System. The organization credits Mitchell with being "the nation's single most important figure in building the UAV revolution into reality."

Dr. Russo, who graduated in 1964 with a master’s degree in materials engineering, is a retired member of the Senior Executive Service and culminated his career as the Executive Director of the Aeronautical Systems Center. Russo entered federal service in 1962 when he was commissioned a Second Lt. through the Reserve Officer Training Corps at the University of Rochester. He served in the U.S. Air Force from 1962 to 1968 as a student at AFIT and a project engineer and project manager in the C-5A Galaxy System Program Office. In 1974, he earned his Ph.D. in Metallurgical Engineering from the Ohio State University. Russo held a variety of senior technical positions within system program offices, various laboratories and laboratory staffs. He was appointed to the Senior Executive Service in 1986 and he retired in 2003. Russo is currently the Executive Advisor to the President of the University of Dayton, a board member, consultant or advisor with several commercial and not-for-profit organizations, and the President and CEO of Growing Splendid Leaders LLC. Recently, Dr. Russo was the Vice Chairman of the Transformation Opportunities Study for the Air Force Research Laboratory, an activity that could help shape the future for science and technology in the Air Force.

"Tonight these men join the ranks with some of the finest Americans our country has ever produced," said Maj. Learn. "As we celebrate the accomplishments of these two alumni, we are also celebrating the rich history of AFIT and the road these graduates, and thousands of others like them, have paved."

AFIT selected its first distinguished alumni in 1979. At that time Col. Frank Borman, Gen. Jimmy Doolittle, Col. George Holloman, and Gen. Bernard Schriever were given the prestigious honor. Since that date, 25 others have been selected.

AFIT is proud and honored to have played a part in these most distinguished individuals' lives.

Department Home
Update Your Contact Info
AFIT Foundation