Dr. Thomas Yechout named ‘Professor of the Year’

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Dr. Thomas Yechout, a professor in the Air Force Academy’s Aeronautics Department, was recognized for writing an engaging flight mechanics textbook and for inspiring the Academy’s cadets to become part of national-level aeronautics research projects.

Yechout consistently receives the highest ratings from cadets, averaging 5.8 on a six-point scale, Engineering Department Head Col. Douglas Barlow wrote in his letter of recommendation. Yechout also received the Heiser Award from the Academy’s Class of 2005, recognizing him as the outstanding senior faculty educator for that year.

In another recommendation letter, fellow Aeronautics professor Dr. Aaron Byerley describes Yechout’s classroom presence as “legendary.”

“The word in the hallways here is that you are incredibly fortunate to wind up in one of Tom’s flight mechanics classes,” Byerley wrote. “He has the reputation for being the best in the department for (relating) complicated and difficult concepts” in an easy-to-understand fashion.

Gerald LeBeau, NASA’s chief of applied aeroscience and computational fluid dynamics, praised Yechout both for his involvement with NASA research and for involving cadets in the research process.

“From the onset of our collaboration, Yechout has insisted that his Academy students also participate in our activities,” LeBeau wrote. “My job as a NASA manager is to produce results, and I guarantee you that these young women and men produce! Over the years, I’ve had numerous opportunities to review formal reports and witness briefings by his cadets relating to our collaborative projects, and I can say without hesitation that they are among the most professionally presented that I have ever seen.”

Yechout, along with a team of cadets, also contributed to NASA’s Return to Flight program after the Space Shuttle Columbia was destroyed during re-entry on Feb. 1, 2003.

“His attention to detail, technical expertise and search for answers is not only exceptional, but his impact is magnified through his students’ development, practical experience, and future potential,” LeBeau wrote.

That, Yechout said, is what matters most.

“Students will be inspired to learn if the educator is inspired,” he said. “I feel so fortunate to have been a part of so many students’ lives — it truly has kept my passion for all this alive.”

The Council for Advancement and Support of Education sponsors the U.S. Professors of the Year Program, along with The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement for teaching.

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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