It is impossible to sum up Eric's life in one short speech, but if I had to come up with just one word to describe him, it would have to be explorer. Eric loved life, and he was interested and excited about all that was in it.
Always the explorer, Eric wanted to know how everything worked. That especially pertained to airplanes. Parks was the perfect place for Eric, and he received 3 degrees while a student here. Besides being a pilot, he was also an aerospace engineer and a licensed airframe and powerplant mechanic. His 9 year career in the Air Force took us all over the world where we explored other countries and cultures. Eric was immensely proud to be an F-15 fighter pilot at Soesterberg in the Netherlands--at the time considered to be the premiere assignment in the Air Force.
Eric achieved his dream of becoming a test pilot. And as evidenced by just a few of the awards on display here, you can see that he was one of the very best.
After the accident of October 10, 2000 in which Eric was flight testing a Bombardier Challenger 604, he was hospitalized with severe injuries. He fought bravely for 36 days and inspired everyone with his will to live. It will not surprise you to know that Eric was a New Yorker, and I think after the tragic incidents that have happened in our country, Eric demonstrated just how tough New Yorkers are. Eric certainly had the "right stuff".
I am so lucky to have been married to Eric for 20 exciting years. We met at Parks when I was 18 and he was 20. Our first date was in an airplane, and he taught me how to fly. Aviation was always an important part of our lives, and Parks College had an immense influence on both of us. Eric used to say that he would not have achieved his aviation dreams if it weren't for Parks. Even as an important test pilot, he was proud to wear his Parks shirt and matching hat.
I am very thankful to Saint Louis University for erecting a display case of Eric's flying items. It is my hope that Eric's life and accomplishments will inspire other students to follow their dreams, to never give up, and to explore. Eric was a man of strong ethics and integrity. He loved his family and his country and Parks College. Eric would be honored by what the university has done to insure his legacy.
Eric touched the lives of so many people. He did make a difference in the aviation community, just as he said he wanted to. He published several articles and wrote a safety manual that has become extremely important in aviation. He made the skies safe for all of us.
But of all of Eric's accomplishments, he often said his greatest moment was when our children were born. Our youngest daughter Robin could not be here, but her older sister Tia is. I am proud and honored to introduce to you a very special young lady...our daughter Tia.