Skip to main content

Legacy of Lifelong Learning

Dr. Rosemary A. Kirby celebrated her 90th birthday on June 22 in a memorable way. She spoke to a crowd of family, friends and supporters assembled on the campus of WSU Tech at the National Center for Aviation Training. She spoke from her wheelchair in a strong, clear voice. She urged all of us to be lifelong learners – to do more and to be more.

I was among those moved by her remarks. The well-attended event served to dedicate a commemorative statue and announce a legacy scholarship fund in Dr. Kirby’s name. I was there proudly representing the Wichita Aero Club in my role as vice chair. The club stepped forward as a platinum supporter of the scholarship fund, which ties to its mission of promoting aviation training and career development.

Dr. Kirby broke the glass ceiling in the world of technical colleges. She brought others along with her. That included Dr. Sheree Utash, now president of WSU Tech. 

“She was my mentor, and probably didn’t even know it,” says Dr. Utash, who worked under Dr. Kirby more than 20 years ago. 

Dr. Rosemary A. Kirby (left) and Dr. Utash (right)

Purpose Fueled by Passion

Dr. Kirby has touched the lives of countless teachers, colleagues and students. The endowed scholarship in her name will inspire students for years to come. During a pioneering career in education that spanned more than five decades, Dr. Kirby rose from secretary to college president.

The Wichita Area Vocational Technical School transformed into the Wichita Area Technical College (WATC) in 1996 under Dr. Kirby’s leadership. That change enabled the college to begin awarding certificates, diplomas and associate of applied science degrees. Dr. Kirby focused on continuous program improvement and the needs of students until retiring in 2000. WATC continued its evolution by becoming WSU Tech in 2018. 

The new bronze sculpture – titled “Rosemary’s Legacy” – sits prominently on WSU Tech’s main campus on North Webb Road in Northeast Wichita. David Selenke, a faculty member, designed and sculpted the piece, using his grandchildren as models. They attended the dedication ceremony and delighted in seeing themselves cast in bronze. While the piece showcases the dream of an aviation career, it highlights the nobility of all technical fields.

As a woman in aviation and mother to a young son, it warmed my heart that the sculpture portrays both a boy and girl dreaming of futures in flight. After the unveiling, Dr. Kirby’s young family members swarmed the sculpture, no doubt sparking more dreams.

You Can Play a Part

Dr. Kirby continues to make a profound impact on the Air Capital. You can help as fundraising continues for the scholarship, which will be given annually to a deserving student. Donors at defined giving levels receive recognition with commemorative pavers near the statue. Anyone wishing to contribute can do so at

FlightSafety Advances

As FlightSafety International celebrates its 70th year, CEO Brad Thress makes it clear that this is a company moving forward, not resting on its impressive legacy. As the speaker at the Wichita Aero Club June meeting, Thress touched on a wide range of topics – from new efficiencies within its vertically integrated business units to the “commonsense stuff we’ve done” to get costs down and better serve customers. FlightSafety’s down-to-earth efforts are designed to realize an ambitious vision.

As many in the room train or have trained at FlightSafety, there was tremendous interest in the company’s focus on delivering an enhanced training experience. Thress stressed the difference between prepared versus compliant. New initiatives serve to encourage current and prospective customers to go beyond simply ticking off regulatory requirements and instead to do what’s needed to be prepared. These include a customized curriculum with spotlights that focus on stopping “what hurts people.”

Training for Any and Everything

He offered examples. Evidence-based training based on flight operational quality assurance (FOQA) data leads to pilots who are better prepared for their specific operations and approach types. Compelling scenarios encourage them to check – then explore and prepare. Adding more in-aircraft training back into the mix advances upset prevention and recovery training (UPRT), which is crucial given that inflight loss of control currently has been the single greatest cause of fatal aviation accidents for the last decade.

More in-flight training for first type ratings offers the advantage of actual flying buoyed by the benefits only a simulator can deliver ¬– you can do a freeze frame, have multiple do-overs, practice approach after approach, and focus on specific elements. That way you are not overwhelmed by real-time, real-life conditions that can be too much, too fast.

While FlightSafety has built a reputation on strong, trusted relationships and is known for team members who are unfailingly helpful, customer focused and solutions oriented, its systems needed improvement. Thress said that is changing. Customer convenience and facilitated interactions are being considered on everything from platforms that enable enterprise-wide scheduling to a FlightSafety app that provides access to customers’ reservations, schedules, records and more. Other efforts include simplified contracts and invoicing, enhanced digital training options and facility upgrades.

FlightSafety International CEO Brad Thress

COVID 19 accelerated distance learning. FlightSafety already had industry-leading programs in place to train pilots remotely, so it was able to respond quickly through its eLearning modules, opening up its vast library to customers. Thress spoke about the company’s efforts to both reward and protect FlightSafety’s intellectual property, and its heightened push to innovate its product offerings.

  • Mixed reality for cost-effective but immersive training
  • MissionFit for a reconfigurable, inexpensive training device
  • The Evolution 360 direct-view dome display to simulate fast-jet missions (including dogfights)
  • Virtual reality aircraft walkaround check training
  • Virtual reality maintenance training

The Autonomous Evolution

Automation continues to transform the industry. Thress reminded the crowd that all commercial flights used to have three pilots on the flight deck, but automation has led to more two-pilot crews. Thress doesn’t see that being reduced to one or none anytime soon. “Forty-year-old airplanes will still be manned,” he said, as it would be cost-prohibitive to try and build in aftermarket automated systems.

Thress acknowledged that pilots – especially younger ones – increasingly depend on automation and lack basic skills to hand-fly them with precision. He shared one incident when, last minute, the control tower switched his aircraft to the runway adjacent to the one they were approaching. His copilot keyed in the coordinates – even though he could simply look down and see the runway. The audience laughed with a number nodding their heads at having experienced something similar.

He also addressed the electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVOTL) and unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) that are coming on strong. Manned and unmanned aircraft will find a way to coexist, Thress said, but regulatory challenges will take years to work through and public perceptions need to be brought along that solutions are safe and acceptable. FlightSafety has reconsidered its UAS training, he said, realizing that unmanned drones weighing less than 50 pounds require broad, basic education more than actual flight training.

Wichita Aero Club President Dave Franson gave FlightSafety CEO Brad Thress a copy of Greteman Group’s book — Wichita: Where Aviation Took Wing — as a presentation thank you. Thress ought to like it. He’s played a significant role in the Air Capital’s history.

A Wichita Welcome

Thress, only the fourth CEO in FlightSafety’s seven-decade history, assumed this role in February 2020. Previously he served as senior vice president for global parts, program and flight operations at Textron Aviation. He spent 27 years with Textron, holding several leadership roles. Thress, himself a longtime FlightSafety client, is familiar with the left seat – serving as a fighter pilot in the U.S. Air Force before starting his professional career as a demonstration pilot for Cessna. His first public presentation in Wichita since becoming FlightSafety’s CEO was enthusiastically received. Small wonder. He’s lived much of his life in the Air Capital. We still claim him as one of our own.

This column originally ran in the June 17, 2021, issues of BlueSky Business Aviation News.

Reflections on a Dedication

I’ve been thinking about the recent gathering at the Stryker Sports Complex. Getting together in person still feels new after a year in pandemic lockdown. Hearing from community leaders and bumping elbows with area change agents filled me with optimism. Just being at this dynamic, high-energy complex gave me joy.

Coming Together for Good

The dedication drew the parents of Tommy Peckham as well as former teammates. Tragically, in 1995 Tommy died as a 13-year-old on the Stryker soccer team while in Europe competing. A bronze sculpture of Tommy, created in 2000, now graces the Tommy Peckham Championship Field. It appears to almost be in flight as he heads the ball with his feet lifted off the ground. Watching Lieutenant Governor David Toland, Mayor Brandon Whipple, City Councilwoman Becky Tuttle, County Commissioner Pete Meitzner, Wichita Sports Forum Co-owner Tymber Lee and Stryker Founder Kevin Mullins speak in front of the sculpture, with kids playing on the field behind, brought new meaning to the term field of dreams.

Putting the Ball over the End-Line

Plans for this amazing regional attraction started decades ago by forward-thinking civic leaders. The location just north of K-96 and Greenwich makes it a hub for one of our most rapidly growing neighborhoods. I’m proud of the role our agency played in creating branding befitting Stryker’s stature. The championship field has seating for more than 2,000. The complex offers 11 all-sports fields with artificial turf, all with outdoor lighting, plus an 112,000-square-foot indoor facility designed to attract and accommodate all kinds of events and levels of competition.

The $22 million reimagining of the old soccer campus gives Wichita a national-caliber, multisport complex with wow factor and adds greatly to our region’s quality of life. It draws up to 150,000 visitors a year from a 350-mile radius. The kids and families who almost live at the fields generate an economic impact in the millions of dollars.

Where Everybody Wins

Greteman Group designers went to work generating a myriad of ideas to present to the City of Wichita Parks and Recreation Department. After a healthy debate, the team unanimously decided to select the clean, modern – and unexpected – solution. A bolt of lightning, signifying a boot kicking a ball, splits the crest in half and pairs the imagery with stars and stripes, creating a coat of arms. A large pylon entry sign stands tall and proud on Greenwich Street, beaconing visitors to turn in and play ball. Wayfinding graphics guide both vehicular and pedestrian traffic as players and fans head to the fields, concessions, indoor facility and parking. A communal bench serves as a meeting point next to a location map conveniently located inside the complex. The brand brings much needed color and energy to the flat fields of green turf. Everything feels big, muscular and filled with fun.

The year-round Stryker Sports Complex inspires me. So do the people who envisioned and made it happen. Our city’s better today as a result.

Mark Arts Names Greteman Group a Volunteer of the Year

WICHITA, Kan. – As a young, wide-eyed girl, Sonia Greteman found fuel for her creative fire as a drawing and painting student at the Wichita Art Association, now known as Mark Arts. She had no way of knowing that someday, as Greteman Group’s president and creative director, she would be part of this life-changing organization’s renaming, rebranding, relocation and reintroduction. Or that Mark Arts would recognize Greteman Group for its generous pro bono support.

That honor will be celebrated at a reception 5:30-7:30, Friday evening, June 4. Greteman Group and Janice Van Sickle each are being named a volunteer of the year. The agency has a long history of supporting Mark Arts. Most recently, it donated services to tell the organization’s 100-year-strong story.

“I’ve been inspired by the move to the prominent location and the addition of a new, gorgeous learning environment,” says Greteman. “This center provides nonstop innovation ¬¬– like the culinary arts program – and lively programming and opportunities for all ages and segments of our community. To be acknowledged by this cultural hub means a great deal.”

The agency worked with Mark Arts staff and volunteers to create a commemorative, softbound book that takes readers through the organization’s founding in 1920 as the Wichita Art Association, its transformation to the Wichita Center for the Arts in 1990 and relocation to a purpose-built campus on East Central, and its further evolution to Mark Arts and move in 2017 to a 40,000-square-foot center on a 17-acre campus at the corner of 13th and Rock. Of course, the book is about much more than organizational and physical structures. It highlights pivotal individuals, art movements and collections, all supported by a minimalist design that emphasizes large-scale, stunning photography.

Katy Dorrah, Mark Arts CEO

“It’s our honor to recognize Greteman Group for being such a dedicated, long-term partner for Mark Arts,” says Katy Dorrah, Mark Arts CEO. “Its team of pros helped us create a treasured keepsake spanning a century of milestones and accomplishments – and to position us for the adventures ahead.”


Greteman Group has developed an international reputation as an aviation-specialty marketing agency based in Wichita, Kan. – the Air Capital. Leading aircraft manufacturers, flight support, aftermarket services, fractional ownership, insurance, in-flight Wi-Fi, regional airlines and airport analytics have entrusted their brands to Greteman Group. Clients include FlightSafety International, Wichita Eisenhower National Airport, Clay Lacy Aviation, JetHQ, USAIG, King Aerospace, EPIC Fuels, Signature Flight Support, Vantis, Piedmont Airlines and Aviation Partners. It also supports causes and clients such as the Tallgrass Film Association, Mark Arts, the City of Wichita, Wichita Water Partners, AGC Kansas, GLMV Architecture and MKEC Engineering. The firm is a founding member of the Wichita Aero Club and a longstanding member of the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA). Since its founding in 1989, this certified women-owned business enterprise (WBE) has developed a team of purpose-driven pros.