Joseph Phillip Gomer
Major, U.S. Air Force, Member of Tuskegee Airmen
From his days as a pre-engineering student at Ellsworth Community
College (ECC) to his days as a fighter pilot with the Tuskegee Airmen,
and later as an employee of the U.S. Forestry Service, Joseph Phillip Gomer
has always tried to do better. “You can learn any place that you want to,”
In speeches and everyday conversations, “I tell people they are the only
ones who can ensure their success. We are all role models to someone, even
if we don’t know it,” he says, adding, “Even the littlest things count.”
After graduating from ECC in 1940, Gomer returned later that year
when the school partnered with the Civil Aeronautics Authority to offer
flight training toward military service. In 1964, he retired from the U.S.
Air Force and joined the U.S. Forestry Service.
Gomer says his experience as a member of America’s first black military
air unit ( www.tuskegeeairmen.org) prepared him for his work with the
forestry service. In his role as a personnel officer, he helped the organiza-
tion diversify; when heretired, he received a Superior Services Award
women and minorities.
In 2004, Gomer received a
D octorate of Humanities from the
B oard of Trusteesof ECC. Hespoke
a nd told the audience that where
T hesedays, the90-year-oldand
h is wifekeepbusy throughvolun-t eer ministry work. “It is all about
l earning to listen,” says Gomer, who
a dds, “We have a responsibility to
g ivesomethingback. I”’mnotjust
ta lking about military service, but
First Woman Superintendent of Yellowstone
Suzanne Lewis manages 400 people, 2.2 million acres,
and more than $34 million annually. Not bad for a
woman who began her 31-year career with the National Park Service as a seasonal park ranger at Gulf
Islands National Seashore.
Lewis, who believes community colleges are core
to any higher-education program, says the schools
are a fundamental need in all communities. “Thanks
to community colleges, people can live busy lives and
still pursue a more affordable and accessible degree.”
“I had all the
in me that you’d
says. “There was
a lot of emphasis
writing, reading, and pre-
sentation skills. It was a great foundation for me
to go on to finish my undergraduate and graduate
Years later, Lewis remains in contact with the
college; she says administrators there have been
avid supporters of her and her work. “When you put
someone in contact with a community college, you’re
putting them in contact with someone who will help
them,” she says. Connecting people with community
colleges is a large part of how she gives back.
Lewis serves on the board of the George Wright
Society, a nonprofit association dedicated to the preservation of cultural and natural parks and reserves.
“Our society faces huge challenges, but this generation is more poised than ever to serve society and our
nation at every level—not just philanthropic giving
or joining a cause and running off,” she says.
“We’re beginning to build a significant national
culture around giving, and it will only get better.
We’re realizing that if you give more, you get so
much more in return.”