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Hopkins to Present Distinguished Faculty Lecture March 26; Air Piracy and Terrorism

March 18, 2003

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George Hopkins.

George Hopkins.(Download print-quality image)

MACOMB, IL - Western Illinois University's 2003 Distinguished Faculty Lecture will be presented by history Professor George Hopkins Wednesday, March 26. His topic for the 7:30 p.m. address in the Union Grand Ballroom is "Pilots, Politics, and Air Piracy: The Past, Present, and Future of Airlines in the Age of Terrorism."

A nationally recognized authority on the history of airline pilot unionization, Hopkins said the 9/11 tragedy may have been avoidable if the airline industry and government had heeded the recommendations of unionized commercial pilots.

"Air piracy and terrorism date back more than four decades, yet continued efforts by unionized commercial pilots to improve air security have been resisted because of cost and inconvenience, and laxity in improving air security technology was the immediate cause of the 9/11 tragedy," Hopkins said.

"In the pre-9/11 world, many Americans actually viewed some 'skyjackers' as heroes. Cubans fleeing Fidel Castro's 1959 revolution were often lauded as 'freedom fighters' when they seized Cubana Airlines planes at gunpoint," Hopkins said. "But as the flow reversed, and skyjackers began seizing U.S. airliners in order to get to Cuba, public attitudes changed.

"Anti-terrorism treaties and laws were almost entirely the work of professional airline pilots, acting through unions such as the Air Line Pilots Association (AFL-CIO); yet today, with the airline industry on the brink of collapse, organized labor has few friends," Hopkins added.

A former Naval aviator (1959-1964), Hopkins has given numerous expert interviews to national media outlets, has written numerous scholarly articles and is the author or editor of four books about the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA).

In March 2002, Hopkins presented two lectures to the Hong Kong Aircraft Officers Association on the history of the AFL-CIO; and he conducted focus groups for the pilots of Cathay Pacific Airlines, headquartered in Hong Kong, on the process of airline pilot unionization in the US, Canada, and the United Kingdom.

In addition to airline unions, Hopkins is a specialist in 20th century U.S. history, with collateral qualifications in the history of modern East Asia. He has special interests in imperialism, the Vietnam War and other U.S. wars in Asia. Hopkins also teaches a popular course on presidential assassinations, with special emphasis on the Kennedy murder.

He has taught at Western since 1968, and twice (1973-74 and 1975) served as a visiting professor at the University of Texas at Austin, where he earned his master's (1966) in American history and his doctorate (1969) in American and East Asian histories. His earned his bachelor's degree (1959) in government at Southern Methodist University.

Hopkins has earned numerous awards throughout his career, including being named Professor of the Year (1979) in an open student poll; receiving the department of history Distinguished Teaching Award (1976); winning an Excellence in Feature Writing prize for an article in "Air Line Pilot" (1978) by the International Association of Business Communicators; and receiving research awards from the U.S. Air Force Historical Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and the WIU Foundation.

WIU first presented an annual lecturer award in 1969 to honor an outstanding faculty member whose professional development in research or creative activity, teaching and service to the University represent the highest standards of the academic community. In 1998 the award was renamed the Distinguished Faculty Lecturer.

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