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Retired WIU Biology Professor Gets Second Duty at USAF Academy

July 27, 2005

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MACOMB, IL - - For Larry Jahn, a Western Illinois University 35-year biology professor emeritus, his second full year of retirement could not have been better. That’s because he was doing what he loves – teaching.

Jahn spent the 2004-05 academic year teaching biology to cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy (USAFA) in Colorado Springs. He had served as an invited USAFA Distinguished Visiting Professor during the 2001-02 school year. When the Academy called him in May 2004 needing to fill a temporary biology position, Jahn eagerly agreed to pack up his house and textbooks, once again move with his wife Mary Jane and dog Pilot to Colorado Springs and report for teaching duty in July 2004.

Each semester, Jahn taught three sections of a core, general education biology course each semester which all cadets, regardless of major, were required to take. He also instructed a senior seminar in the spring with topics such as mating, conservation, adaptation to the cold and possible diseases that the cadets might encounter when deployed.

With some 60 cadets in the program, biology is among the largest of 31 academic majors at the USAFA.

Each class begins with a section marcher, the highest ranking individual in the class, calling the cadets to attention, and there are strict rules to abide by when attending class.

“If cadets begin to nod off, they are required to go to the back of the classroom and stand up straight to keep themselves awake,” said Jahn.

“I felt for these students,” he added. “They do so much every day; they deal with fatigue all the time.”

Cadets have to dress in approved uniforms, but Jahn also had his UOD (Uniform of the Day) – a suit and his signature fish-patterned necktie. His teaching and research passion is fish (ichthyology), so with more than 100 fish ties in his wardrobe he was able to wear a different tie each class day throughout the year.

“The cadets would check each day for a different fish tie,” said Jahn. “One young lady even charged herself with straightening it if it was not so.”

Some of Jahn’s favorite recollections of the year include attending graduation where Vice President Dick Cheney was the speaker, attending football and hockey games as a season ticket holder, singing solo in the Cadet Chapel and meeting several World War II Tuskeegee Airmen at a special reception.

Jahn also attended every noon formation of the 4,400 cadets as they filed into the mess hall. Although it was not required of him, Jahn said he wanted to be there to show his support for the students every day.

“I was so proud to stand there and watch the young people who have committed to serve, and if needed, give up their lives for me and this country,” he added.

As soon as the formation concluded, all 4,400 of the cadets would file into the mess hall and be allowed 10 to 15 minutes to eat their lunch family-style.

“The students and the faculty were great,” Jahn said. “My wife and I had an absolutely wonderful experience.”

A quick trip to McCord Air Force Base in Washington was the highlight of their memorable year, when they pinned a Major’s gold oak leaf cluster on their son Nick, a C-17 pilot and 1994 USAFA civil engineering graduate.

During his tenure at Western, Jahn generated more than $1.75 million in grants and contracts, completed 46 master’s of science students and coordinated the biological sciences wildlife art gallery. He was past chair of the Illinois Endangered Species Protection Board and chaired the steering committee for the 1999 Midwest Fish and Wildlife meeting. He was also named the 2001 outstanding teacher in the College of Arts and Sciences.

(1) Senior Seminar students with Larry Jahn (back right)
(2) Larry and Mary Jane Jahn pin on the Major's gold oak leaf cluster at a promotion ceremony at McCord AFB
(3) Larry Jahn with Lt. Col. Lee Archer, Jr., an original Tuskegee Airman and WWII "Ace"

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