Gov. Dalrymple: North Dakota aviation pioneer John D. Odegard getting state's highest honor

John D. Odegard, a North Dakota aviation pioneer and founder of the University of North Dakota aerospace school that bears his name, will receive the 42nd Theodore Roosevelt Rough Rider Award, Gov. Jack Dalrymple said Thursday.

Odegard died in 1998, at age 57. The state's highest honor will be presented to his family at a ceremony in Grand Forks on Oct. 15.

A native of Minot, Odegard learned to fly in high school. Odegard joined the faculty of the UND business college in 1966 and proposed merging a business degree with a flight program. It gave birth to the university's aviation program, which initially struggled to get off the ground. Odegard and his colleagues had to start a petition drive among students to get aerospace classes recognized with credit hours. The aerospace school started with no buildings, a pair of donated aircraft and 12 students. It grew to become the "largest and the best in the world," Dalrymple said in a statement.

"John D. Odegard was an extraordinary leader, entrepreneur, pilot and educational administrator," Dalrymple said. "His vision and determination to see his dreams come true paved the way for North Dakota to become a worldwide leader in aerospace sciences, including aviation, space studies, atmospheric science and unmanned aircraft systems. His impressive achievements have brought global prestige and recognition to UND and our state, and his pioneering spirit will continue to impact generations of North Dakotans."

Odegard was named assistant professor and chairman of UND's Department of Aviation in 1968. In 1982, the department was re-organized to become the Center for Aerospace Sciences, with Odegard as director. In 1984, the center was granted full status as a college and he was named dean.

The school was later renamed the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences and received the Excellence in Aviation Award from the Federal Aviation Administration.

Odegard logged more than 14,000 flight hours in his career. He was a certified flight instructor for airplanes and gliders.

Odegard's widow, Diane, said in a statement that the family was "deeply honored" with the recognition.