CWU Aviation chair and husband recognized with national award

  • October 11, 2023
  • Rune Torgersen

The University Aviation Association (UAA) has recognized Central Washington University Department of Aviation Chair Sam Pavel with its highest honor, the President’s Award.

Pavel and his husband, Scott Keirl, were honored at the September 29 Collegiate Aviation Education Conference and Expo in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Pavel was chosen for his diligent work in guiding the UAA through the rough waters of the pandemic as president of the organization, a job he was called upon to accept one year earlier than anticipated due to his predecessor’s unforeseen resignation. As a UAA member since 2009, Pavel had already dedicated himself to the organization’s work, which he knew would be necessary to properly educate the next generation of aviation professionals.

“The best part about this organization is that so many people from all over the country get to share their ideas and innovations with the rest of us,” he said. “We gather together and move aviation education forward, because we’re all in it for the sake of the profession. Nobody has any secrets; it’s a very close-knit community.”

The UAA is dedicated to the pursuit of aviation education as an academic discipline, and the organization counts 138 colleges and universities among its members. As sitting UAA President Chaminda Prelis presented the award, he noted that the organization has grown significantly in both size and reputation under Pavel’s leadership.

“[Pavel] stayed the course and kept UAA at the forefront, increasing the value proposition for our members,” he said. “We are a much more robust and more significant organization due in part to his efforts. To that point … UAA has moved from being a small nonprofit to a medium nonprofit with a steady growth in members and exhibitors.”

Kierl, meanwhile, was recognized for his unwavering support of the organization. Despite not being an aviation professional himself, he has attended every UAA conference since 2018, tirelessly volunteering his time and energy to ensure high spirits and smooth operations across the event. Neither he nor Pavel was aware that they would both be honored with the award.

“It made me feel really good,” Pavel said. “The highest recognition you can get is that of your peers, and it caught me off-guard, too. They had told my husband that I was getting the award, and they had told me that my husband was getting the award, so in the end we were both just shocked and delighted to be recognized by an organization that’s meant so much to us. For them to recognize all the hard work my husband put in, too, was just overwhelming.”

In his work at CWU, Pavel brings his commitment to seeing the human in the cockpit, ensuring that all students feel seen and valued as they strive toward their academic and professional goals.

“There are a lot of schools out there that just push the students through without caring to get to know them,” he said. “You know that if they wash out, there’s two more waiting in the wings. We could do that here at CWU, since we’re the only program in the Northwest, but that goes against my philosophy.

What makes CWU special is that your instructors are going to take the time to get to know you and understand your strengths and frustrations and goals. And, ultimately, that makes more well-balanced, prepared pilots with connections in all the right places.”


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Rune Torgersen

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