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Monday, March 14, 2011

Meet Leprechaun Extraordinaire & population-we™ March Kudos Recipient -- Bill Shea

Happy St. Patrick's Day population-we™ readers! If leprechauns really did exist many would agree that our March population-we™ Kudos Recipient would be one. Not one person that I've met in all my years alludes the Irish ways more than William “Bill” F. Shea. Don't be fooled he wears more than just a leprechaun's hat -- aviator, academic, artist, author, lecturer, father, and grandfather.

Shea, will celebrate his 83rd St. Patrick’s Day this week. He was born from Irish lineage in New York and grew up in Lawrence, Mass., where he and everyone else were expected to spend their entire life working in a textile mill. However, having seen his first airplane at age 4, he knew what he wanted to do more than anything. When he turned 17 he worked in the mill until he earned enough money for flying lessons.

Today, Shea is certified as a commercial and instrument pilot and flight instructor and is an active flyer. He has flown more than 8,500 hours and that time in the air has provided plenty of inspiration. Shea doesn't possess a pot of gold but does share his Irish sayings and humor without a moment’s notice all year round.

Throughout his life The Shea Family has moved from one end of the U.S. to the other with their five children in tow. With his wife Carol they've moved from New York, a stop in North Dakota and Nebraska, to their current residence in California. During his stop in Nebraska is where our path’s crossed. He was the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) Aviation Institute’s (UAI) first director. During his tenure, Shea, established a foundation for the development of the undergraduate degree program. He still remains active with UNO’s institute, where he continues to lecture and consult.

A couple year’s back, he appeared in my office sporting a dapper green sports jacket, as well as greeting me with an Irish hello. I assisted him in getting a news release out about his recent lectures to UNO classes. After we completed the news release he would soon fly back to California; however, not without leaving me with an Irish goodbye. Shea said, “May the hinges of our friendship never grow rusty.” When Shea is not lecturing or visiting his grandchildren, he is spending time creating colorful paintings. I’m lucky enough to possess one of his original works, which I display with pride in my home office.

To commemorate his work at UNO, an award was named in his honor. The William F. Shea Award recognizes Shea’s contributions as the Institutes founding director. For making such a profound difference in the lives of generations of UNO students and faculty contributions to the Institute’s success are recognized each year.

Someone who has lived a life like Shea would not be a surprise to anyone that he would write a memoir. Aviation Memoir is his diary, a logbook of his experiences in the world of aviation, and a few other fields. Aviation Memoir is available for purchase at Regarding his memoir, Shea said, “My book reflects my love for aviation, education and government. Since graduating from University of New Hampshire, I have been a high school teacher, pilot, jazz musician, college administrator, chief of the California Aeronautics Division, and a presidential appointee as FAA Associate Administrator for Airports in the United States, including overseeing Dulles International and Reagan airports.”

It is very appropriate to note that the meaning of his name “Shea” is Irish for hawk. For most of his adult life he has had a bird's eye view. His life has spanned the U.S. and his career has ranged from working in a textile mill working as an college administrator to serving as the associate administrator of the FAA for airports. But most importantly, he hasn’t lost sight of his Irish lineage. He wrote in a letter recently to me: "May good luck be with you, wherever you go, and your blessings outnumber the shamrocks that grow."

Bravo to our March population-we™ Kudos Recipient -- Bill Shea! The population-we™ blog salutes you for your 24-7 “pop-we” Irish attitude!

Bill Shea

- population-we blog post by Becky Bohan Brown
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  1. What a wonderful man to honor this week! I love the "may the hinges of our friendship never go rusty." There are many more Irish ways that I long to know.

    I think it is neat when a person's name matches their life's work. :) Hawk--what a great meaning behind his name!

    Thank you for the inspiration!

  2. Barb: We truly picked the right Irish person for our March Kudos. In true population-we™ style Bill shared with me that some of the income made of the sales of his Aviation Memoir will be used to help junior high kids learn how to paint aircraft models using acrylics. He's truly an inspiration.

  3. I served with Bill as one of his first students at the university of Nebraska at Omaha and what a great mentor and leader !

    Gary Barrett

  4. I served with Bill as one of his first students at the university of Nebraska at Omaha and what a great mentor and leader !

    Gary Barrett

  5. I served with Bill as one of his first students at the university of Nebraska at Omaha and what a great mentor and leader !

    Gary Barrett