Local Chapter of Tuskegee Airmen Holds 20th Annual Scholarship Fundraiser
Celebrating two decades of scholarship support for Hudson Valley high school seniors, the Stewart Airport-based Maj. Gen. Irene Trowell-Harris Chapter of the national Tuskegee Airmen organization celebrated a dinner-dance on Saturday, February 3. A total of $15,000 in tuition assistance awards was granted to 13 young men and women, bringing the chapter’s grant-giving total over the last 20 years to $203,000. These grants are given to deserving recipients
The Trowell-Harris Chapter of Tuskegee Airmen was founded to promote the interests and honor the memory of those African American individuals who trained in the Army Air Forces in Tuskegee, Alabama during the 1940s. They were given the name because of their initial training in Tuskegee Alabama. As the first group of African American pilots in the military, the program was actually an experiment by the war department, to see if African Americans could fly, be leaders and operate complex machinery. They proved that not only could they fly but that they could be excellent pilots. The Airmen became a highly coveted escort Group. “They had an incredible record of minimal bomber loss under their protection. “They proved that no matter what your color, it was your ability, persistence and determination that determined your success” said Glen Fraser, President of the Major General Irene Trowell-Harris Chapter, adding “We are committed to continue teaching the aspirations, frustrations and achievements of those pioneering heroes who served in the United States Army Air Corps, and to promote the rich history of the Tuskegee Airmen as well as to honor those “Red Tails” still among us.
Featured at the dinner was the cast of the hit off-Broadway play “Black Angels Over Tuskegee,” which presented a scene from the play for an audience of 322 men, women and young people that gathered at Anthony’s Pier 9 from points as distant as Washington, DC, central Pennsylvania, Long Island and New York CityAmong them were three original World War II Tuskegee Airmen: Roscoe “Coach” Draper, age 99; Wilfred DeFour, 98; and William Johnson, also in his 90s. Guests included Col. Denise Donnell, Commander of the Stewart-based 105th Air Lift Wing; former 105th Commander Brig. Gen. Dana Demand; Newburgh Democratic Assemblyman James Kulisek; and chapter namesake Maj. Gen. Irene Trowell-Harris.
Community Mentorship awards were presented to Kevin White, Director of the Boys and Girls Club of Newburgh, and to Gavin, James and Christian Farella, owners of Brothers Barbecue, in New Windsor. White has overseen the merging of the Newburgh Performing Arts Academy (founded by his wife, Kim) and the Hines Memorial Boys and Girls Club to serve over 2,000 area young people each year. The Farella Brothers have for years quietly reached out to help distressed local families and have sponsored mentoring programs at Newburgh Free Academy and Cornwall High School as well as supporting three Newburgh soup kitchens with weekly food donations.
Roscoe “Coach” Draper, age 99
With the help of corporate sponsors Atlantic Aviation, American Express, JetBlue, United Airlines, the Community Foundation of Orange and Sullivan Counties and many others, the Trowell-Harris Chapter attained its long-awaited goal of establishing a full $250,000 scholarship foundation, to ensure the funding of annual tuition assistance awards in perpetuity.