Walt Garrison knew when he was a student at Kansas University that he wanted to one day help the university offer the benefits of its aerospace engineering program to other students.
Garrison, a retired Fortune 1000 executive, made good on his goal Friday at Lawrence Municipal Airport by pledging $2 million to remodel and maintain KU's flight test complex.
"I just feel fortunate to have the opportunity to do a little bit for KU because it's done so much for me," Garrison said as he stood in front of a Cessna research plane used by the aerospace engineering department.
About 70 onlookers, including top KU officials, were there to thank Garrison and his wife, Jayne, who live in Rose Tree, Pa.
"Great programs emanate from great gifts like this," said Stewart R. Bell, dean of the School of Engineering.
KU Chancellor Robert Hemenway said gifts such as Garrison's helped foster the university's "culture of excellence."
"Walt Garrison is representative of many outstanding graduates of KU's aerospace engineering program," Hemenway said.
Hemenway also praised Garrison and others like him who graduate from KU, succeed in the real world and then give back to the university.
"They are saying we believe in your aspirations," he said.
Garrison received a bachelor's degree in 1948 and a master's degree in 1950 Â both in aerospace engineering. He will see $1 million of his pledge used to renovate and furnish the upper floor of the program's hangar, remodel its facade and purchase a new flight test aircraft.
"For our students it means more hands-on opportunities," said Carl Johnson, a senior in the aerospace program.
The remaining $1 million will be used to establish an endowment fund to maintain the complex's facilities.
"I'm just overwhelmed," Garrison said of the accolades he has received since the pledge announcement. He said KU helped him "achieve endeavors I never dreamed possible."
Garrison, a former engineer on the B-52 bomber at Boeing Co. in Seattle, retired in 1997 as chief executive of CDI Corp., an engineering and technology company based in Philadelphia.
The Garrisons' pledge counts toward the $500 million goal of KU First: Invest in Excellence, the largest fund-raising campaign in KU history.