ERAU – models of integrity


In a previous post I mentioned taking an oath to aviation safety in 1991. Perhaps when you read that you wondered what kind of man still believed in giving your word and then honoring it regardless of cost? What kind of man believed in words like “forsake every other consideration to protect them.”?


That man was the Maintenance Department Chairman, Richard “Dick” Ulm.  He was the last guy who ever thought he would be a “College professor.” He was, first and foremost, 100% Marine. The obituary below puts it very mildly by saying “a strong and straight talking man”, it might be less tasteful but more accurate to say he was a Badass who didn’t mince words nor spare profanity. This said, if I were to pick a single word to describe the man it would be integrity.


In 1992 I worked in his department teaching welding to A&P students.  I already knew him well, as all 1,500 students in the AMT department did. He was not an office guy, he taught classes, walked around every lab, knew all the people who worked in the department. In an era where all college conversation was politically correct, Mr. Ulm was very different. Example; Mr. Fraugi, the physics professor was the best dressed guy on campus, down to his footwear. I am standing there and Mr. Ulm walks over and asks: “Fraugi ,why do you wear those man slippers?” Without flinching, Mr, Farugi says: “To turn you on Dick”, to which Mr. Ulm casually says: “It isn’t working.” They both go back to work without further comment nor cracking a smile.


When it mattered Dick Ulm had fierce integrity. A foreign student was caught red-handed stealing a test from a teacher’s desk. Mr. Ulm threw him out of the department. A week later, because the kid was from a lucrative foreign student program the administration had set up, they  sent word that he was to be readmitted.  Mr. Ulm, in a politely worded memo refused to accept him back. I was in his office and he told all the instructors who had the kid for a student “No fucking way that punk gets back in, period.” He made it clear to us that he was willing to go all the way on this, he would cash in his job if required, but he wasn’t going to have trash like that get through his department. Integrity mattered to him. The administration lost. Mr. Ulm had preached very high standards, but he also lived by them.


I love airplanes as much as anyone else, but underneath this, I am very thankful to have had a number of great mentors in aviation who taught me that you can have all the fun you want in aviation, but if you are going to make it a profession, you had better damn well do it right, because the results are serious.  At a college 2 years ago, I was giving a young guy a hard time because he was too focused on getting it done, rather than learning. I was tired, and it would have been easy to let it go, inadvertently sending the false message that there are some circumstances where compromise in maintenance is OK, which it never is. If the recipient wondered where my attitude came from, It would be very easy to me to directly point to Mr. Ulm’s picture and say “This man taught us that you do not compromise principle to avoid conflict.” He is gone now, but his standards are not.


Below, Mr. Ulm’s short obituary. I have thought a number of times about how this man who spent his entire adult life as a person unafraid of challenge nor conflict, passed from this Earth on Christmas Day.



Obituary for Richard Ulm, USMC ret.


Richard Herbert Ulm 74 of Port Orange Florida passed away peacefully December 25 2011.   Interment for Richard Ulm will be Wednesday January 4 2012 at 1:15pm at the Barrancas National Cemetery in Pensacola Florida. He was a retired Lt. Col for the United States Marine Corp and a former professor of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. He was a loving husband father and grandfather. Richard was an outstanding Marine respected teacher a strong and straight talking man who will be deeply missed by everyone that knew him. He leaves behind his wife of 51 years Jan Oelschlager Ulm; his son William Ulm; his daughter Regina Shover; his two brothers Eric Ulm and Gerhard Ulm; his four loving grandchildren Brianne Ray Billy and Katie.


About William Wynne
I have been continuously building, testing and flying Corvair engines since 1989. Information, parts and components that we developed and tested are now flying on several hundred Corvair powered aircraft. I earned a Bachelor of Science in Professional Aeronautics and an A&P license from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and have a proven 20 year track record of effectively teaching homebuilders how to create and fly their own Corvair powered planes. Much of this is chronicled at and in more than 50 magazine articles.

One Response to ERAU – models of integrity

  1. Gary Ray says:

    Mr. Ulm sounds like a good person to have known.
    Those who know better have an obligation to do it right. You never know when you are the role model. Compromise is not a virtue nor does it set a good example. “A” is always “A” regardless of what somebody else choses to call it. Relabeling and issue to avoid conflict or having to deal with it, is for the intellectually dishonest and the intellectual cowards. Ninety-Five percent of the time the facts dictate the only course to follow. The remaining five percent of the time, you don’t know enough.

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