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Pilot David Kerr was flying high before DU

World War II interrupted David Kerr's plan to attend college at DU.

In fall 1940, David Kerr, BS ’47, enrolled in DU’s engineering school. Like any other freshman, he was eager to earn his degree and start his career.

But it was an uncertain time. Europe was embroiled in World War II, and the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 brought the war to the United States. The Navy offered a program that allowed aviation cadets to finish college before commencing military service, so Kerr signed up.

“I underwent five days of rigorous testing in San Francisco, was sworn in and returned to school,” Kerr says.

But the war couldn’t wait. In 1942, Kerr was called to active duty.

“At first they put us in sailor suits because it was all they had,” Kerr recalls.

For 18 months he trained in California, Ohio, Wyoming, Oklahoma and Florida. Kerr’s DU sweetheart, Marian Schwalb, BA ’46, pinned his gold wings on him in a 1944 ceremony. Kerr spent the rest of the war in Atlanta as a flight instructor.

Civilian pilots commanded high salaries after the war, but Kerr’s family encouraged him to finish his education. In winter 1946 he became a business administration major and instructor at DU’s new flight school, the Air Center, which operated at Sky Ranch Airport east of Aurora.

“I had every civilian flight license and extensive instruction time in all types of airplanes, so they asked me to teach,” Kerr recalls.

In 1947, he graduated, married Schwalb and began spending more time on the ground focusing on his businesses.

“I first had a truck equipment company and then auto dealerships,” says Kerr, who lives in Denver.

He and his sons — David Kerr, BSBA ’73, and William Kerr, BA ’78 — still operate Kerr Vehicle Resources, a vehicle fleet management company with national clients. His son Gary, BSBA ’83, owns a national equipment leasing company.

The senior Kerr hasn’t given up his love for aviation. “I don’t fly solo anymore, but I’m still a copilot,” Kerr says.

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