Mines News

Release Date Monday, May 8, 2017

US Senate Confirms Heather Wilson as Air Force Secretary

SD Mines President Heather Wilson shortly after the U.S. Senate vote confirming her as the next Secretary of the Air Force.

RAPID CITY, SD (May 8, 2017) – The U.S. Senate has confirmed Heather Wilson as the next Secretary of the Air Force.

Wilson is expected to be sworn in to her new position within a week. She will step down from her position as the President of the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology on Wednesday, May 10, when the South Dakota Board of Regents is expected to name an interim president while a national search takes place to name her successor.

"Being the President of the School of Mines has been a tremendous joy,” said Wilson. “It’s an exceptional university with deep roots and a very bright future. I will miss the campus, many friends here and the beautiful Black Hills.” 

Wilson was recently unanimously honored by the South Dakota Legislature which noted, “She has established new academic programs, increased research, grown enrollment, secured critical infrastructure investment, deepened a connection between the university and the community and improved financial management.”

Wilson’s leadership at Mines was also praised by a wide range of community leaders.

“A university committed to STEM teaching and research can be a key catalyst for economic development. In Heather, we have enjoyed a president who understands and promotes this vital Mines connection to the community. She gets it, and it will be tough to fill her shoes,” said Ben Snow, President of the Rapid City Economic Development Partnership. 

“During Dr. Wilson's time here, she was much more than just a president to us as students. She was a role model, a friend to us all, and, above all, an inspiration. She truly was a member of the Hardrocker family. We are thankful for the time she dedicated to us, and look forward to watching her serve our country,” said Aaron Campbell President of the Student Senate at Mines.

“We took a risk four years ago, with a President who had not been a faculty member before. The job of a university President has changed, and Heather did a great job. She respected the faculty, and we developed a lot of respect for her,” said Rodney Rice Chair of the Faculty Senate at Mines.

“Thank you for your service. Your leadership has been superb, in so many ways. We hope to continue your initiatives as we seek new leadership at this university,” said John Bastian, South Dakota Board of Regents.

Wilson graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1982 in the third class to include women. She earned master’s and doctoral degrees as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University in England. She served as an Air Force officer in Europe during the Cold War and on the National Security Council Staff under President George H.W. Bush during the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Warsaw Pact. She has also worked as an advisor to several large defense and scientific organizations both before and after serving for a decade in the U.S. Congress.

The daughter and granddaughter of aviators, Wilson is an instrument rated private pilot. Wilson has served on the boards of Peabody Energy and Raven Industries as well as numerous nonprofit boards. She is stepping down from those positions to serve as Air Force Secretary.

Wilson becomes the second confirmed appointee in the Department of Defense and will be responsible for organizing, training and equipping the U.S. Air Force of over 600,000 active, guard, reserve and civilian airmen as well as managing its $124 billion budget.

The Air Force Secretary reports directly to Secretary of Defense James Mattis.

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About SD Mines  

Founded in 1885, the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology is a science and engineering research university located in Rapid City, S.D., offering bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees. The university enrolls 2,654 students with a student-to-faculty ratio of 15:1. The SD School of Mines placement rate for graduates is 97 percent, with an average starting salary of more than $61,300. Find us online at www.sdsmt.edu and on  Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Snapchat

Contact: Charles Michael Ray , 605-394-6082, charles.ray@sdsmt.edu