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Alumni Profile: David Wagner '11

Air Force Cadet

David Wagner exemplifies the claim of the US Air Force Academy that the basis of true strength is character. In the ultimate act of patriotism and community service, David, who has dual citizenship, enrolled in the Academy in 2013 after graduating from LCC and Marianopolis. It was a rigorous application process that included garnering a nomination from the Vice President of the United States, an achievement evidenced by a letter from Joe Biden that he proudly displays on his bedroom wall at home.

Now in his senior year at the Academy, David is pursuing a four-year program in applied mathematics with a concentration in aeronautical engineering, and conducting research on automated collision avoidance systems. Not only does he fulfill his obligations as a full-time student, he also serves as the academics officer for his squadron and is responsible for setting policy for academic standards.

David’s love of flying was ignited long before he entered the Academy. At the age of 10, he took flight with his father, an airline pilot, who taught him how to fly. “Now I get to play the role of teacher,” he says. “As part of the Glider Program, I take freshmen in gliders, teach them how to fly solo and expose them to the field of aviation.”

Although David is driven by a fervent passion for flying, he is fully aware of the inherent dangers of his chosen path. With great humility he admits this sobering fact: “When you take the Air Force Officer’s Oath,” David says, “you are writing a blank cheque, the value of which may equal anything up to and including your life.” It is something that is recognized and accepted, but David says that he does not think about it on a daily basis. “For now, I’m a student and I’m in training, focused on learning my job to the best of my abilities.”

David was recently honoured by the British government with a Marshall Scholarship, which funds young Americans of high ability to study for a degree in the United Kingdom. When he graduates in May 2017 as a Second Lieutenant, David will head to the University of Edinburgh where he will pursue a Master of Science in artificial intelligence and then, though plans are subject to change, he will likely study for the MPhil in Technology Policy at the University of Cambridge. David will eventually wind up in Texas for intensive jet pilot training, after which he will move to his first squadron in the States or overseas. His job will be to increase his skills for the weapon system he is flying, be ready to employ instruments of national power and enter conflict if necessary.

When David was at LCC, he won the Beaverbrook Vimy Prize, which allowed him to travel abroad and study the history of Canada, France and Great Britain during the First and Second World Wars. It was this experience that he says shaped much of his worldview and directed him to what he is doing now. He was also a debater, which he believes transformed him from a shy person to one who was comfortable speaking in front of audiences. And, not surprisingly, David gravitated toward robotics simply because working with machines was fun.

One of the most influential teachers that David had – at any school – was LCC Social Science Department Head John Vlahogiannis, who taught him how to think critically in the realms of history, geopolitics and philosophy. He also recognizes that the challenging nature of the LCC curriculum prepared him well and was significant in his subsequent success. But above all, it was the school motto Non Nobis Solum (Not for Ourselves Alone) that guided his direction. “The core values of the Air Force reflect the notion of service before self,” he says. “LCC taught me the importance of working for the good of other people and that led me to where I am today.”