Boeing and the family of the late Bill Boeing Jr. announced a joint $30 million donation to promote STEM education programs at Seattle’s Museum of Flight.

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Boeing and the family of the late Bill Boeing Jr. will donate $30 million to the Museum of Flight in part to help promote science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education programs.

The company donation of $15 million will create the “Boeing Academy for STEM Learning” at the museum, which will fund a variety of immersive programs and internships either on site or in outreach programs. The donation was announced Thursday morning.

“This is an opportunity to invest in our children and in our region’s future economic health and growth,” said Ray Conner, chief executive of Boeing Commercial Airplanes.

He said Boeing estimates that some 45,000 future jobs in the region requiring STEM credentials — whether at Boeing, Microsoft, Amazon or other companies — “could go unfilled here in Puget Sound because we don’t have people qualified to take them.”

Conner said the museum, as a symbol of what the region has achieved in the past century of aviation, “is the perfect partner to expand the pipeline.”

The new Boeing Academy will aim to put kids on a pathway that can lead beyond high school to college, and to airplane pilot or engineering careers.

Doug King, the museum’s chief executive, said the goal of the new funding is to have 5,000 students participating by 2019.

Half of those will be young women, students of color or economically disadvantaged youth, he said.

Most of the planned programs will exceed 20 hours and often will require more than 90 hours, resulting in college or high-school credit.

Reba Gilman, former founder and principal of Aviation High School and now vice president of education at the museum, said the Boeing funding will enable the museum to hire experienced STEM teaching staff.

The $15 million investment from the family of Bill Boeing Jr., son of the jet maker’s founder, was set in motion before he died in Seattle in January at the age of 92.

He was known for his philanthropic support of education and for years was very active in the affairs of the Museum of Flight.

The family’s donation will be used for long-term preservation and exhibition of the museum’s artifacts, and to support its broader operations.

Conner said Boeing Jr. called him and offered to match any donation the company would give to support the museum and education.

“I’ll be the past. You be the future,” Boeing Jr. told Conner. “Let’s stand up there and make this investment.”

June Boeing, Bill Jr.’s widow, said her husband “was delighted that our support would honor the past, while today’s Boeing would ensure a robust future for children, regardless of economic means.”


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Existing museum educational programs that will benefit from the donation include one for high-school juniors that allows them to earn five college credits and to participate in a summer residency. Another provides professional-development courses for STEM teachers.

Also benefiting will be the museum’s private-pilot ground school, offering classroom and simulator time to prepare for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) written exam that’s a first step to a pilot’s license.

This month, 52 students participated in the latest three-week pilot ground-school session.

Another program to be expanded is the Michael P. Anderson Memorial Aerospace program, named after the African-American astronaut whose hometown was Spokane and who died in the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster.

It promotes aerospace careers among children of color and from underserved communities.

King said the museum will also develop new year-round programs in close collaboration with Boeing.

Conner said the museum-program donation is parallel to a separate initiative he’s getting off the ground in local schools to create a pipeline that will steer high-school grads directly into manufacturing jobs at Boeing.

“We’ve started to hire this summer,” he said.

The initial hiring is from the Highline School District, south of Seattle, where Conner and also Alaska Airlines chief executive Brad Tilden are high-school alums.

Highline School District superintendent Susan Enfield said she reached out to Conner personally after he first spoke publicly about his schools plan in a Seattle Times interview in May.

As a result, Boeing is this summer hiring about 25 graduates of Highline’s Puget Sound Skills Center, which draws students from the Federal Way, Tahoma and Tukwila school districts, as well as Highline.

Enfield said she is also working with Boeing to create a formal apprenticeship track.

“Boeing is a tremendously generous partner for education,” she said.

Asked how much Boeing will invest in that initiative, Conner said, “We’ll spend a lot of money, just like we’ll spend a lot of money here” at the Museum.