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Air University professor, 92, retires after 57 years of service

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Cody Gandy
  • Air University Public Affairs

MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala.-- After 57 years of service to Air University, Dr. Richard I. Lester, 92, is retiring as chief of academic affairs for the Ira C. Eaker Center for Leadership Development at the end of this month.

Lester dedicated his life to education in a way that not many people do. Lester worked overseas to get his doctorate, upheld a mission of wanting to better the educational world and impacted the people that he came into contact with daily, ensuring he would leave behind a powerful legacy.

From a young age, Lester knew that he wanted to become a scholar to cultivate academia. He attended the Peekskill Military Academy in New York where he grew up, seeking a deeper understanding of true scholarship. After he graduated from the academy, Lester pursued a doctoral degree. He was invited by the British government to England as a scholar in residence to obtain his doctoral degree at the University of London. After 10 continuous years of residence and study in England, Lester earned his doctorate at the Victoria University of Manchester.

“I decided that we needed to have a broader perspective in our leadership, management and our approach to an education,” said Lester.

After his time in England, Lester landed a position at Air University. Throughout his years at Air University, Lester served as a professor and strategic advisor for the Eaker Center.

“I participated in the development of the characteristics, scope and general utility of each of the schools that we have here,” he said.

Lester has also lectured at many well-established schools, to include the U.S. Military Academy, Naval War College, Army Command and General Staff College and AU’s Air War College, about the value of critical thinking and strategic planning. 

“I am an educator,” said Lester. “I am primarily concerned with providing and getting information from people, analyzing that information and getting that information back to people so that they can think critically, plan strategically and adapt to change.”

With his career winding down, Lester departs Air University with the knowledge that he has made a large impact on the organization as a whole.

“I leave here with a very comfortable feeling knowing that as a result of me working with the schools that we have created an environment that is conducive to continuous, ongoing learning,” he said.

Lester wishes to continue to learn and advance Air Force professional development even after retirement, knowing that 57 years of service to Air University pales in comparison to a lifetime of dedication to education. 

“I want to be able to learn more and move forward with the understanding that nobody knows everything that there is to know about everything,” said Lester. “Fools learn about themselves and ordinary people learn about things, but it is only the wise person who understands about what they are doing and why they are doing it.”