Passion for education leads to $1.5 million to support students
Dona R. Harbison Hildebrand was born in 1927 on the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation, Lame Deer, Montana. Dona and her four siblings – two sisters and twin brothers – were raised by hard working parents who believed in the lifelong benefits of higher education. Dona’s mother taught school and her father worked for the Department of Interior in the western states.
Dona graduated from high school in Fort Collins, CO. In 1947, she received a bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from the University of Colorado Boulder. Dona also attended Colorado State University in 1950, where she received credentials to teach.
Dona was a chemist at Texaco Petroleum Research Laboratories in Beacon, New York for two years. She saved her money in order to travel abroad to England and Europe. When she returned to the Unites States, she joined a research project for the Department of Agriculture in Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado. Her early international travel and interest in new environments served her later in life as she traveled extensively with the United States Air Force.
When the Korean War started, Dona enlisted in the United States Air Force to attend Officer Candidate School. She continued to serve through 1975, ultimately achieving the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. During her 25 years in the Air Force, she served in Spokane, Washington; Germany; Austria; France; England; Japan; Thailand; Vietnam; Washington, DC; California and Alabama. Dona was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for meritorious service from 1967-1968 in Vietnam.
While serving overseas, Dona took classes at the University of Maryland Wiesbaden and graduated from UMUC in 1957 at Heidelberg, Germany. While attending classes at Wiesbaden, Dona met her future husband, Floyd G. “Hildy” Hildebrand, also a University of Maryland student. Dona’s appreciation for learning led her to obtain a Master’s degree from George Washington University School of Business and a diploma from the Air War College.
Throughout Dona’s military career, she sought opportunities to receive assignments near Hildy. At several points in her career, she was one of only a few, if not the only service woman representing the United States Air Force in the country to which she was assigned.
In 1967, Dona served in Vietnam as the Executive Officer, Personnel 7th Air Force. She and Floyd were in Saigon during the Tet Offensive, one of the critical military campaigns of the Vietnam War. Following the Vietnam War, Dona was assigned to England as the Executive Officer, 66th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing, RAF (Royal Air Force) Upper Heyford.
Her last assignment was in Chofu, Japan, where she served as the Chief of Administration, Fifth Air Force. Dona was recognized as the outstanding administrative officer for the Pacific Air Force.
After her retirement in 1975, Dona moved to Japan where Hildy was working for Japan Airlines as Captain and Check Pilot. There she taught English for three years in a Japanese private girl’s school.
In 1980 Dona and Floyd moved to Monument, Colorado. Dona was engaged in the community and contributed her time, efforts and resources to projects such as the Woodmoor Homeowners Association, UCCS, the U.S. Air Force Academy Library, and the Colorado Trail, a 469 mile hiking trail from Denver to Durango, Colorado. Dona also assisted with a variety of research projects on Easter Island, the Galapagos Islands and within Colorado and Wyoming.
Her passion for education lead her to create a $1.5 million endowment in honor of her late husband, Col. Floyd “Hildy” Hildebrand, to fund 12 scholarships for non-traditional students. “Their needs are just as much as my husbands were when he went through school,” she said. “He didn’t have to work all the time and was able to focus on his studies.” Through this endowment, Dona is enabling students to explore what they are passionate about without the burden of paying for school on their own.
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