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Commander of Navy Test Pilot School Commends Institute’s Betsy Harbin

Betsy Harbin, who recently assumed new duties as administrative assistant in The University of Tennessee Space Institute’s Electrical Engineering Department after two decades with UTSI’s Aviation Systems program, received a surprise commendation recently.

Johnny O’Connor, an instructor in a recent Rotary Wing Performance Short Course at UTSI, presented a letter of appreciation and photograph to her. The letter was signed by Capt. T.W. Huff, commander of the Naval Test Pilot School (NTPS) at Patuxent River, Md., where O’Connor also is an instructor.

“As principal coordinator and conduit for the cooperative educational and training programs between our schools,” Capt. Huff wrote, “you have facilitated a myriad of unique program requirements with your signature personal care and attention.”

Huff himself is a graduate of UTSI, having earned a master’s degree in Aviation Systems in December, 1994. In June, he was named to head the Maryland school.

Harbin began working with UTSI’s Short Course program in August 1985, where she coordinated short courses with NTPS. Among pilots she met at that time were Richard Ranaudo, current Aviation Systems faculty member, who lectured in various Aviation System short courses. In May 1988, she transferred to the Aviation Systems program and worked with Ralph Kimberlin who headed the department until he retired in 2005. Betsy, daughter of Roy and Alice Smith of Tullahoma, and her husband Dennis reside in Estill Springs.

Capt. Huff wrote the letter on behalf of “the hundreds of graduates from UTSI and the Naval Test Pilot School,” thanking her for years of “dedicated and faithful service to the Aviation Systems Department.”

Huff wrote that the scope of Betsy’s accomplishments “was nothing short of impressive, including, but not limited to a master’s degree program coordination for some 200 graduates since 1988, including a proverbial who’s who among test pilots, astronauts and senior officers.”

He also cited her scheduling of short courses, coordination of multi-site extended learning and remote site facilitation, and management of student database and historical reference archiving.

Executing the distance learning master’s degree program was “not a trivial task and required significant time investment and attention to detail,” the commander wrote. “With enrollees stationed and/or deployed worldwide, your extraordinary communication skill and uncanny ability to schedule thesis defenses and committee reviews ensured seamless program accomplishment.”

Her “attentiveness to applications, transcript management, and enrollment fees was crucial to program success,” Huff noted, “particularly for military students” receiving tuition assistance from the government.

Huff said anyone “with a UT sheepskin, and those educators and administrators that had contact with you, appreciate, admire, and will recall your legacy and years of service to the Aviation Systems Department.”