Two pilots land in Lyons Hall of Fame

Two pilots — Karen Koenig, class of 1975, and David Forgan, class of 1951 — will be inducted into the Lyons Township High School Hall of Fame at a ceremony Sept. 28. Both Koenig and Forgan earned the nomination for success in their respective careers and for service to their communities.

Koenig, who has worked as a pilot with several varying licenses since 1984, said that her love for flying was fostered at Lyons Township, where she took an aviation class on a whim.

“When I was a junior in high school, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life career-wise,” she said in an interview with Suburban Life. “My dad said ‘I don’t care what you do, but when you turn 18, you’re not doing it here.’ So I signed up for an aviation class my senior year, and caught the bug.”

Despite her accomplishments in aviation, she said she was most excited that her extracurricular service played a part in her induction. She is the president of the Champaign County Humane Society and volunteers for Raptor Rehabilitation of Kentucky, the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine, and the University of Illinois Wildlife Medical Clinic, according to a press release.

“It’s great to do your job well, but that’s what you’re paid to do; it’s really about all the other stuff you do,” Koenig said. “Don’t sign up for 10,000 things that will look good on a resume. Sign up for one and do it really well.”

Forgan was a major general in the U.S. Air Force who retired in 1989 after 33 years of service. He was a command pilot who logged more than 4,000 flying hours solely in fighter planes and completed 100 missions over North Vietnam, according to a press release. He was highly decorated, with awards including the Silver Star for gallantry for his combat accomplishments in Vietnam and 18 air medals for achievement in aerial flights, the press release said.

Forgan died six years ago and is receiving the award posthumously; his wife, Shirley Forgan, will attend the ceremony and accept it for him. 

“They’ll be looking at a graduate who presents a role model for military people and I can pass on advice to give them, advice on the kind of leadership that he was a perfect example of,” Shirley said. “I want them to take it to heart.”

Nominations for the Hall of Fame are submitted to a committee of roughly 22 people from the community, like alumni, teachers and current students. Whether they are inducted is decided based on the perceived credit they have brought to the high school with their lives.

“There is no distinct rubric for the award,” said Jennifer Bialobok, a public relations representative for the school. “It’s a diverse committee and is intended to be that way. Everyone brings their personal expertise to the table when deciding who is put up for the honor.”

Inductees are invited back to the school each year to speak with students before the ceremony. Koenig will return to Lyons Township on Friday, Sept. 27, the day before the ceremony, to speak with aviation classes, Bialobok said, and Shirley will speak to classes about leadership and military jobs.

The Hall of Fame awards are primarily intended to motivate current students and to show them that Lyons Township has produced graduates who have made the world a better place.

“It’s important because students can see that these are people that walked the same halls as them and maybe sat in the same chairs, too,” Bialobok said. “They can say, ‘Look what [these graduates] are doing. Maybe that’ll be me some day.’”

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