NAA Selects James Schenck to Receive Bruce Whitman Memorial Trophy

The award recognizes the PenFed Credit Union CEO and former Army pilot’s support of the aviation and military veterans.

The NAA is honoring James Schenck for his support of aviation and military veterans. [Courtesy: NAA]

The National Aeronautic Association (NAA) selected James Schenck, president of PenFed Credit Union and CEO of PenFed Foundation, to receive the organization’s 2024 Bruce Whitman Memorial Trophy.

The NAA called Schenck “a visionary leader and selfless humanitarian” who is dedicated to commemorating and celebrating the heritage of America’s military veterans and supporting the next generation of pilots.

The NAA established the award in 2019 to honor outstanding individuals for their contributions to aviation or aerospace in the United States and efforts to promote public appreciation of the sacrifices made by members of the military. Bruce Whitman, an aerospace executive and philanthropist, was named posthumously as the trophy’s first recipient in 2019. 

"No one cared more about our industry than Bruce Whitman," said Jim Albaugh, NAA chair. "He dedicated his life to service, and I know Bruce would be honored to know that this year’s recipient of the Whitman Trophy is James Schenck. James is someone who contributed so much to our military and our nation."

During his military career, Schenck flew Black Hawk helicopters in Korea and trained other US Army aviators as a night vision goggle instructor pilot. He served on the Army Staff in the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations and Plans and later served as a Special Assistant to the Secretary of the Army.  Schenk received the Legion of Merit for his contribution to the Army by overseeing creation of the $453 million Army University Access Online educational initiative.

Prior to working in the Pentagon, Schenck taught economics and finance at the United States Military Academy at West Point, where he graduated in 1988. He is also a 1996 graduate of Harvard Business School. He has received several honors for his support of the military including the Association of the United States Army’s John W. Dixon Award and the National Military Family Association’s Military Family Champion Award.

"Deeply impacted by the failed Iranian hostage rescue mission on April 24, 1980, when eight American service members lost their lives, I have been steadfast from that date forward in my commitment to our men and women who serve,” Schenck said. “I am forever proud of my military service as an Army aviator, and for the millions of other veterans who have worn the uniform of our nation. We can never do enough for the men and women and their families who keep us free. I am honored to receive this prestigious award from the National Aeronautic Association.”

Schenck will be honored and receive the 2024 Whitman Award at an upcoming event. Previous recipients of the Whiteman Trophy include author and WASP advocate Erin Miller, the U.S. Golden Knights, and record-setting pilot and U.S. veteran Ross Perot Jr.

Jonathan Welsh is a private pilot who worked as a reporter, editor and columnist with the Wall Street Journal for 21 years, mostly covering the auto industry. His passion for aviation began in childhood with balsa-wood gliders his aunt would buy for him at the corner store. Follow Jonathan on Twitter @JonathanWelsh4

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