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Mechanic applies skills learned on aircraft carrier to campus heating, air system

by Kevin Hyde, editor of UofL Magazine, special to UofL Today last modified Nov 09, 2010 04:00 PM

What is more complex to maintain — the steam propulsion systems of an aircraft carrier or the heating and air conditioning on Belknap Campus?

Mechanic applies skills learned on aircraft carrier to campus heating, air system

Larry Burton served on the third USS America (CV-66), a Kitty Hawk-class supercarrier of the U.S. Navy, in service from 1965 to 1996.

Larry Burton can give you a great answer. The Physical Plant heating and air mechanic is a Vietnam War-era U.S. Navy veteran who served aboard the attack carrier USS America.

"I was responsible for the operation and maintenance of the steam propulsion systems that moved the ship through the water and helped propel the jets off the flight deck," said Burton, who made two Mediterranean cruises, one South American cruise and one North Atlantic cruise. "I was in during Vietnam, but my time was spent watching out for the other side of the world."

Burton is one of the 524 university employees who are either a military veteran or still active in the military, according to UofL Payroll Services; 189 of those served during a recognized armed conflict.

Last year "G.I. Jobs" magazine named UofL a "military friendly school," an honor received by only 15 percent of all colleges and universities nationwide. But is UofL a "military friendly" employer?

Michael Curtin said it is.

Curtin, UofL's vice president for finance and chief financial officer, is a retired brigadier general in the National Guard who served as deputy commander of the Kentucky Army National Guard. Much of his distinguished 36-year military career was spent as a UofL employee.

Curtin is quick to outline the many ways UofL is a military-friendly institution.

"For one, the university created a Veterans Center with a full-time director during very tough economic times," he points out. "The center is designed to accommodate the special needs of veterans returning to college. The university also offers institutional scholarships to select ROTC participating students above the amounts provided by the Departments of Army and Air Force stipends.

"The university also implemented a special tuition rate for active duty service personnel that allows participants access to university academic undergraduate programs for the same rate as reimbursed by their branch of service."

Curtin also emphasized the university's military leave policy that "allows members of the National Guard and Reserve for up to 10 days per year to attend annual training without financial penalty."

According to payroll, uOFl has almost 100 employees either active or inactive in the Reserves or National Guard.

UofL also is expanding its academic partnerships with Fort Knox and the newly established Human Resource Center of Excellence, Curtin added.

Proud to Have Served

Burton, who has worked at the university for some 25 years, is proud of his service in the Navy.

"It was my military training that got me the job here in the first place," he said. "I cherish the memories and I am glad to have been a part of such a fine and noble institution that continues to keep us and our allies safe from oppression.

"I salute those before me, those who served with me and those who are currently serving."

So, what is harder to maintain — the USS America or Belknap Campus?

"The aircraft carrier would definitely be more complex," Burton said. "You see, space is at a premium on any ship. And everything is all bunched together. So the valve you're turning or the button you're pushing better be the correct one or someone could be hurt or worse.

"Belknap Campus is a bit more forgiving."

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