Commercial Airline Pilot
And Outstanding ZHS Class President
In 1961, David Harris graduated from Eagle Township High School –now Zionsville Community High School, serving as President for his class of 52 graduates walking across the stage at its 73rd Annual Commencement Exercise. Born September 7th of 1943 to Pauline and Howard Harris, the family pulled up stakes from Indianapolis and moved to Zionsville. Dave entered the Zionsville school system in Miss Vonda Kouns sixth grade class.
The oldest of four children, Dave’s brothers, Paul and Jim, and sister Christine would all enter and graduate as Zionsville Eagles. For Dave’s class, as was the norm, they adopted this class motto: “The Door to Success Is Labeled Push”. Some 50 years later – in May 2, 2011, he crafted a letter to his classmates prior to the landmark reunion, which included these words:
“Anyway, push we did! Nobody told us that the things behind the door might be terrifying and sad as well as wonderful and exciting. Hopefully what you found was rewarding and pleasant. We remain a class of achievers; with many exciting accomplishments coming to our classmates. Let us get together and spend this time to share those experiences with one another and be thankful that we can be together again.”
After he flew the AERIE, David’s postsecondary education led him to Purdue University where he earned a degree in Applied Science/Aircraft Maintenance Technology from the School of Aviation Technology graduating in June of 1963. The year preceding his graduation, Dave attained his private pilot’s license. During his graduation year, he was elected Captain of the Purdue flying team. The election proved worthy, winning the National Intercollegiate Flying Association spot landing contest at Oklahoma State University. Prior to graduation as a Boilermaker, he was also inducted into Alpha Eta Rho National Aviation Fraternity and earned an FAA Airframe and Powerplant Mechanic’s License.
The year, 1964 proved to be a landmark year; Dave married Kathy VanMeter (ZHS “64”) and was provisionally hired by United Air Lines providing he obtain a Commercial pilot’s license prior to reporting for training in Denver May 1965. From the span of his career he went from Flight Engineer to Copilot to Captain on propeller-based DC-6 and Viscounts all the way to the largest commercial passenger planes, the Boeing 777 and the 747-400.
After fulfilling a career with exciting moments - some more than others, Dave retired from flying in 2003 after 38 years as a commercial airline pilot. That gave him more time to spend with Kathy, children Jill (Avon, IN.) and John (Homewood, IL.) their spouses Michael and Laura, and grandchildren, Ian 17, Cooper 16, Nina 15, Colin 14, Tucker 10 and Graham 7.
- In April 2006 he and Kathy were honored by Purdue with the new University Academic Advisors Office named in their honor.
- From 2004 to 2010, they owned a special events company.
- Currently a board member and president of the Osthoff Resort in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin – a town they fell in love with when Dave drove small formula and sports cars for 20 years.
Dave’s busy nature has best served the ZHS as a co-organizer of multiple Class of 1961 Reunions. The Zionsville experience remains strong and continues to be some of the best times in his life!
Compiled and Nominated by Ralph W. Stacy