[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]BETHANY, W.Va. – Bethany College and President Tamara Nichols Rodenberg honored the oldest living member of the famed Tuskegee Airmen with an honorary doctorate degree in public service.
Retired Brig. Gen. Charles McGee, U.S. Air Force, received his doctoral hood Friday during a virtual presentation.
“I’m almost beyond words,” McGee said. “This honor is certainly another blessing from God. It seems to me as I look back at my 100 years, 100-plus, it’s a blessing from God. … Certainly to receive this honor is beyond expectation. It is also, I hope, a chance for those coming behind to see that life can be rewarding. And mine certainly has been, from beginning to end, a blessing from God.”
McGee joined a segregated U.S. Army in 1942 and became one of the famed Tuskegee Airmen, the 99th Pursuit Squadron, and the first all-Black unit to train skilled aviators. During World War II, he conducted combat missions in Italy, Romania, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Greece, Bulgaria, Austria, and Germany. In the Korean War, McGee served with the 44th Fighter Bomber Squadron, and in Vietnam he led the 16th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron from Tan Son Nhut Air Force Base.
Overall, McGee flew more than 400 combat missions and retired in 1973 with the rank of Colonel. During his career, he was presented with the Distinguished Flying Cross, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, Air Medal, and the Presidential Unit Citation.
Earlier this year, he was promoted to the rank of Brigadier General by President Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House. Congress authorized the promotion in 2019.
McGee is a longtime member of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). For 30 years, he has been a member North Chevy Chase Christian Church in Chevy Chase, Md., where he sang in the choir and is an elder emeritus.
Bethany College was founded in 1840 by Alexander Campbell as the first college affiliated with the Disciples of Christ.
To celebrate his 100th birthday, McGee flew a private jet from Frederick, Md., to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.
McGee says he prays for strength to continue to be a mentor.
“The key to me is, again, a God-given life, to be an example for the young people who are the country’s future, not only in our family but in our community and our service,” he said.
Bethany College Trustee the Rev. Dr. Arthur Keys ’67, recommended McGee for the honor and introduced him during Friday’s ceremony.
“He is a real live role model and living legend who has launched countless young people into lives of faith, service, duty, and purpose,” Keys said.
Provost and Dean of Faculty Joe Lane presented McGee for the honorary degree with a unanimous vote of approval from the Bethany College faculty.
Said Lane: “It is the considerate judgment of our faculty that the honorable Gen. McGee’s contributions to the armed services of the United States, the advancement of African Americans in both civil and military aviation, the work of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and the causes of social justice, and building bridges among diverse groups in our society merit this rare honor.”
Rodenberg also presented McGee with a citation from Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan.
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Bethany College, founded in 1840, is the oldest private college in West Virginia. The Bethany experience focuses on academic excellence in the area of liberal arts and prepares students for a lifetime of work and a life of significance.[/vc_column_text][vc_video link=”https://youtu.be/Xo51V7RbuGo”][/vc_column][/vc_row]