LA GRANGE – 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 since 1984, said 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,” Koenig said. “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, Koenig 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.
“It’s great to do your job well, but that’s what you’re paid to do,” Koenig said. “It’s really about all the other stuff you do. Don’t sign up for 10,000 things that will look good on a résumé. Sign up for one and do it really well.”
Koenig entered a field dominated my men when she began studying aviation. In fact, she was the only woman in all of her high school and college aviation classes. It wasn’t until she was out of college that she met a female pilot.
In 1975, during her freshman year of college at the University of Illinois Institute of Aviation, Koenig took her first solo flight and earned a private pilot’s license, followed by a commercial license a year later. In 1978, she earned an airframe and power plant mechanic license and flight/ground instructor-instruments license. She followed with a multi-engine flight/ground Instructor license in 1979 and airline transport pilot license in 1980. Her first airline job was for Air Kentucky as a first officer in 1984. For the next seven years, she would toggle between airlines because of closings, strikes and furloughs until she landed a job with United Parcel Service in 1991 as a flight engineer, eventually progressing to captain in 2003.
Since then, she has flown countless miles and flights around the globe and mentored hundreds of aspiring pilots. When she is not in the cockpit, she volunteers, mentors, lectures and teaches.
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 news 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.
Forgan died six years ago and is receiving the award posthumously. His wife, Shirley Forgan, will accept the award. “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, including alumni, teachers and students. Decisions on inductees are based on the perceived credit they have brought to the high school with their lives.
Inductees are invited to the school to speak with students before the ceremony. Koenig will return to Lyons Township on Sept. 27 to speak with aviation classes, and Shirley will speak to classes about leadership and military jobs.