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Dr. Daniel E. Coons, shown last fall presenting a scholarship check to aviation major Rebekah Goebels, passed away on May 3 after a battling cancer for several years.
In this photo: Dr. Daniel E. Coons, shown last fall presenting a scholarship check to aviation major Rebekah Goebels, passed away on May 3 after a battling cancer for several years.
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Dr. Daniel Coons May 20 Memorial Service at Del Air Park

Friday, May 12, 2017

The DSU community and aviation professionals will gather to remember Dr. Daniel Coons, founding director of the DSU Aviation Program, during a 3 p.m. Saturday, May 20 Celebration of Life service at the newly renamed Daniel E. Coons Hangar at the Delaware Air Park.

On the preceding day, there will also be a Memorial Service at 2 p.m. Friday, May 19 at the Veterans’ Cemetery in Bear, Del.

Dr. Coons, who passed away May 3 after a long bout with cancer, leaves behind the legacy of the DSU Aviation Program which he established in 1987, then-called the DSC Airway Science Program.

He began the program with no planes and served as the only instructor in the inaugural year.  Through his creative diligence and under his leadership DSU’s Aviation Program became the only one among Historically Black Colleges and Universities that has its own instructors and possessed its own fleet of aircraft.

Dr. Coons’ tenure at then-Delaware State College actually goes back to 1972, when he was hired to help the institution oversee the construction of the William C. Jason Library. One year later, he was appointed as the director of Libraries and Learning Resources; in 1977, he was awarded the faculty rank of associate professor and taught history.

After establishing the Airway Science Program, he worked over the next five years to develop it further before retiring in 1992.

Following this retirement, he moved to Cairo, Egypt for two years, where he worked through a USAID grant to oversee the construction of the Egyptian National Agricultural Library.  Upon completion of the project, he returned to chair the aviation department at Del State from 1995-1997 and continued part time until 2006.

He was born October 6, 1932 in Kingston, N.Y., and was raised in Stamford, N.Y. He attended Champlain College before receiving his bachelor’s degree from Harper College (SUNY Binghamton).  He received his master’s degree and Doctorate of Education from the State University of New York at Albany. 

He served in the US Army overseas during the Korean War era.  Upon returning to the States, he taught history and coached football from 1958 to 1968 at Cooperstown (NY) Central School, where he was beloved by his students.  It was as a teacher and mentor that Dan found his true calling.  He went on to teach at the State University College at Oneonta before moving to Dover to assume the DSC post in 1973.

In 2003, he was honored by Kent County as an educator of distinction. He was a founding member of the Delaware Aviation Hall of Fame, which honored him with induction to the Hall in 2011. In 2011, he was recognized by the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals (OBAP) for his contributions to the education of black pilots.   He was honored by the Tuskegee Airmen with the first Lemuel E. Curtis Award for his service to minority pilots.  He served as president of the Kent County (DE) Chapter of the Korean War Vets for several years.

He is survived by his wife of 32 years, JoAnn, and his children, Daniel E. Coons of Wolfeboro, N.H., Kim M. Coons of Nyack, N.Y., and Candace Coons Snyder of Madison, N.J.; his stepchildren, Karen Furlong Shemwell of Santa Clara, Calif., and Robert Furlong of Muncie, Ind.; and a number of grandchildren. 

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Dr. Daniel E. Coons Endowed Scholarship.  Checks can be made to the Delaware State University Foundation and mailed to the Dr. Daniel E. Coons Endowed Scholarship/Delaware State University Foundation, 1200 North DuPont Hwy, Dover, DE 19901.  For more information, contact the Division of Institutional Advancement at (302) 857-6055.