Willie Lee Daniels

Willie Daniels.jpg

As a commercial pilot for United Airlines, it’s easy for Capt. Willie Lee Daniels to see the 30,000-foot view, and not just out his front window.

With pilot retirements climbing every year and fewer and fewer young people joining the industry, Capt. Daniels in 1999 founded the non-profit educational organization Shades of Blue.

Shades of Blue provides academic support to students interested in the science, technology, engineering and math fields and helps to foster their careers in aviation, aerospace and engineering. Through his group’s efforts, Capt. Daniels is aiming to feed 250,000 new pilots, engineers and astronauts into the industry pipeline.

“My goal is for young people to see astronauts and others who have had amazing careers -- and amazing lives -- because of their success in aerospace and aviation,” Capt. Daniels says. “If young people see that type of success, hopefully they will want to choose a similar career path.”

A former Pomona resident and Ganesha High School graduate (’73), Capt. Daniels earned his associate’s degree in commercial piloting from Mt. San Antonio College in 1976 and his bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and Management from Metropolitan State University of Denver in 1978.

Capt. Daniels was honored by the City of Pomona in 2006 with the Community Service Award, and by United Airlines in 2012 with the Volunteer Impact Grant Award. In 2013, he received the Pearl of Africa Award for Aviation Science, Education, and Leadership at the 2013 International Education, Business, Technology, and Investment Conference.

Capt. Daniels lives in Castle Pines, Colo. with his wife, Perezza, and two daughters, Danielle and Dana.

We are proud to honor Capt. Willie Lee Daniels as our 2017 Alumnus of the Year.

Katie Pruitt