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Oklahoma State University

The official magazine of Oklahoma State University

Engineering Alumni

Engineering classmates meet in the mountains

Three OSU engineering classmates, from left, Don Gafford, Charlie Heller, and Bart Childs, meet at Gafford's home high up in California's Sierra Nevada Mountains, not far from Lake Tahoe. His house is at 6,500 feet. Sometimes he and his wife, Sondra, need the Pistol Pete snow cat in the background to reach civilization during the winter.


Don Gafford, Charlie Heller and Bart Childs are OSU engineering classmates who get together regularly for reunions. 


Don Gafford graduated in 1959 with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. He earned a master’s degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Colorado. The first half of his career consisted of work in space flight mechanics for Titan launch vehicles. He was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his contributions to the return of the crew of Apollo 13, while working at TRW. In later years, he was an executive with companies providing systems engineering and analysis of defense space systems. In addition to their mountain house, the Gaffords have a home in San Jose, California.


Charlie Heller was inducted into the OSU College of Engineering Hall of Fame in 2015. He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil engineering in 1959 and 1960 from OSU, where he played basketball for Mr. Henry P. “Hank” Iba for two years. He later earned a doctoral degree from the Catholic University of America. He spent most of his career as an entrepreneur — founder and CEO of two software companies; head of the entrepreneurship center at the University of Maryland; and partner in three venture capital firms. Today, he is an author, having written Prague: My Long Journey Home and Name-droppings: Close Encounters with the Famous and Near-Famous. An OSU-centered memoir, Cowboy from Prague, is in the works. He lives with his wife, Sue, in Annapolis, Maryland.


Bart Childs studied civil engineering at OSU and earned a bachelor’s degree in 1959, master’s degree in 1960, and doctoral degree in 1965. He taught at the University of Houston for six years, and the University of Louisville for three years before spending the next 33 years as a professor at Texas A&M University. Most of his academic work was in applied mathematics, documentation and computer programming. In 2007, Texas A&M named him professor emeritus in computer science and engineering. He lives in College Station, Texas.



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Uploaded on September 1, 2016