SAN ANGELO, TX — In commemoration of Veteran's Day, Angelo State University has named retired U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Thomas G. Nurre Sr. as the 2023 ASU Veteran of the Year.
A native of Bancroft, Iowa, Nurre served 33 years on active duty that included assignments in Alaska, Pakistan, the Philippines, England and San Antonio, as well as stints as commandant of the NCO Academy at Goodfellow AFB and as director of Air Force NCO Professional Military Education at the Pentagon.
Following his final assignment as head of the Chief's Group at the Air Force Personnel Center in San Antonio, Nurre and his wife, Kitty, retired in San Angelo in 1994, and he was immediately hired to implement the Air Force Junior ROTC Unit 948 at Lake View High School. The unit earned the AFJROTC "Best First-Year Unit" award for the 1994-95 school year. He also endowed a scholarship in memory of his late friend, World War II veteran Rocky F. Durso, that benefits cadets in ASU's ROTC Detachment 847.
"Chief Nurre had a phenomenal career that actually overlapped with my father's career in the same Air Force command, as well as with my own," said ASU President Ronnie Hawkins Jr. "I have tremendous respect for our Vietnam veterans, and Chief Nurre and I have been able to swap some memorable stories about serving our country in many different parts of the world. His ongoing support of our ROTC cadets is also admirable and much appreciated. We are proud to name him our 2023 Veteran of the Year."
During the Vietnam War, Nurre was assigned to the 6994th Security Squadron at Nakhon Phanom Royal Thai Air Force Base in 1970-71, where he flew 141 airborne radio direction finding (ARDF) missions and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with three oak leaf clusters. His many other honors, awards, and medals include twice receiving the Legion of Merit, which is normally reserved for senior officers, for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services and achievements.
In addition to endowing a scholarship for ASU ROTC cadets, Nurre has forged close working relationships with several campus departments and offices, including the Honors Program, West Texas Collection, Alumni Association, Communications and Marketing, and Arnoldo De Leon Department of History. They have collaborated on both campus initiatives, like the War Stories Project and Vietnam: Through the Lens exhibit, and community projects, like the ARDF History Exhibit at Goodfellow AFB and Vietnam War 50th Anniversary Commemoration ceremonies throughout West Texas.
"When ASU notified me, I was absolutely gob-smacked at the news of my being selected for this award," Nurre said. "Ever since first working to support the ASU ROTC detachment with Goodfellow NCO Academy instructors in the late 1980s, to the more recent opportunities to serve as a veteran outreach organization for the ASU grants and veteran-specific programs like Vietnam: Through the Lens, I have always admired and appreciated the university for its genuine interest in veteran affairs. This is an awesome and humbling experience to be singled out for recognition, especially on national Veterans Day."
Also active in the local and national communities, Nurre previously chaired the Keep San Angelo Beautiful Committee and is currently the webmaster for the EC-47 History Website (ec47.com) that chronicles the history of ARDF training on the EC-47 aircraft at Goodfellow AFB, connects veterans and their families across the country, and spearheads events and initiatives like the ongoing memorial pavers project at the static EC-47 display at Goodfellow.
The ASU Veteran of the Year program is sponsored by ASU's Veterans Educational and Transitional Services (VETS) Center and Division of External Affairs.