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'First families' of aviation pay top-tier tribute to Bill Boeing Jr.

A 90th birthday is cause for celebration indeed. When the well-wishers include the first families of aviation, it’s the icing on the cake.

The Boeing, Wright, Douglas and Kindelberger families gathered with 250 people at the Museum of Flight in Seattle to wish William E. Boeing Jr. a happy birthday and honor his father’s lasting legacy. Members of the McDonnell family, while not physically present, sent well wishes.

“Our founding fathers did more than just give wings to mankind,” John Tracy, executive vice president for Engineering, Operations & Technology and chief technology officer, told the audience.

“They defined the purpose of flight, harnessed it to defend freedom and turned it into an instrument of commerce, progress, global connectivity and space exploration -- not only saving the world, but ultimately shrinking it and improving it as well," said Tracy, who served as Boeing's host for the event. “Please know that every day we work diligently to uphold the highest standards of technical excellence and ambition that your fathers set for us.”

The evening was more than a party. It was an opportunity for the Seattle community to say “thanks.”

“Here in Puget Sound, The Boeing Company has so greatly influenced the region’s development that it is a true Northwest icon,” said Doug King, president and CEO of the Museum of Flight. “William Boeing Jr. continues the passion of his father to inspire future generations, and tonight we honor him for his dedication, thank him for his generosity and congratulate him on his 90th birthday.”

“Education is the key thing. It’s fun to see young people come to places
like the Museum of Flight and see their faces light up and know that
one day designing, building or flying airplanes might be their job.”

The Boeing Company -- founded by the elder Boeing in 1916 and affectionately described by locals as a “hobby gone out of control” -- is at the center of Washington state’s identity and a source of public pride.

And while Bill Boeing Sr.’s achievements and visionary leadership are well documented, what is less well known is his philanthropic legacy, most notably through his generous support to the University of Washington and education. It’s a family tradition his son and Boeing employees continue.

Over the years, the company’s success has supported thousands of families, hundreds of good works and made a positive difference in the lives of many. And like his father, for Bill Boeing Jr. it comes down to being a champion for education and advocate for the children who will extend his father’s vision for the next 100 years and beyond.

“Education is the key thing,” Bill Boeing Jr. told the gathered assembly. “It’s fun to see young people come to places like the Museum of Flight and see their faces light up and know that one day designing, building or flying airplanes might be their job.”