Earlier this month, the nation remembered a defining moment in its history by commemorating the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Empire of Japan on Dec. 7, 1941, the catalyst for the United States entering World War II. Despite being half a world away, Centre College has a special connection to those commemorations through alumna Alex Skees ’11 (above, in the cockpit of a restored C-47).
In her role as Special Projects and Initiatives Coordinator of Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor (PAMPH), one of four historic sites at the United States naval base, Skees plans special education events for the museum’s education department.
Skees came to Hawaii from England after receiving an MA in museum education at University College London. She found a role at PAMPH with some help from a Centre connection and plenty of hard work.
“I wanted to move somewhere that was just as exciting to me as London had been,” she says. “I started looking for work in Honolulu because a fellow Centre alum and friend, Brandyn Fairchild ’11, lived there and had offered to let me stay with him until I got settled.
“From day one, I was applying and interviewing for museum jobs,” Skees continues. “In January, I was hired as a part-time independent contractor at PAMPH, working with the outreach program—which takes a wind tunnel, a flight simulator and science experiments to sixth grade classrooms across Hawaii for free.”
Skees joined the PAMPH education department as a full-time employee in time to participate in the planning for the 75th anniversary commemorative events taking place at Pearl Harbor this year. She and her colleagues have created lesson plans for teachers as well as presented special programs for students at the museum—including this week’s Blackened Canteen Youth Symposium, which brought together students from Honolulu and Japan to discuss reconciliation.
“Following the symposium, the students worked together to write a peace proclamation, in English and Japanese, which was then presented to the mayor of Nagaoka and the director of our museum,” Skees says. “It was an emotional day, and one that many students mentioned had a big impact on them.
“One student attendee in particular commented during the Q&A that she was using the event as a promise to herself to promote peace and reconciliation,” Skees continues. “That is the part of my job that I love: knowing that our work is making a difference.”
Though she may never have expected to find herself working at PAMPH, Skees says that her Centre education gave her the tools she needs to be successful in her job.
“My time at Centre certainly helped prepare me for this work,” Skees says. “The Centre community expects you to do your best and be your best. That expectation taught me a work ethic that has kept me going.
“And Centre’s global community and emphasis on study abroad taught me an appreciation and respect of other cultures, which has been a key lesson of our events for the Commemoration,” Skees adds. “There are countless other ways that Centre impacted where I am today.”
Skees feels rewarded by the tangible effects of her work at PAMPH, not just during the commemoration events, but every day.
“It’s hard to explain how it feels when you realize that your work is impacting someone for the better, but that is my favorite part of my job,” she says. “The experience of preparing for the commemoration has been a whirlwind, but I am so honored that I get to be here to continue teaching young people the history of this hallowed site.”
by Elizabeth Trollinger
December 9, 2016