Former Flight Engineer Helps USD Students Reach New Heights
The large bay window on the second floor of Mel Clause's San Diego home provides a panoramic view of Lindbergh Field, a place where hopes and dreams have taken flight for more than 80 years.
On this sultry mid-summer's day, it seems Lindbergh's runways are overrun with all varieties of sleek modern aircraft; their arrivals and departures signaled by the deafening roar of engines powerful enough to propel them to the farthest reaches of the planet.
Clause regards the chaotic scene unfolding before him with a quietly dignified air. With 37 years of professional experience in the aviation industry — including stints as a mechanic, pilot, flight engineer and field service engineer — the 91 year old has been there, and done that.
"One of the great parts of working in flight travel was that business allowed me to visit places I normally never would have had the chance to see," Clause says. "I've had many years overseas, including stops in Finland, Switzerland, Africa, all over Europe, Pakistan ... shoot, you name it, and I've probably been there."
Clause's career path allowed him the opportunity to work on some of the most extraordinary aircraft in the history of American aviation. He was first engineer on the six-engine XC-99 cargo plane — at the time was the largest aircraft in the world - and logged many hours as flight engineer aboard the 10-engine B-36 bomber, one of the largest combat aircraft ever built.
While his flying days may have come to an end, Clause still takes great pride in the fact that he and his late wife, Phyllis McArdle Clause, will provide students at the University of San Diego their own opportunity to soar.
After her passing in early March of this year, Mel Clause worked with USD's Office of Planned Giving to establish the Phyllis McArdle Clause Endowed Scholarship Fund, which is awarded to undergraduate students who are majoring in psychology, sociology or economics, or to graduate students seeking a Master of Arts in counseling with a specialization in school counseling.
For Clause, it seemed only natural to provide students the resources they need to pursue their academic and professional aspirations in a field of study his wife was extremely passionate about.
"Phyllis was always very generous with her time, and was involved with a number of charities," Clause says, "but she really loved working with students. That was something that was very much at the core of her."
As a long-time educator and school counselor in the Granite School District in Salt Lake City, Utah, Phyllis McArdle Clause was greatly respected by colleagues and students alike, and received a number of educational service awards, including the Utah State Counselor of the Year award in 1976, which honored her 25 years of service as a high school counselor.
That same year, Mel Clause was visiting his native Idaho, and received a fateful phone call from his niece asking if he would be interested in taking her place on a camping trip she had planned with a friend from work.
"My niece called me one day and asked if I would take her spot on a camping trip that she was going on with a friend," Clause says, smiling at the memory. "She had to cancel at the last minute, but thought that I might have a good time on the trip, so I decided I'd go. Best decision I ever made!"
His niece's friend turned out to be Phyllis McArdle, and according to Clause, it was love at first sight.
"After spending 10 minutes with Phyllis, I started to wonder where she had been all my life!" he exclaims. They would marry in 1980, and, over the course of the next 27 years, lend their time and energies to a variety of charitable organizations.
All the while, Phyllis McArdle Clause never lost her passion for education and counseling. Mel Clause hopes his contribution to USD will help future generations follow in her path.
"Basically, I wanted to try and honor her legacy by creating this scholarship," Clause says. "Phyllis was truly one in a million."
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