Frank Hatten, Boeing Global Engagement education relations specialist, was born and raised in Tuskegee, Alabama, and has felt connected to its legacy his whole life. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Tuskegee University, following in the footsteps of his mother, who is also a graduate. Both Hatten’s sons would also become alumni of Tuskegee University.
“Tuskegee is my home, and that community helped define who I am today,” said Hatten, who is still actively involved with the Tuskegee National Alumni Association, Columbia chapter, and the Tuskegee Human Rights and Multicultural Center.
When Hatten cheers on his alma mater during football season, one game will have a special significance for him.
Earlier this year, ESPN Events announced the creation of the Red Tails Classic to celebrate historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and honor the Tuskegee Airmen who fought in World War II. Boeing has signed on to be the title sponsor of the Boeing Red Tails Classic college football kickoff game for the next three years. The inaugural game against Tuskegee University and Fort Valley State University will be on Sunday, Sept. 5 at the historic Cramton Bowl in Montgomery, Alabama.
“I’m proud that my company will have such an impact on not just my university but also my home town,” said Hatten. “The legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen and Tuskegee University will forever be part of my history. This game is another way we can honor the Airmen, their families and the community who embraces them.”
Trained and based in Alabama during World War II, the Tuskegee Airmen were the first Black military pilots in the U.S. Army Air Corps. Flying more than 15,000 individual sorties in Europe and North Africa over two years, the Tuskegee Airmen’s service directly contributed to the desegregation of the U.S. Armed Forces. The Tuskegee name also encompasses members of the Air Corps, including navigators, bombardiers, mechanics, instructors, crew chiefs, nurses, cooks and other support personnel. To stand out among other units, the Airmen painted the tails of their aircraft red, which is where the nickname ‘Red Tails’ was born. The B-25 Mitchell bomber used by the Tuskegee Airmen in training was manufactured by North American Aviation – a Boeing heritage company. Boeing’s T-7A Red Hawk builds off the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, paying tribute to the legends of the past and the heroes of the future.
“Boeing is pleased to pay tribute to the Tuskegee Airmen and celebrate the contributions of HBCU graduates by sponsoring ESPN’s inaugural Red Tails Classic,” said Ted Colbert, president and CEO of Boeing Global Services. “As a proud HBCU graduate, I am gratified by Boeing’s dedicated efforts to advance a more equitable future for our employees and our communities.”
For more than a decade, Boeing has worked closely with students, faculty and education administrators to support and empower underserved and minority populations. Since 2018, Boeing has invested more than $10 million in HBCU partnerships and increased HBCU intern hiring by more than 400%. This includes a partnership between Boeing and Allen University, unveiled in 2020, to establish the Boeing Institute on Civility, which will be a national hub for teaching and provide programming aimed at advancing civil discourse in America and across the globe. Boeing’s competitive paid internship program welcomed nearly 100 HBCU students in 2020.
“My hope is that more companies will follow Boeing’s lead and keep investing in our HBCUs and their communities to allow for greater opportunities and access for their students,” Hatten said.
Boeing’s sponsorship will also include a presence in the ESPN FanZone on game day as well as commercial spots to air during the broadcast on ESPNU. There will also be a P-51 flyover during half time. Stay tuned to BNN for more updates on the Boeing Red Tails Classic.
Click here to read the full press release about the Boeing Red Tails Classic.