UND Today

University of North Dakota’s Official News Source

Alumni Profile: Gordon Alvord and Rae Lutters

Seattle-area high school students profile two UND alumni based in the Emerald City

Gordon Alvord (l), owner of Rainier Flight Services in Renton, Wash. and Rae Lutters, program manager at Boeing Commercial Aircraft, are UND graduates who live in the Seattle area and were interviewed for a class project by students at Raisbeck Aviation High School in Tukwila, Wash. Submitted photos.

Editor’s Note: UND Today recently worked with a four-member team of students from Raisbeck Aviation High School in Tukwila, Wash., part of suburban Seattle, to create a profile article of two Seattle-area UND alumni. The students chose to profile Gordon Alvord and Rae Lutters. Alvord is a graduate of UND’s aviation school, the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences, and is currently owner of Rainier Flight Service, based in Renton, Wash. Lutters is a 2002 graduate of the UND College of Engineering & Mines, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. She was a first generation college student while at UND, and is a longtime employee of Boeing in Seattle. Below is the culmination of the students’ work, which actually was a class project for which they began researching in late 2023 and included an 11-page project proposal — completed before they started crafting the article. The students, Neeraj Ram (project lead), Arnav Goswami, (head of communications), Amilio Locson (lead researcher) and Gersam Mekonnen (lead writer), reached out to UND with the idea and the desire to write the article. — David Dodds, UND director of communications

An exemplary display of scholarly excellence, the University of North Dakota is well-known for both its rich academic offerings and active sense of community.

Distinguished graduates such as Seattle area alumni Gordon Alvord and Rae Lutters provide moving testimonies that illuminate profound benefits of UND’s transformative power of a nurturing environment on students’ intellectual and personal development.

Alvord’s experience at UND exemplifies the University’s dedication to immersive practical learning opportunities. His description of the capstone project, which explored the McDonnell Douglas DC3’s (a propeller-driven airliner popular in the 1930s and 40s) aerodynamic nuances, highlights UND’s instructional strategy, which adeptly integrates theoretical comprehension with practical implementation.

Alvord, who owns Rainier Flight Services in Renton, Wash., acquired a comprehensive knowledge of aerodynamics and honed his analytical and problem-solving skills during this project. This preparation proved instrumental in readying him for the challenges he would face in his subsequent roles as an airline pilot and entrepreneur. Alvord’s participation in fraternity life further demonstrates UND’s focus on developing robust peer networks and a feeling of community among its students. Alvord’s involvement in a fraternity extended beyond his academic endeavors, offering him chances for lifetime connections, leadership training and personal development that have enriched both his work and personal lives.

Rae Lutters

Rae Lutters’ story also provides moving insights into the supportive atmosphere at UND and the significant influence that mentoring has on students’ academic careers. Lutters, currently a program manager at Boeing Commercial Aircraft, gained excellent industrial experience and professional connections during her internship at Cirrus Design, in addition to enabling her to apply theoretical principles in a practical situation. Lutters gained the confidence and abilities required to be successful in her chosen field thanks to this practical experience as well as the advice and encouragement she received from mentors such as Cathy Jones and former UND engineering professor Joel Ness. While at UND, Lutters embraced UND’s dynamic campus environment and the myriad opportunities for students to engage with each other, augmenting their university experience. She engaged in various extracurricular activities, including serving as an undergraduate teaching assistant and participating in campus traditions like the Order of the Ring ceremony.

Similar to many students worldwide, Lutters faced challenges during her college years, yet she persevered through them. Lutters worked 40-plus hours a week alongside her college education. She worked as an undergraduate teaching assistant for four professors, she was a barista and a bartender at a local comedy club. One thing Lutters wishes she had done differently is spend more time being a part of University activities.

Lutters had the support of the UND community. Professor Ness played a pivotal role in Lutters’ academic journey, particularly in assisting her in overcoming test anxieties. Lutters expressed that his support and his belief in her were instrumental in her success.

Pictured here is the team of students from Raisbeck Aviation High School in Tukwila, Wash., who interviewed and profiled two UND graduates who live in the Seattle area and work in the field of aviation. From left to right, the students are Amilio Locson, lead researcher; Neeraj Ram, project lead; Arnav Goswami, head of communications; and Gersam Mekonnen, lead writer. Image courtesy of Raisbeck Aviation High School.

Supportive culture

The dedicated faculty at UND, who act as mentors, advisors, and supporters of students’ achievement, are at the center of the campus’s encouraging community. UND faculty members are essential in developing students’ intellectual curiosity and developing their abilities via lively classroom instruction, individualized academic advising and significant research opportunities. Beyond the classroom, faculty members frequently mentor and advise student clubs, research projects and other extracurricular activities, demonstrating UND’s dedication to developing excellent faculty-student partnerships. A sense of connection and belonging within the UND community is also fostered by this individualized mentorship, which improves students’ academic experiences.

Moreover, UND’s dedication to diversity and inclusion strengthens the bonds within the community by creating an atmosphere in which individuals from diverse backgrounds are acknowledged, made to feel valued and given the necessary resources for their success. Programs such as diversity seminars, cultural gatherings and inclusive programming, help UND’s student population experience a sense of unity and connection, dismantling obstacles to achieving a feeling of equality. In addition, UND is dedicated to promoting an inclusive culture, which is reflected in its rules and procedures, which guarantee that all University community members have the resources and encouragement they need to succeed in their academic and personal endeavors. Consequently, graduates from UND emerge not only as highly qualified academics but also as compassionate, culturally aware leaders prepared to make a positive impact in an increasingly diverse world.   

Encouraging students to succeed academically, professionally and personally is a key component of UND’s unique campus community. Students at UND are able to reach their maximum potential through the supportive supervision of dedicated faculty members, the friendship of fellow students and the chances for experiential learning and personal development. Prospective students will find reassurance in the knowledge that they  will join a vibrant community at UND, one that will inspire, uplift and provide unwavering support at every step.

Written by Neeraj Ram and Arnav Goswami

Raisbeck Aviation High School in Tukwila, Wash., is an aviation- and aerospace-themed STEM school and one of the Highline School District’s “Choice” schools. It is located next to the Museum of Flight’s Aviation Pavilion exhibit near King County International Airport. Photo attribution:: Architectsea at English Wikipedia