Brigadier General Philip J. Erdle, USAF (Ret) passed away unexpectedly Saturday evening at a Colorado Springs hospital at the age of 82. General Erdle was a career Air Force officer, entrepreneur, and philanthropist establishing foundations for the benefit of the United States Air Force Academy, his church, and numerous other concerns. In addition, General Erdle's business creativity has resulted in ongoing opportunities for many in both our local and national communities.
General Erdle was a native of Bethlehem, PA, and earned a bachelor of science degree from the U.S. Military Academy. He married Bucknell graduate Carolyn Mary Knies upon his graduation and immediately entered the fledgling U.S. Air Force. General Erdle was a command pilot, flying dozens of aircraft throughout his Air Force career, most notably the F-84, F-100, and T-33. After several years in the cockpit, he earned a master's degree from the University of Michigan, and eventually his doctorate from the University of Colorado.
General Erdle was among the first academic cadre instructors when the U.S. Air Force Academy opened its doors at its permanent location in Colorado Springs. He spent the remainder of his military career at the Academy, retiring in 1979. General Erdle's career at the Academy was truly remarkable. He was the youngest colonel in the Air Force when he was appointed the Academy's 13th Permanent Professor. He served as the Permanent Professor of Engineering Sciences (1964-1965), and subsequently as the Permanent Professor for the newly designated Department of Engineering Mechanics (1965-1973). He also served as the 6th Vice Dean of the Faculty (1973-1979).
Following his retirement from the Air Force, General Erdle worked for the Bechtel Corporation, establishing an educational system in Jubail, Saudi Arabia, for the Bechtel operation there, where he managed numerous educational contracts that helped transform the educational system of the Kingdom. Upon returning to Colorado, he founded the International Education Foundation, mentoring small, minority owned businesses in a first-of-its-kind business incubator in Colorado Springs. In 1984, General Erdle co-founded the Academy Research and Development Institute (ARDI), establishing and managing endowed professorial chairs for the Air Force Academy, subsequently serving as the ARDI President and CEO.
General Erdle and ARDI have been major supporters of both the Dean of Faculty and Air Force Academy missions for more than a quarter of a century. In recognition of his contributions, General Erdle was named an honorary member of the USAFA Association of Graduates and is also a recipient of the Superintendent's Award for Distinguished Service to the United States Air Force and the Air Force Academy. In 2002, the Philip J. Erdle Chair in Engineering Science was designated in his honor, and he also holds the title of Permanent Professor Emeritus.
Funeral services will be held at the Air Force Academy Cadet Catholic Chapel on Monday, 3 June, at 10 AM, with military honors burial at the Academy cemetery and reception to follow at Doolittle Hall. He is survived by his wife of 61 years, the former Carolyn Knies; five children, Patti (Don) MacIver,
Col. (Ret) Mick (Tamara) Erdle, Ann Erdle, Terry (Nicki) Erdle, and Marti (Dan) Longo; fifteen grandchildren, and two great grandchildren. For those desiring to express their personal condolences they may be forwarded to his wife at: Mrs. Carolyn Erdle, 3810 Camels View, Colorado Springs, CO 80904.
In lieu of flowers or a memorial fund, the family requests donations be sent to:
The Philip J. Erdle Chair in Engineering Science, The Academy Research & Development Institute, 1490 Garden of the Gods Road, Suite A, Colorado Springs, CO 80907.