Michael E. Gonzales
C. Wayne Williams Alumni Award
Michael E. Gonzales, ’04, retired from the U.S. Air Force as a master sergeant and returned to his hometown of Parker, Ariz., where he now gives back to his community as a medical caseworker for the Colorado River Indian Tribes.
Gonzales enlisted in the Air Force in 1980 and began his 25-year military career as a missile facilities technician. After a year as a civilian Air Force employee, he returned to Parker and enlisted in the Army National Guard where he served as an ammunition storage specialist. Continuing his service, he then went back to the Air Force in Security Forces and eventually was cross-trained in the information management field.
Working on his educational goals, he earned two associate degrees—one in security administration in 1995 and another in information management in 1997 that earned him an Eagle Grant from the Air Force Association for academic excellence. Gonzales transferred to the 109th Airlift Wing in 2000 and started work on a bachelor’s degree the following year, but the events of 9/11 interrupted his education when he was deployed. Eventually, he continued his studies and completed his degree at Excelsior College.
After retiring from the service in 2006, he became a high school aerospace science instructor, instilling the Air Force core values of Integrity First, Service Before Self, and Excellence in All We Do to his AFJROTC unit. Several of his cadets went into various branches of the armed forces and some were accepted into the service academies.
He left his educational career to help others as an employee of different government agencies before returning home to take on the responsibilities of a medical caseworker. “Excelsior College educates us to live and share life,” he said.