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Educator says goodbye after 45 years at Tinker

Dr. Lola King has a self-proclaimed passion for education, counseling people on and off base to further their learning.  Dr. King retires today after 45 years at Tinker. (Air Force photo by Margo Wright)

Dr. Lola King has a self-proclaimed passion for education, counseling people on and off base to further their learning. Dr. King retires today after 45 years at Tinker. (Air Force photo by Margo Wright)

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- Just before graduating from Langston University in 1969, Lola King met a recruiter from Tinker Air Force Base. Just like that meeting changed her life, Dr. King has changed the lives of many.

Today, she retires from civil service after a 45-year career, which has been highlighted by the inspiration and encouragement of countless people.

Dr. King entered into the Quality Grad Program and was the first female African-American production controller at a Tinker welding shop. In 1975, Dr. King transferred to Tinker's Education office, following the completion of her Master's degree in Guidance and Counseling from Central State University, now the University of Central Oklahoma.

"I feel pretty successful, and it has been a good road," Dr. King said. "Of course it is an ambivalent feeling, too, since education is my passion."

Ask her and she will say that education lifted her up. She was on welfare and struggling to raise three children when she was picking cotton one very hot day and said, "God, there must be something better than this." She was the first one in her family to go to college and education has proven to open doors and opportunities.

Dr. King tells her education success story to anyone who will listen. Numerous people have gone back to school after receiving her advice. She has even seen former clients in airports during her travels. In the end, there is no telling how many people she's influenced with her impassioned encouragement.

"I have known Dr. King for 18 years and first met her at the base education office while I was on active duty," said Bob Sandlin, 72nd Air Base Wing director of Staff. "Dr. King personally helped me complete my VA Loan paperwork and gave me some great educational advice. I found out quickly of her passion for education and for helping others and have seen it many times over the last 18 years. Dr. King has been an icon in the ABW and Tinker AFB, her expertise and knowledge will be tough to replace. On a personal note, I'll miss Dr. King's jovial personality and lively laugh and wish her the best in retirement."

In 1975 Dr. King was a counselor and education specialist, which was part counseling and part administrative, and would plan events to reach out to the community. She moved to the education officer position after just two years. In 1984, she stepped down after facing resistance. People were hesitant to deal with a woman, she said. She returned to the education specialist position to return to counseling students.
In 1990, she was asked to return as the education officer.

"I'm the first black, first female and only person who has been hired three times for the same job," Dr. King said. She feels like she proved herself and set the standard for the job.

Dr. King stayed longer than she planned to make sure the office had experienced, quality people to serve the Tinker community.

"There are really good people there at the Education Office, so I'm confident," she said. "It is hard because it is a hands-on, people-oriented job. Enlisted people come in and need materials that are necessary to their career. There is no competition at all, they can't go somewhere else. We have to be there to provide the best service we can provide. I've got a great, great staff."

David Ragsdale, 72nd Force Support Squadron's Force Development Flight chief and her supervisor, said Dr. King truly cared about Airmen and dedicated herself to ensure each Airman could meet their educational goals. "She cared more about her job than anyone, and she was a wonderful employee, mentor and friend," he said. "She will be missed after all her years of dedicated service."

When asked about leaving her office, Dr. King said, "We're a small office, we're together all day. We've become a family. It will be hard, like leaving home, but I've got my retiree badge, so I'll be coming back to visit. It has been a rewarding career. What makes the journey special are the people you meet along the way. I'm happy."