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Thursday, April 26, 2012 - ATiB students share skills to honor World War II veteran, author

When World War II veteran Elson Spangler asked Professor Kieran Mathieson if the SBA's Applied Technology in Business (ATiB) students could help him build a website, Mathieson knew he was facing a win-win situation.

Not only would the project provide valuable real-world experience for students, it would give OU an opportunity to do something for Spangler, who has self-published a book about his wartime experiences.

“We waived the fee as a way to thank Mr. Spangler for his service,” says Mathieson, who assigned the project to first-year ATiB students in ATB 306, Business and Information Technology Foundations.

Normally, ATiB students receive a small stipend for the real-world projects they complete. Most of this work is done for businesses in the area.

“The students in the class are learning about websites now, so this project gives them real experience,” Mathieson says. “It’s their project; they’re in charge.”

An officer in the U.S. Army Air Corps, Spangler also was a lead squadron bombardier while serving in Foggia, Italy, from 1944 to 1945. A Bloomfield Hills resident, he was inspired to write a book after visiting the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.

“The Library of Congress had a tent there, and they were encouraging veterans to tell their stories,” Spangler says.

Armed with a Library of Congress writing kit, Spangler documented his wartime experiences. He wrote his book to be a tool for historians and included documents from his service days. “It’s a snapshot of the history of late World War II,” says Spangler. Since finishing the book, An American Flyer, Spangler has distributed 180 copies.

Those who’ve read the book have found Spangler’s story fascinating. Friends and family strongly encouraged him to create a website to get the book to a larger audience.

Oakland University seemed like a natural resource to turn to for help. Spangler, who’s currently taking a history class at the university, was directed to the SBA’s ATiB program by way of his daughter-in-law, a fellow OU student. That’s how Spangler and Mathieson connected.

After meeting with Mathieson’s class, Spangler was impressed with the talent. "With the ATiB students on the project, my website is getting professional assistance," he says.

And, with it, new ATiB students are getting real work experience right off the bat. Typically, as participating juniors and seniors progress through the minor program, they handle real projects for sponsoring organizations.

“My group and I are devoted to making Mr. Spangler’s website a personal and commercial success,” says economics and mathematics major Riley Andren of Rochester Hills, project coordinator. “ We believe Mr. Spangler will be quite impressed with the finished site.”

The goal for the site is to provide easy access to Spangler’s story; connect the public with Spangler, who accepts speaking requests; and establish an avenue for others to purchase Spangler’s book.

In addition to gaining real world experience, the students are gaining a new perspective on history. They found the information on Spangler's life -- and his book -- inspiring.

“I was amazed to learn about his experiences from World War II, especially the stories of when his plane was shot down. and the time he and his crew had to crash land in the Adriatic Sea,” says accounting major Leandra Kramer.

“It’s an honor to work with a hero of Mr. Spangler’s stature, and hopefully we can help spread his story,” adds accounting major Stephen Grassi of Troy.