J. Robert Duncan

Inducted June 16, 2001


Pilot. St. DeGraph Chapter

Clarinda, IA

J. Robert Duncan has airplanes in his blood. Duncan has been around airplanes since he was very young. In 1956, Duncan's father, Donald, started Duncan Aviation with the purchase of the Beechcraft distributorship in Omaha, Nebraska. The younger Duncan was just in his teens when he took the initiative to learn everything he could about aviation.

Duncan took flying lessons in 1958. While he was still in high school, Duncan began flying charter for Duncan Aviation. Soon, he sold his first aircraft. After high school, Duncan attended Northwestern University. Once he graduated from college, Duncan married Karen Kent and they both began working for Duncan Aviation in Lincoln, Nebraska. At that time Duncan Aviation was made up of just fifteen employees. A year later, Duncan became the general manager; in 1968, Duncan was elected president of the company. By that time, Duncan's integrity was well-known.

While Duncan took to the company and began a very successful climb up the corporate ladder, Duncan's real success has been in his employees. As Duncan himself states on his company's web site: "My philosophy has always been to hire the brightest and the best, treat them well, and empower them to make their own decisions."

Duncan Aviation's people-first reputation for treating employee's right came to a head in 2001, as Fortune Magazine named Duncan Aviation on of the 100 Best Companies to Work For.

What began as a small family-owned business now has over 1,700 employees across the United States. Duncan Aviation is the largest family-owned aircraft support facility in North America. Robert and Karen's two children, Todd and Paige, work for Duncan Aviation; Todd is responsible for components, a significant division of the Company, and Paige works as a director of the family banks and manages the family charitable foundation.

Duncan was initiated into St. DeGraph Chapter DeMolay in Clarinda, Iowa, in 1957. He is a Legion of Honor recipient. Duncan was inducted into the DeMolay Hall of Fame on June 16, 2001.

"I credit my family and business success to the values that I was taught; values that include respect from everyone, trusting others, and working as a team. Those values came from my parents, my school, and organizations such as DeMolay. I have always enjoyed and benefited from interaction with others - DeMolay was one of my first experiences in that regard. I would encourage all young people to listen and learn - your values are with you all your life."