Jan Collmer was born in Dallas on December 6, 1934 to Joseph G. and Rosemary Collmer. He worked hard to attend Jesuit College Prep, where he learned to be “a man for others.”
In 1954, he earned an Associate’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from Arlington State College, and promptly entered Naval flight training in Pensacola, Florida. He loved the cockpit from the moment he first climbed in.
Jan married his college sweetheart, Suzanne McKevitt in 1955, and the two moved to Brunswick, Georgia where their first child was born. Jan retired from active duty in 1958 as Lt. Commander and continued as a reserve pilot at NAS Dallas until 1966.
He enrolled at UT Arlington and while working days at Texas Instruments and Varo Inc., earned his B.S. in Mathematics in 1963. Hard work and long hours never daunted Jan Collmer. In 1979, he founded Collmer Semiconductor Inc., which grew from a one-man office into a thriving corporation employing hundreds. His 50-year business career was complemented by professional and civic associations including Southwest Securities, American Electronics Association, Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Young Presidents Organization, Dallas Council on World Affairs, Rotary, Texans for Lawsuit Reform, Zale Lipshy University Hospital and the Texas Aerospace Commission, among others. He was a board member and chairman of many organizations, most notably Chairman of the Greater Dallas Chamber and the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.
Jan believed that education was the key to a successful life and greatly desired to see young people offered a chance at excellence. He personally provided scholarships for individual students and served on the boards of Jesuit College Prep, Ursuline Academy, Dallas County Community College District Foundation, UT Arlington, UT Dallas and the University of Dallas, among others. Jan was inspired to share the lessons he’d learned during his broad career and in 2012, published a book, “Go Start Something: Live Life on the Edge.”
Jan had the heart of a pilot and was always grateful for the ability to fly. He took up aerobatics as a hobby, then achieved international notoriety for his airshow performances all over the country. He introduced thousands of enthusiasts to aerobatic flight from the cockpits of his Pitts and Extra 300L aircraft, hoping to ignite their interest in science, math and engineering. He was a member of the Quiet Birdmen, Confederate Air Force, Navy League, Experimental Aircraft Association, International Council of Air Shows and others, serving on the board of many of them.
One of his proudest accomplishments was the creation of the Frontiers of Flight Museum at Dallas Love Field, which he co-founded with William Cooper and Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson. He joyfully gave his heart to the Museum and even to his last days, encouraged his nurses and doctors to take their children to visit the collection.
Jan was proud to serve on the UT Southwestern Medical School Board of Visitors, Catholic Foundation, UTD History of Aviation Collection, Dallas Museum of Natural History and his beloved Frontiers of Flight Museum. He was also very devoted to his Junto and Forum groups, associations of many years’ duration. Multitudes of awards were conferred on Jan, including Distinguished Alumnus of both Jesuit and UT Arlington, George Haddaway Aviation Achievement, the Charlie Hillard Aviation Excellence Award and the Award for Special Achievements in Aviation from the International Council of Airshows, among many others.