Education, business, computer science, and engineering students walking through Sacred Heart University’s West Campus can find inspiration in a new glass showcase that highlights the achievements of an inventor and innovator—Igor I. Sikorsky. West Campus is now home to the Igor I. Sikorsky Historical Archives, which manages and protects the material associated with Sikorsky’s ideas and inventions and makes it accessible for educational and historical purposes. Among his many achievements, Igor I. Sikorsky formed the Sikorsky Aero Engineering Corporation in 1923 and developed the first practical helicopter in 1939.
A display case outside the newly dedicated offices near SHU’s IDEA Lab on the West Building’s first floor contains blueprints, aircraft photographs, and models that represent Sikorsky’s accomplishments. Students, faculty, and staff can view the models of many of Sikorsky’s fixed and rotary-winged aircraft as well as historical information of Igor Sikorsky’s life. They also can step into the offices and talk with archive volunteers. These retirees spent decades working in Sikorsky’s engineering, management, manufacturing, administration, after-market support, information technology, and communications departments.
“We are so happy to be here,” said Ed Sullivan, an archive volunteer who worked at Sikorsky for 41 years. “It’s just wonderful,” he added, indicating that the new accommodations, including an office for the volunteers, a conference room, and a separate space for storage of valuable research material. He enjoys aviation history and the spirit of being part of the nonprofit Igor I. Sikorsky Historical Archives group. Dan Libertino, the group’s president, recently joined the Sacred Heart community, volunteers, and Sikorsky officials at SHU’s West Campus to celebrate the grand opening of the new archive space. Libertino, after whom the new conference room is named, told the others he is thrilled the collection has found a permanent home.
Libertino’s connection to helicopters started before he worked for Sikorsky. He joined the Air Force and went to aviation school. He was one of two in his class of 200 to be chosen to attend specialized helicopter maintenance school. He recalled having to ask someone, “What’s a helicopter?” Later he worked for Sikorsky as a field service representative and then as a helicopter manufacturing manager representing American and international accounts. “Today marks the first day of a beautiful friendship,” Libertino said. “We have a new home, a powerful teaching home.”
SHU President John J. Petillo said the University is an ideal location for the collection. “We are delighted to celebrate the final home for the archives. This is a great inspiration for our students, and we can only hope they’re inspired and motivated by Igor Sikorsky’s innovative mind,” he said. Petillo said Sikorsky’s name is synonymous with creativity, and he believes students interested in science, technology, engineering, and math will reflect on the man’s many achievements when they pass the new archive offices. “We’re happy to welcome a true pioneer—Sikorsky,” Petillo said. “We’re honored to be entrusted with the archives.”
Paul Lemmo, Sikorsky’s president, said the collection is a national treasure that deserves preservation. Sergei Sikorsky, Igor Sikorsky’s son, agreed, telling those gathered for the dedication that the collection represents history. “These are archives in all honesty. They record the birth and growth of aviation dating back to 1909,” he said.