Next Story

Finding a home at Auburn through scholarship

By Lauren Winton

Published: Sep 27, 2021 8:00:00 AM

Jim and Bertha Hoskins Jim and Bertha Hoskins

In many ways, Jim and Bertha Hoskins did not pick Auburn, but Auburn seemed to pick them. Jim, a 1981 electrical engineering graduate, was an enlisted officer in the United States Air Force at the time. He was sent to Auburn on scholarship.

“Jim had applied for a scholarship, but at the time we didn’t think he had gotten it, because we received orders that he was to go to Athens, Greece,” said Bertha, a 1980 accountancy graduate. “The Air Force was supposed to take his name out of the running for the scholarship, but then we received a letter from the commanding general that said ‘congratulations’ and that Jim was to be the first airman from Electronic Security Command to receive this scholarship from the Air Force.”

“I took the letter to the education officer on base and showed him the letter. He was not going to tell the general that an admin error would keep his first Airman from receiving this prestigious scholarship, so I got to Auburn because of these other forces at play,” said Jim.

The Hoskins knew very little about Auburn beyond football; they grew up during the Pat Sullivan years. But Jim did know that the scholarship directive would take him to a school with a good engineering program.

“As the Vietnam war ended and moved from the draft, to all volunteer force, they realized they would need to attract engineers for a modern high tech military. Knowing how competitive that challenge would be, they created a special scholarship program to grow their own talent. So, not only did the Air Force pick Auburn, they also directed that I study electrical engineering,” Jim said.

“Auburn was just another place the military assigned Jim to, but it became so much more to us,” Bertha added.

Once they were on the Plains, Jim and Bertha noticed something different about the students, faculty and staff on Auburn’s campus.

“The biggest takeaway I got from my time at Auburn was not just my technical education – it was the value system at Auburn that really stayed with me,” Jim said. “There’s a community. A sense of being willing to work hard, to be patriotic, to show respect and tolerance for everyone. Auburn has this unique characteristic, and we saw it everywhere on campus.”

“Auburn for us had a blue collar feel to it,” Bertha said. “It was as if you could feel the pride everyone took in hard work. There was a sense of earning everything you receive and they came to Auburn with the hope of working hard and expecting a bright future.”

After graduating, the Air Force sent the Hoskins to Maryland, where Jim worked for the National Security Agency (NSA) and Bertha worked as a CPA.

At the NSA, Jim put his engineering degree to work and developed a computer to monitor the specialized communications of foreign targets of the highest national priority.

“This was before we had IBM PCs and specialized technology like what we have now. The computer I created was mass produced and used extensively in the field. And I actually learned the skills to create it from Professor David Irwin at Auburn,” said Jim.

Jim worked for a number of government intelligence agencies, including the National Reconnaissance Office and the CIA. As they moved, Bertha continued her work as a CPA.

“When Jim and I were living in California, I was working as a CPA for Hughes Aircraft. There was one occasion where a highly specialized antenna team in my department turned in a high value expense report that included leasing of an RV for an extended period to perform a space system experiment in several remote areas of the Southwest. I had to sign off on the expense for the engineers to be reimbursed, Bertha said with a laugh. “It just so happened that I eventually learned the experiment was under Jim’s direction, and I was the one who had to give the final approval.”

“So you can see how the approval process takes place both at work and at home,” Jim replied.

After working in the government, Jim joined Scitor Corporation, a leading provider of engineering systems and information to the intelligence community. At Scitor, Jim was quickly promoted to president and CEO.

Since retiring, Jim and Bertha have looked once again to the campus that they hold dear to their hearts. They have generously given back to the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering through unrestricted and Keystone funds.

“Having run a very large business, I understand how restricted funds can be limiting and inefficient,” Jim said. “The key to giving unrestricted funds is trust.”

The Hoskins have given substantially to the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering both through cash gifts and planned gifts from their estate.

“As you can see, we place great trust in Chris Roberts,” said Bertha.

The Hoskins love Auburn, from football to engineering, and they especially enjoy the Auburn Family. For a couple who did not choose Auburn, they found their home on the Plains and they love it.

Media Contact: Lauren Winton, lmw0090@auburn.edu, 334.844.5519

Recent Headlines