Alumnus is a Flying Angel

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A volunteer pilot with a charity that ferries patients to doctors, Bryan Eastman ’99 is a man on a mission.

Bryan Eastman ’99 was 10 years old when his legs went up in flames. He was playing with fire in the driveway of a friend’s house in Knoxville, Tenn., and spent the next five weeks in the hospital.  

“It was just one of those big screwups you sometimes have as a kid,” he says. “Burns are some of the worst pain on Earth. It was not a fun situation, but you grow from that. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right?” 

Thirty-five years later, the scars, while barely noticeable, are still there. But what’s also there is an empathy and a connection with other burn victims who end up in the air with him in his six-seater Bonanza A36. A volunteer with Angel Flight, which offers free flights to those with severe medical needs, Eastman has ferried patients from their homes around the Southeast to the largest treatment center in the country, the Joseph M. Still Burn Center in Augusta, Ga., for follow-up appointments.  

“If it’s somebody I haven’t flown before, then it’s an interesting connection to have with the patients,” says Eastman, who has completed about 50 flights with the charity since he began volunteering a decade ago. “The patients are typically very pleased that you’re affording your time and your aircraft, but it’s always nice to be able to connect with them on a personal level as well and just let them know that other people have gone through what they’re going through.” 

The youngest of three boys, Eastman began flying in high school, inspired by his grandfather, Donald Eastman II, who was a test pilot in the Army Air Corps in World War II and a pathbreaking aeronautical engineer who became chief of research for the Air Force.  

“So I guess I just kind of had some of that in my blood,” says Eastman, who paid for his pilot’s training by working at a car wash during high school in Athens, Ga., where his dad was vice president of development at the University of Georgia and his mom was a schoolteacher.

He decided to attend the College after visiting his older brother Andrew ’97 one weekend and liking how intimate CofC felt compared to UGA, where he had taken summer classes. 

A business major, he also enjoyed the business executives who had retired to the Charleston area and taught many of the classes – people like real estate teacher Perry Woodside.  

“I had some sharp professors who knew what they were talking about,” says Eastman. “They had all this experience to convey, which was just awesome.” 

After five years working for IBM in Atlanta following graduation, Eastman got into real estate himself, renovating and selling houses with a partner he met at IBM. Today, Stokesman Luxury Homes is a premier custom homebuilder with about 40 homes to its credit. 

“It’s always neat to start from scratch and end up with a really beautiful product,” says Eastman, who also serves on the Alumni Association’s Board of Directors. “You just get a good sense of achievement.” 

Eastman travels to Charleston often for alumni events. The trip takes him about an hour and 20 minutes in his Bonanza.

“I’ve worn that route out over the years,” he says with a laugh. “It’s a good mission for that plane because that drive is not the most fun drive.” 

One of many good missions. 

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