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It was almost business as usual at the newly completed James Hagedorn Aviation Complex on Friday, Sept. 9: students commanding airplanes Standing in front of the flight line and beneath a monumental stainless-steel sculpture, Embry-Riddle President and CEO John P. Johnson, Ph.D., described the occasion as an “historic event” for the university. John P. Riddle and T. Higbee Embry opened doors for the birth of this university with a small hangar and office on a single airstrip in 1925 with the dream of making aviation a safe part of everyday life in the United States, he said.

“Here we are today, an airstrip is center once again and we’re looking at the number and quality of people here today and… I think we can all agree that their vision has truly been achieved,” Johnson said. “In dedicating these buildings, what we are really doing here is celebrating the realization of a shared dream and the culmination of all the human effort that went into making that dream a reality.”

That dream started to take shape when construction began in 2009, following the demolition of the 37-year-old Gill Robb Wilson Flight Training Center. The three new buildings at the Hagedorn Complex add 97,000 square feet for facility now consisting of seven buildings and designed to serve 2,000-plus students.  

The main buildings include the Flight Operations, the Emil Buehler Aviation Maintenance and Sciences building and the Sam Goldman Fleet Maintenance Hangar.

Flight Operations is a two-story building housing offices, dispatch, debriefing, classrooms, a control tower and observation lounge and additional spaces. The Emil Buehler building contains classrooms and laboratories, and an outside observation deck that can be used for receptions and other functions for a panoramic view of the university flight line and Daytona International Airport runways, tower and terminal.

Finishing touches continue on the “Pathways to the Sky” sculpture, which took center stage for the ribbon cutting ceremony. The sculpture rises nearly 20 feet and is located between the new Flight Operations Center and the Emil Buehler Aviation Maintenance Science buildings. The arches of the sculpture gradually transform into an eagle with a beak that morphs into the shape of a spaceship to symbolize the limitless possibilities of flight and the paths that led to the development of aviation and education in the field.  

The complex has undergone remarkable changes from the way things were for students in the 1970s, said board of trustee member and donor James Hagedorn (’79, DB).  Now, he said, the facility matches the caliber of its instructors and its students.

“For those of us who aviate, this is a temple. It’s a temple of aviation and it’s a temple of dreams for a lot of people who walk in those doors and walk out aviators,” said Hagedorn, CEO of Scotts Miracle-Gro Company. “It doesn’t get much better than that.”

Johnson said this is the first of many construction projects at the university—some of which are already under way, such as the new Jim W. Henderson Administration and Welcome Center on Clyde Morris Boulevard. It is slated for completion in early 2012.

Architects are also designing the new College of Arts & Sciences building to be completed in 2013. A new Student Union and Athletic Services building is planned for completion in 2015, and an Academic and Research Center is slated for 2016.

"Like they say in the news business, stay tuned,” Johnson said. “In the next five years you’re going to see a lot of construction. It’s going to add to our capabilities as an institution.”

Embry-Riddle’s campus in Prescott, Ariz. has also added new facilities in recent years. The Academic Complex opened in 2004, the Visitor Center in 2006, the Robertson Aviation Safety Center II in 2009, and three new buildings were completed in 2008—the Christine and Steven Udvar-Hazy Library and Learning Center, the Fred and Fay Haas Memorial Interfaith Chapel, and a dining hall.