90 Years of Embry-Riddle

In 2016, Embry-Riddle celebrated the 90th anniversary of its origin. What started in 1926 as an aircraft sales and flight training company at Lunken Field, Ohio, is today the world’s largest, fully-accredited university specializing in aviation and aerospace.

To commemorate our anniversary, we collected stories from the last 90 years. See some of the stories alumni have submitted below. Thanks for reminiscing with us!

Stories from the 90 Years of Embry-Riddle

1950s | 1960s | 1970s | 1980s | 1990s | 2000s


Allen LeBlanc (’54, MC, Non-degree)

I am so old and have so many experiences in aviation that I cannot possibly write about them all.  The same goes for photos.  You will find me in your records and deduce my age, I am a true graduate of Embry-Riddle and graduated from the school when it was located in Miami.  I left with a Private Pilot license and an A&E Mechanic license and have had more than 45 years of a romantic aviation history. I retired after creating a Federal Aviation Administration-approved Airframe and Powerplant school in Lafayette. La.  I would be happy to be interviewed over the telephone.  Be prepared, though, over 45 years will take a lot of interviewing time.

I did visit the Daytona Beach facility in the past, but I was disappointed not to be able to find the [proper] building or someone to escort my wife and me to the reception office.  We did find the visitor and student shop, where we bought over $300 worth of items for friends and family.

Submitted: May 17, 2015


Robert Baughman (’55, MC)

I attended Embry-Riddle at Miami and at Tamiami in 1955.


Howard Mischel (’57, MC)

Shortly after graduation, I was hired by Riddle Airlines as a draftsman, later becoming assistant chief engineer of aircraft maintenance. One great memory was meeting and working for John Paul Riddle. He was a mentor to a very young engineer and gave me my head to engineer modifications on our fleet of surplus World War II aircraft and carry them through design, fabrication and flight testing. He even had me prepare and author an analysis of the wing structure of the C-46 that the Civil Aeronautics Authority accepted for worldwide revision of flight manuals to allow higher speeds for flap actuation. It was a great experience for a 21-year-old graduate who had only one year of employment.

Another cherished memory of that time was being present when the first Boeing 707 arrived and was delivered to Pan American Airways in Miami. In 1958 I was recruited (lured) by Ryan Aeronautical Company to come to San Diego and work on the Boeing KC135 aft fuselage, the Douglas DC8 engine pylons and pods, and the Ryan Q2C supersonic drones. Layoffs were common in the late 1950s, and I was then hired by General Dynamics Astronautics Division and worked on the Atlas ICBM and Mercury launch version. I then spent most of the 1960s working at Solar Aircraft as senior project engineer and supervisor of aerospace systems, responsible for most flight fuel and oxidizer lines on each of the Saturn Apollo stages. I was also program manager and principle investigator of NASA funded research on advancing the state-of-the-art in cryogenic flight ducting and materials. In the 1970s I transitioned into applying my knowledge into industrial applications in petrochemical, refining, and fossil and nuclear power generation. I then became international marketing manager, and later executive vice president and general manager of RM engineered Products in Charleston, S.C. I retired in 1994 and have since been doing consulting worldwide in product applications engineering, client training, improvements, problem solving, and failure analysis.

​Submitted: July 27, 2015


Richard “Dick” Keenan (’59, MC)

It was Aug. 21, 1956, at the Air Force Base in Portland, Ore., where I received my discharge papers from the U.S. Air Force. I was married with a small boy named Daniel. Later in life, Dan would become a U.S. Marine Corps aviator and a pilot for Pan Am and TWA Express. We left Portland the day after I was discharged, and after stopping in Wichita to see my parents and leaving my wife and son with them, I continued to Miami, Fla., in my 1950 Chevy. I arrived three days later and in position to start my classes with Embry-Riddle in conjunction with the University of Miami. The course was called the Business Pilot course.

We took our aviation courses and others at the university leading to a B.A. degree with a major in Aviation. We did our flying at the old Tamiami Airport on 8th Street, across from Sweetwater where we did our “hangar flying” and enjoyed libations. The airport is no more.

I had my private pilot certificate and was working on my commercial and multi engine ratings. Our chief pilot was Mr. Delgado. My multi-engine training went well using the E-R T-50, also known as the "Bamboo Bomber," because it was made of wood (no joke) and powered by two Jacobs 245 hp engines. I eventually qualified for my commercial, instrument, multi engine and certified flight instructor/instrument ratings. I started working for Embry-Riddle right away.  One of my instrument students managed to get me a job as co-pilot on a C-46 flying from my Miami to Lima, Peru with stops, which is another story. The C-46 time got me interviewed and hired by Northeast Airlines as a DC-3 co-pilot.  After several months of flying around New England, my class was put in flight engineer school and the first day we were taught how to rebuild a DC-3 P&W carburetor. Not for me!  National Airlines (NAL) was hiring, so I left Boston for Miami and was hired by National as a co-pilot on the Convair 340 and 440. After a few months, my class received a seasonal furlough and I landed a job with TACA Airlines based in New Orleans. TACA was the flag carrier of El Salvador (another story).  I was there for five years flying the DC-4 and Viscount co-pilot, and after several years received my ATR and DC-4 type ratings.  In January of 1965, I was rehired by NAL flying co-pilot on several different type aircraft and for many years as B727 captain.

In 1980, NAL was bought by Pan Am and I spent the next 10 years flying wide body jets, DC-10 and Airbus A300, before Pan Am went out of business in 1991. If anyone is interested, my favorite airplane of all time was the A300.

The last classmate I kept up with from 1956 was Bill McMillin. He died last year. Another was John Richards who was hired by Delta in the early 60s and we’ve since lost contact.  John, are you still out there?

I am now living on an old farm in Western North Carolina with my wife, Gail, and our dog Nick and eight cats.

I am 81 and in good health and it has been kind of fun writing this update, and I am sure you realize there is a lot more that could be written but …

"Keep the Blue Side Up!"


Roger Aderman ('63, MC)

Following are two of my most memorable Embry-Riddle moments. First, I was in a structures class taught by Joe Biondo. We had a test and the last problem had two equations to solve the problem. I don’t remember the problem, but you just needed to select the correct equation and plug in the numbers to solve it. The equations were identical, except for an extra term at the end of one equation. After the grades were given out, I was talking with Mr. Biondo and he asked me to look at one of the answers. The student had selected the equation with the extra term which was incorrect and still got the right answer. Looking at his solution he had transferred terms of the equation one line at a time, with a new line for each transfer. The term that he didn’t know what to do with was written smaller and smaller with each step and finally disappeared. Then he plugged in the data and got a correct answer.

Second, I was in a fluid dynamics class and everyone was having a struggle with the course. Mr. Sicata (spelling?) was the instructor and he was known for writing very long equations on the blackboard (yes, that’s how old I am; you might not know what a blackboard is) with one hand and erasing right behind with an eraser. One day a very frustrated student stood up and complained that no one in the class was understanding the subject and Mr. Sicata should slow down. Mr. Sicata turned around and said to the student, “Well Mr. ____, I will see you again next semester.” 

Submitted: May 14, 2015


Vince Aluffi (’68, DB, Non-degree)

I attended the Daytona Beach Campus in 1968. I remember when the Student Union was a trailer, and the Administration and Library buildings were old barracks-style buildings. The flight line was a very short walk from these buildings. On some days, President Jack Hunt would stop in at the Student Union trailer, sit down, grab a bite to eat and ask, “How are you folks doing?” He’d discuss the direction and growth of the campus. You could hear in his voice that he had a vision for the school. Some of us would ask (laughing), "When are the dorms going to be finished?"  Some of us were staying in the Howard Johnson motels downtown.

The Vietnam War was in full swing in ’68, so Uncle Sam ramped up the Draft/Lottery. As my roommate and I were watching TV for the lottery, I drew lucky number 4. I was not to be drafted, but made my decision to enlist in the Air Force, as I loved to fly. I was stationed at Loring Air Force Base in Maine and then Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii. I worked at United Airlines at San Francisco International for 35 years. I’m now retired and enjoying the best job I ever had. Fly High!

​Submitted: Aug. 24, 2015

Mike Vance (’68, DB)

I graduated from Embry Riddle in 1968 in what was then called “the Professional Pilot Program.” As part of the program, I received a leather flight bag, and a leather Jeppesen manual with approach plates and charts. The flight bag and manual had the Embry-Riddle name and logo on it. I still have both. In 1968, Embry Riddle was just a flight school with no college accreditation.

There were a few old World War II instructors still there, Pop Alonso being one of them. They were tough and had no problem cussing you out, or slapping you in the head, if you did not do something right. I had the back of my head slapped a few times, but, that’s the way it was.

Multi-engine ratings were offered in either the D-18, or DC-3. Embry Riddle also offered a flight attendant school for the first time in 1968. There were only about a dozen girls enrolled in the course, and like us, they lived off campus. I even dated one of these girls at the time. The course was short lived and to my knowledge, it was never offered again after 1968.

The “campus” back then consisted of a few trailers, (book store and administrative offices) and World War II barracks for ground school classes. There was an old hangar for flight operations. Of course, all this is long gone now. After I graduated from Embry-Riddle with all of my pilot rating, I went on to a career with the airlines until my retirement at age 60 in 2004. I am an active general aviation pilot now with my own airplane, and I work part time as a B-737 simulator instructor. I'm now 71 years old, and just received the Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award from the Federal Aviation Administration. 

Submitted: June 24, 2015


Retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Tom Berg ('70, DB)

I remember hearing the high pitched scream of Professor Bolton driving his "jet powered" car around campus... I remember the Clark Gable look-alike that thought recipes [were timeless] and said that jets were a passing fancy, but recipes would be around forever. I remember Pop Alonso getting on the D-18, bucking up, undoing his pants belt and buckle and then saying, "OK, Bucko are we going to do this or what?” And most of all, I remember all of my fraternity brothers at Alpha Eta Rho that are all industry leaders and have been my brothers for all these years.

Submitted: May 27, 2015


Rodney Close ('71, DB)

I've got lots of great stories about Embry-Riddle because they were some of the best years of my life. My dad and I came to look at the campus on a cold and windy November day in 1966. We got first class treatment. We walked and drove around with Dean Mansfield. We met Vice President Harry Ness and stopped in the office of President Jack Hunt. He was very cordial to us. He spoke of the growth plans for the school and the expanded course offerings that would appeal to students who were looking for a degree program and an opportunity to learn how to fly.

There wasn't much to see because the school had just moved up from Opa-locka in South Florida. The academic buildings, which were of wood construction and up on cinder blocks, were freshly painted and of World War II vintage. When I walked through them I felt like I was walking through history. I didn't see the Quonset huts that they were going to house us in, because I may have changed my mind and chosen another school.

I was in Daytona Beach last year and enjoyed a number of the Eagles basketball games. What a year they had!

​Submitted: July 22, 2015

Mark Schwartz ('71, DB)

I received an invaluable aviation education at Embry-Riddle. I got hired for a corporate job right after graduation, and then left that job to fly Twin Beeches for a freight outfit. I got that job because I had Twin Beech training from my multi-engine rating at Embry-Riddle. After 10 years of building flight time, I got hired by a major airline and spent the remainder of my career as an airline pilot. I had the good fortune to be in the right place at the right time, with the right education; and spent 32 out of 34 years in the left seat. I retired in 2006, after a most successful career that never incurred one incident, accident or violation. Now, in retirement, I can say I have seen the entire world from FL410. My wife and I are now on a quest to see the entire planet from ground level.

Submitted: May 15, 2015


U.S. Marine Corps (Retired) Bob “Stambo” Stambovsky (’72, DB; ’85, WW)

Myself, and a dozen other veterans started the ERAU Veterans Association in 1968. Semper Fi.

Submitted: May 27, 2015


Beverley Drake (’77, DB, Flight Training; ’02, ’05, WW)

Almost 40 years ago, a 19-year-old girl left Guyana for the first time to pursue her dream to become a pilot at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Fla. I successfully completed my commercial pilot’s license and instrument rating at Embry-Riddle, and returned to join the Guyana Defense Force and then Guyana Airways Corporation. During my tenure, I skillfully flew a Britten Norman Islander in the dense jungles of Guyana and was the first woman to fly the Twin Otter and Hawker Siddeley 748 at Guyana Airways on both local and Caribbean routes to Trinidad, Barbados and Dominica.

I immigrated to the United States and joined the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which I have now served for 24 years. Along the way, I earned a Bachelor of Science in Professional Aeronautics and a Master of Aeronautical Science, with dual specializations in Management and Operations, from Embry-Riddle. I am the first and only black woman to serve as a Senior Aviation Accident Investigator/Analyst for the NTSB. 

I was honored by the government of Guyana on World Post Day, Oct. 9, 2013, with the unveiling of a local $20 and $80 international stamp bearing my photo. I also received the 2013 Alumni Achievement Award from Embry-Riddle on Nov. 8, 2013, and was honored to be Grand Marshal at the Embry-Riddle Homecoming Parade the next day. I am currently a Program Manager in the Office of Government and Industry Affairs at the NTSB.

My Embry-Riddle education provided the foundation for me to achieve my aviation dreams. It’s the best aviation university in the world!

The photo shows a reception with then Embry-Riddle President Jack Hunt in 1976 with the group of  Guyanese students attending Embry-Riddle for flight training. The photo was published in the local newspaper. 

Submitted: May 18, 2015


John M. Hill (’78, DB)

I graduated from Embry Riddle’s Daytona Beach Campus in the spring of 1978 with a B. S. In Aeronautical Studies. I initially flew passengers and cargo for several non-scheduled companies out of MIA and FLL, throughout the Caribbean, Central and South America. I flew the DC-3, CV-240, 340, 440, C-46, and DC-6 during the first phase of my pilot career. Later, I flew the DC-8 for an airline called Arrow Air, transporting passengers, cargo and piloting military MAC flights all over the world. After this, I briefly flew the DC-8 for an upstart airline put together by UPS and DHL, called International Parcel Express. Shortly thereafter, I got hired in 1987 by Continental Airlines out of Houston, Texas, where I enjoyed flying the DC-9, A-300 and MD-80. I am currently a senior captain on the B-737 at United Airlines.

I have been married to Doris for 29 years we have three adult children. We reside north of Houston, Texas. An Eagle Scout, I have been very active through the years in scouting. I am a Scoutmaster Emeritus, and Boy Scouts of America Sea Scout. I also enjoy motor boating and classic car restoration. 

My aviation career has been diverse and very rewarding. I am a proud Eagle! 

​Submitted Oct. 26, 2015


Fred Mercado ('80, DB)

The UC, University Center, was always the center for gatherings, catching up, eating, and just plain socializing. I have fond memories of all the activities, meeting friends, and living the college life. While the UC has evolved over the years, I recently visited and saw that much remains the same. Thank you, Embry-Riddle for preserving the UC for all these years.

[Editor’s Note: Construction will begin this year on a new state-of-the-art comprehensive University Center and Jack Hunt Memorial Library building. Completion is slated for 2017]. 

Submitted: May 15, 2015 


Dianne Thompson (’81, DB)

I went to work at Embry-Riddle on Sept. 1, 1971, as a clerk-typist in the registrar's office. I worked there for about a year. Richard Pierce, the treasurer/controller, requested that I come to work for him when his secretary moved into the accounting office. When I got over there, being in awe of him, I asked why he had wanted me to work for him. He said it was because I always smiled when he came into the registrar's office for information and I was prompt in helping him. I worked for him for about 18 months at which time I was promoted to assistant to the chief accountant. I worked there for a couple of years before going to the personnel office to inquire about another position. Julie Futch said there wasn't anything then, but she would keep me in mind. She called about 10 days later, asking me to come to her office. When I met with her, she said the position of secretary to the president was open. I nearly panicked, but decided I would interview for the job. I met with President Jack R. Hunt a while later. I got the job on June 16, 1975. The following April, I was elected by the Board of Trustees to be corporate secretary for Embry-Riddle.

Since I only had a two-year degree, I needed to complete my bachelor’s degree, in order to keep my position. It took me six years to complete my B.S. in Aviation Administration (magna cum laude). I didn't want to be an unemployed student! I graduated on Dec. 12, 1981. In April 1981, I was elected as the university's treasurer. However, I didn't sign any university paychecks until I graduated, because I didn't want to intimidate my professors. In 1992, in addition to being the corporate secretary/treasurer, I was also appointed deputy director of university relations. Wearing that hat, I oversaw the events at the president's residence and was responsible for developing the Embry-Riddle Parents' Association and for coordinating the first Parent's Weekend. I corresponded with the parents each quarter.

During my time at Embry-Riddle, I worked with the Board of Trustees and was a member of both the leadership council and the president's cabinet. I was also part of two presidential searches. When I retired in April 1994, I was honored at the Board of Trustees' meeting in Prescott, Ariz., and again at Spruance Hall at the Daytona Beach Campus by my colleagues and by many of the students I had befriended.

Before I left, I started attending the Eagles’ basketball games. For the 1991-1992 season, I was named "Fan of the Year." Again, for the 2006-2007 season I was named "Fan of the Year." That was the season when the tornado tore through the campus. I'm the only two-time recipient of this award. My main connection with the university now is through the basketball team. I was honored during the 2014-2015 season for the 25 years I have followed the team with a dedicated courtside seat. I really enjoyed that.

Evan Davis (’81, DB)

I have two very good memories of my time at Embry-Riddle, one personal and one professional. My personal memory is that of having a lifelong friendship with Mike Jencsok. I’m sorry to say, he is now deceased. Even after graduation, we remained friends for 29 years until his untimely death. I miss the friendship that started at Embry-Riddle and our names are in the bricks at the flight line statue.

My professional memory is that of my work study job in my third year at Embry-Riddle. I believe this did the most for me for graduation, and after graduation. I took a flight instructor/pilot position in Wiggins, Miss., for a semester. After going to school for three years, I was about burned out and about out of money. The work study took care of both. It gave me a break from school and gave me a chance to earn some money. The best thing to come from the work study position was that I was able to get my Certified Flight Instructor Instrument rating for a very low cost. Upon my return to Embry-Riddle, I had two semesters left, and I had an extra rating at the time of graduation. I believe this helped me land a job. I look back at my time at Embry-Riddle as some of the best times of my life and I would not trade it for anything. 

​Submitted: Aug. 25, 2015

Andrea Miller Tate ('81, DB)

My husband, Stephen Vaughn Tate (’81, DB), B.S. Aeronautical Science, and I met at the University Center at the Daytona Beach Campus during orientation week in 1978. Being one of about 50 incoming female freshman, needless to say it was slightly daunting! Steve claims that he asked to sit next to me at the UC during orientation and I responded, "If you dare," although I thought I said, “I don't care!”

Fast forward 37 years later, we are still together. We have two daughters, one son-in-law, and both of our children have amazing careers in the Aviation/Travel industry. Steve is a former U.S. Air Force B-52 aircraft commander, and now an American Airlines captain on the B-737 based at Miami International Airport. I spent the earlier part of my career working as a dispatcher/supervisor at American Eagle and then went to work for American Airlines (AA) on the Sabre automation technology side. We have both worked for AA/Sabre now for the past 25 years.

According to the dean of student affairs at the time, he believed that we were the first married couple to graduate ERAU!


Pedro Febles (’82, DB)

I remember when we were National Collegiate Athletic Association Division 2 soccer and played against the big schools in Florida, such as Florida International University, University of Florida, University of Central Florida, and others. By 1980-81, the school administration decided to cancel the soccer program—even after more than 120 signatures were collected, which at the time was a good number.

The program was never restored. I find to my amazement that the new soccer program, which participates in the much smaller National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics conference, only has historic records that date from 1986 onwards. Sad.

We had many memories from those earlier days, when we drove ourselves to the games using the maintenance vans and played under Coach John Butler, who at the time worked in the purchasing department. Memories forever that I still await the credit for—when credit is due to all those great teammates and schoolmates. This picture shows me in the school soccer uniform.


D. Michael Ehl (’83, PC)

During my three years at Embry-Riddle Prescott, it was not uncommon to see John Paul Riddle strolling the campus, often in white tennis shorts, shoes, and a preppy sweater. He was still playing tennis in his early 80s. One day he stopped me outside the library and said, “I want to know what they're teaching you around here, so answer these questions: Do you know who Lincoln Beachey was?” I replied, “Yes sir, he was the first pilot to master the loop.” Seemingly impressed, he continued, “Do you know who Barney Oldfield was?” I responded, “Yes sir, he was a race car driver who raced his car against Beachey in an airplane.” John Paul smiled, shook my hand, and said, “You're getting a good education here,” and he headed to the courts.

Submitted: June 1, 2015

Retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Brian J. Duddy (’83, DB)

It was final exam week, I believe December 1982. I was one of the first students taking Mr. Neate's Flight Test Engineering course (AE498). There ended up only being about 10 of us left who made it through the class all the way to the end. So the day we took our final, Mr. Neate brought in two Key Lime Pies that his wife had made for us, and we all sat there and had pie and took our final exam! I thought no other school were the instructors this much fun and cared this much about students that they would bring pie to a final exam! We could only do this with the small class size at Embry-Riddle. This would never happen at a big school. And of course Key Lime was the essence of Florida at the same time. I have many good memories of Embry-Riddle, but that one stands out the most. I’m always proud to say I am a graduate—and even more in recent years!

Submitted: May 29, 2015

Christine May ('83, PC)

Mr. John Paul Riddle was still alive and he was at my graduation in August. My parents came for graduation, and my father, an Army Air Corps pilot who had taken flying lessons with the Embry-Riddle program in Florida during World War II, spoke with Mr. Riddle before the graduation. He ended up mentioning both me and my dad in the graduation speech. I really liked the fact that the graduation was small and that people were able to speak easily with each other. Both Mr. Riddle and my father are gone now, but I thought it was a memorable experience.

I eventually went to work for the Defense Mapping Agency’s legal office. That was another source of amusement. My mother, when I was in the fourth grade, predicted that I would work there. I said, “Yes, I would work there, but not making maps.” I am still at the agency, but it has moved into the modern age and is now called the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. I work there, but never became a cartographer or an analyst, but I do work in the Analysis Directorate.

Submitted: May 15, 2015


George Robert McAllister Jr. (’84, DB)

I was the aircraft commander for the ski-equipped LC-130 /H flight to the South Pole in October 1999 to rescue Dr. Neilson, who was stricken with a life threatening form of breast cancer. My co-pilot Dave Koltermann and I are both Embry-Riddle graduates.

​Submitted: July 14, 2015


Frank Donohue (’85, DB)

My story is in autobiography in the “Undergraduate” chapter, which discusses my graduation from and flight instructing experience at Embry-Riddle. See page 56 of my book, "School and Schooled" at frankjdonohue.com.

Submitted: July 15, 2015


Jeffrey Miller (’86, WW)

Although I’m listed as a Worldwide Campus graduate, I spent seven semesters at the Daytona Beach Campus. While there, I worked as an admissions tour guide (from the Quonset Administration building at the entrance to the airport), an information center assistant, and an orientation leader. I left Daytona Beach because my summer internship turned into a job and I transferred, with the help of then Registrar Val Kruze, to what was then called the International Campus at Andrews Air Force Base. In my heart, I’m a Daytona Beach Campus graduate.

The memory I want to share is from the Skyfest air show in the spring of 1986. Sunday was the last day of the show, and after the air show, the campus was celebrating the 60th anniversary of Embry-Riddle with a picnic on the grounds of the University Center. Keep in mind, there were fewer buildings on the campus then and the view of the airport was unobstructed. There were many students, faculty, and staff gathered around in the late afternoon and all of us were watching the military aircraft depart. They put on a pretty good show and most requested and received permission to do maximum performance takeoffs. Watching all of the fighters take off and pull nearly vertical provided the students with an after show that we all cheered.

The best part of the show, in my mind, was the takeoff performed by two AV-8 Harriers. The two aircraft departed normally and we all said to one another, “Well, it’s a Harrier,” but they circled the airfield and made a low pass down the center of the runway. They slowed as they came abeam the school … and stopped! Holding their position above the runway, they pivoted toward the school and dipped their noses in a bow to the school, turned back down the runway center line, and roared off in horizontal flight. Perhaps the AV-8 isn’t as fast as the F-15s or -16s that were departing DAB that day, but what they did brought all of us to our feet with a shout at the top of our lungs. We all started laughing and slapping each other on the back.

We could have received no better tribute. Happy 90th Anniversary, Embry-Riddle. And thanks for the opportunities you have given all of us.

Submitted: May 18, 2015

Richard E. “Dick” Russell (’86, WW)

I attribute my aviation successes to Embry-Riddle. I was the manager of all Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) flight programs and the 6th chief master sergeant/command chief/senior enlisted adviser of the Air Force Reserve. My first flight in any airplane was with my uncle, a former Hump pilot, in a Howard DGA at his home airport. I subsequently became addicted to anything that flies and spent 13 of my 31 years in our Air Force flying the C5A, C130, VC118 and C124.

I am an airplane owner since 1981, and I currently fly a 1947 Cessna 120 and a 1943 Meyers OTW biplane. My 60-plus years of aviation experience includes: a police helicopter pilot for the Sacramento Sheriff’s Department and serving as the Sheriff’s Reserve Forces coordinator/Sheriff’s Academy manager. I began my criminal justice career as a fingerprint examiner at CII, California Department of Justice, and was an AF security superintendent. I retired from the FAA after 24 years and assignments in California, Nevada, Oklahoma, and at FAA Headquarters. At FAA Headquarters I served as an aircraft policy officer/headquarters staff specialist in all rotorcraft matters. I rose from a GS-7 to a GM-15 aircraft policy officer and standardization manager in just seven years. Retiring from the FAA, I became a flight instructor at Flight Safety International (FSI), training pilots in the Citation VII, 560XL and aero commander airplanes. Retiring from FSI, I became a college professor for Southeastern Oklahoma State University in their school of aviation until my wife and I retired to the panhandle of Florida in 2010.

Volunteerism has been an integral part of my life. I’ve served as a Civil Air Patrol (CAP) cadet now more than 50 years and received the organization’s Gill Robb Wilson Award #39, CAPS’ second highest award. I am also a life member of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association since 1969. I was singularly responsible for chartering two different CAP squadrons, one in Kansas and the other in California. I was a reserve deputy with Yolo County, Calif., Reno Police Department, and Carson City Sheriff’s Aero Squadron. I am also a member of Crestview Rotary club, currently serving on the board of directors, and was instrumental in chartering an NCOA Chapter in Reno, an Antique Airplane Chapter in Wichita, an AF Security Police Chapter in Kansas and Oklahoma; and was a charter member of the Ben Ali Flying Shriners, transporting children to various Shrine Hospitals for care.

Among my many awards are a Certificate of Merit from the President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities; one of 12 U.S. Air Force Outstanding Security Policemen; and more than 40 awards and decorations from the U.S. Air Force and Department of Defense, including recognition from two service secretaries and numerous general officers of our U.S. military services. Additionally, I was instrumental in having the municipal airport at Broken Bow, Neb., named for my uncle, Keith Glaze, in 2009. 

​Submitted: Aug. 3, 2015


Brigitte Lakah (’87, DB)

The best years of my life were 1982-1986.

Submitted: May 28, 2015

Muhammad Sidi Aliyu ('87, DB)

Here are some pictures from my first solo and graduation day.

​Submitted: June 24, 2015


Dave Koch ('88, PC)

My memories are of Roy Jones’ stories about his three tours of Vietnam. Also, my favorite flight instructor, Jim Harvey. I will never forget them.

Submitted: May 15, 2015

Rashid Riaz ('88, DB)

In my first semester, I lived in the dorms. Something was always happening there to keep things lively. My recollections include:

1. One time I heard a racket outside in the hallway. As I peeked outside, I saw a couple of guys playing Frisbee with the food tray. You can well imagine the path a rectangular tray would traverse when thrown like a Frisbee. It would just hit the walls in a random manner and then slide on the floor. In a few minutes, the tray was broken into pieces and the game was over.

2. Every two weeks or so, we would be awakened by the fire alarm going off in the middle of the night. Everybody had to go outside until the building was checked. There was no fire of course; it was just some prankster. Ours was a boy’s only dorm, but you would see a lot of girls appearing from the rooms, as well. The Resident Adviser was always red faced in such situations.

3. I did not know anything about football then, but I would see a lot of people sitting around the TV watching the games. I would ask a lot of questions and learned to like the game. Today, more than 20 years later, it is still my favorite game.


Don Ramdass ('89, DB)

I came to Daytona Beach in 1982 to commence my exciting education in aircraft engineering technology and aviation business administration. Our campus was so much different from what it is today. The library was then downstairs in a brick octagonal building, with classrooms around the building in the back. These buildings do not exist anymore. What great memories.

We had two dorms: Dorm 1 was a three-story, two person to a room, red-brown brick building; and Dorm 2 was a two-story building that reminded me of a Howard Johnson motel. It was a walk through the trees across Catalina Boulevard to Big Daddy’s night club, K-Mart, Burger King, McDonalds, etc.

John Paul Riddle would visit and talk to the students back then. He would stay on the bottom floor of Dorm 1. I heard some really good stories from the Embry-Riddle co-founder. I am glad my parents paid for my education and entire program at ERAU, but I miss the Epicure meals … just kidding. 

Submitted: July 14, 2015


Retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Charles Clayborne (’90, ’95, DB)

I retired from the Air Force after serving for 21 years. I flew the KC-135R for 17 years of my service. Now, I’m a B737NG Captain based out of Las Vegas, Nev.

Submitted: Aug. 12, 2015​


Freeman Johnson ('91, DB, Non-degree)

 While I was attending the school, John Paul Riddle passed away.  I'd met him several times before then and he was always very involved with the students. I was asked to speak at the memorial on behalf of minorities at Embry-Riddle. The memorial was held in the UC (University Center...is it still there?) and was attended by about 500 top people representing their respective aviation fields at the time, generals and admirals and officers of every grade, CEOs, pilots, mechanics, air traffic controllers, and the list goes on and on...

It was an honor to be asked to speak and I felt privileged to get the chance to share my memories of that great man at his memorial.

Other memories include pledging Kappa Alpha Psi and gaining 80,000 brothers worldwide and presiding over Brothers of the Wind and working with that great organization.  Lastly, I enjoyed being on the Precision Flight Demo Team and recruiting students for the school.  I was able to get several persons from my old high school to attend Embry-Riddle and two of them pledged my fraternity. My years at Embry-Riddle were some of the happiest and most exciting years of my life.

Submitted: May 14, 2015


Rick Valente ('92, DB)

I spent four years in the U.S. Navy at the tail end of the Vietnam War period, and heard about Embry-Riddle through another guy in my squadron. When I was discharged in 1977, I applied. I got accepted to the Airframe and Powerplant School in the beginning of 1978 and spent two years at the Daytona Beach Campus. I recall my first time at the campus. The administration buildings were opposite the campus (on the side of the Speedway) and the buildings were old World War II structures.

I had a great time on campus, living in the new dorms for my first semester; and then moved out to the South Daytona Beach area. The Aviation Maintenance Technician School was still somewhat rudimentary, and still had a "cutaway" German Junkers J-002 jet engine from an ME262 outside the classrooms. I wonder to this day what happened to that antique? I had an interesting time for those two years at Embry-Riddle Daytona. It was a great education ... and I spent many days at the beach and nights at clubs. Great memories! 

Submitted: May 15, 2015


Kathryn Parsons (’95, DB), director of student employment at the Daytona Beach Campus

My story started on Feb. 16, 1980, which was my first day at work at Embry-Riddle. Our office was located in the Administration Building, which looked to me like an old Army facility. It was just outside the fence of the third turn on the Speedway, and during race weeks, you could actually hear the whirring of the engines in your head —long after you went home.

The building was literally held up by duct tape, most of which “Smokey,” our Jack of all Trades maintenance man, had applied. The boards in the floor were quite rotted; so, if a female was wearing thin high heels, her heel would most certainly go through the boards. These holes were ultimately repaired by duct tape. If the phones or computers (the few we had) needed relocation, no problem - a hole was drilled through the floor, a line was dropped and pushed up through the new hole and duct tape held the lines in place. Voila! Fixed!

You never knew when you came to work each day if there would be a raccoon or possum in or under the building, a vagrant or two looking for shelter under the steps, or big trash cans in the hallways catching rain water, if it had stormed the night before. I got used to the stream of ants hiding behind a picture in my office. It was always fun to watch the facial expressions of visitors who did not want to tell me there were ants on the wall behind me bringing “food” to their hiding place.  And yes, we did try to get rid of them, but to no avail.

Now the next part of my story is a bit of hearsay; so I don’t guarantee the facts, except, that I did actually hear the ghosts working late one evening (that is me working late- not the ghosts)! 

Apparently, this particular building turned into a staging area for the deceased. I do know our supply area was a freezer; it had a huge door handle and a heavy door. This area alone was scary enough to approach for retrieving old ledgers and files, but at night, if you were working late – always with a partner – you could hear rustlings from the freezer and through the hallways. Needless to say, one did not work after hours often. One night, my co-worker, who I admit had a very vivid imagination, said she saw an image. I never worked late again!

On a better note, to demonstrate how much growth has taken place in the past 35 years, the old Administration Building included: cashiers (for a short time), the bursar’s office, financial aid, human resources, the provost’s office, records and registration, student employment (run by students), the controller’s office, and the Extended Campus’ records, registration and accounts payable! Now, we probably have 75 percent more employees and a multitude of new buildings.

I started in Extended Campus Records and Registration – we were two employees – me and my supervisor. We also, at the time, managed the “check books” for each off-campus center location. It was a struggle back then just to meet payroll, so on occasion, the controller would ask if we could come up with dollars within those checking account balances to provide to him. We did; people were paid, and long-lived Embry-Riddle!
Of course, after 35-plus years, there are so many wonderful things that I can say about Embry-Riddle, including, I believe we have much less trouble meeting our payroll! The beautiful buildings, the multiple degree programs, to include masters and now doctorate degrees, the great leadership over the time with each president leaving his own legacy. 

We now begin a new era of the long-awaited Student Union building and our athletic teams switching to the NCAA-II division. That’s quite a difference from playing our basketball at Silver Sands Middle School! This campus is the epitome of growth and excellence. 

I practically grew up at Embry-Riddle. I love it. It has been good to me and I am so proud to say that I am a part of this magnificent university.

​Submitted: July 20, 2015


Luis Lopez ('96, '99, DB)

My story takes place in the early 90s at the Daytona Beach Campus. The site on campus was the former Aeronautical Science Laboratories on Clyde Morris Blvd. At this site I had the great opportunity to work as an international student. As I went through the ranks in the labs, I had the privilege to serve as a student assistant manager for Mr. William “Bill” Baker. I will not forget this time with Bill and the several tours we gave of the facilities, which included a donated 707 Sim, where pioneer work was accomplished by our students in computer science. The students changed-out the old steam gauges of the cockpit with student-made computerized flight displays, paving the way for what would become today’s all-glass cockpits.

Even more interesting was Mr. Bill Baker’s greeting to our prospective students at these great facilities. He would show the labs with the same excitement, as if it was the first time every time. However, one key feature of his tour was his request for the prospective students to move both of their hands; one over their head and one in front of their stomach, moving each hand in circular motion at the same time. While making this coordinated movement he would tell the students that if they could do this movement successfully that they also possessed the basic coordination skills to fly an aircraft. The students smiled every time. What a great friend Bill was and what an extraordinary energy he provided to the university!

Submitted: May 17, 2015

Olivia (Roca) Fuentes (’99, DB; ’06, WW) and Capt. Gilberto “Gil” Fuentes (’97, DB)

Gil and I have a funny story on how we met. We were in our early-20s when we started at Embry-Riddle.  I was interested in the flight program but couldn't afford it, so I enrolled in aerospace engineering. Gil enrolled in aerospace engineering, but after taking a trial flight during his first week in school, he switched degrees to aeronautical science. It seems we each ended up in opposite roles.

So how did we meet? Well, Gil was waiting for the right time to approach me, but he said I was always surrounded by friends. I had a friend who was always telling me about this guy (Gil) that played baseball with him, and he said we would really hit it off. I told him I wasn’t there to find a boyfriend; I was there to get an education. A girlfriend of mine also mentioned Gil to me and said she wanted to introduce us. That semester went by and I had only noticed him once during the last day of class before break. The next semester, I went to my girlfriend's apartment to help her move - guess who opened the door? Gil! Our eyes met and we knew that this was the person we had been hearing about from our friends. We immediately hit it off! The rest is history.

Gil and I dated for five years before we got married. My objective was to get my bachelor's degree with my maiden name (Roca). I graduated and we were married four months later on April 24, 1999. Gil had graduated a couple of years earlier and stayed at Embry-Riddle as a flight instructor until I graduated.

Gil started working for Continental Express in the fall of 1998 and is now a Boeing 777 First Officer with United Airlines. He's based in Newark, N.J., but was recently awarded Houston as a new base.

After 15 years working for Lockheed Martin, last year I opened my own business - RocaTech Solutions Inc., which is providing engineering services to Lockheed Martin's Orion Program as NASA's future space exploration vehicle.

Today, we are still happily married and we have two beautiful daughters. We are living our dreams ... and to think, it all started at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

Submitted Oct. 14, 2015​


Lorena de Rodriguez (’99, WW)

Without the background and experiences learned during my studies for a Master of Aeronautical Science (MAS) with a concentration in Aviation Management, I would not have been prepared for my career of more than 25 years. The confidence of the MAS degree allowed me to launch a training business for airports [SSI, Inc., based in Tucson, Ariz.], which now supports 40 of the largest national transportation connectors to the world. Thanks ERAU.

Submitted: June 22, 2015


Daniel L. Nation (’00, WW)

I started my ERAU student career at China Lake Naval Air Weapons Center, Calif., in 1998. It was time to upgrade my education, but living and working so far out in the California desert presented a problem. Fortunately, ERAU Worldwide had classes at China Lake, Edwards Air Force Base, and Palmdale, Calif., which allowed me to get started on a Master of Aeronautical Science (MAS).

When I moved to work at Lockheed in Georgia, mid-way through my MAS, my travel schedule made it very difficult to attend class. Worldwide came to my rescue again, and I was able to complete my MAS online.

Not long after I returned to California, I was able to join ERAU as an adjunct professor, back in some of the same classrooms that I had haunted as a student. My adjunct career slowly expanded from the traditional classroom to online, and I was honored to be chosen Outstanding Online Faculty in 2009.

While that was a very special honor, the highlight of my ERAU career came in 2013, when I had the opportunity to teach undergraduate courses at the ERAU Worldwide site in Singapore. That was an amazing experience, one I would love to repeat.

However, after teaching in the classroom in California, Texas, and Singapore, and facilitating dozens of graduate classes online, I have finally hung up my academic spurs. My wish for all current and future ERAU alumni is that they be able to have at least half as much fun as I have had being a member of the ERAU family.

Joe Radosky (’00, WW)

I have been dedicated to the ERAU Alumni Group since graduation in 2000. There are many great memories, but the one that stands out the most for me was the “behind the scenes tour” of Kennedy Space Center. We had the chance to see the Space Shuttle up close, and even walk through the assemblies of the International Space Station. The accompanying photo is of our Alumni Group together at the Space Shuttle lift-off from Kennedy Space Center.

Submitted: July 14, 2015


Willson Anibal Martinez (’03, WW)

I graduated from ERAU from the International Campus with associate and bachelor’s degrees in professional aeronautics. Most of my work history has been in the aviation maintenance technology, for the U.S. Air Force and finally with the U.S. Postal Service as a maintenance technician. Now I’m retired and enjoying life. I enjoy building and flying remote control aircraft, power walking, jogging, bicycle riding, classical music, traveling, drawing and painting.

Submitted: June 22, 2015

Ziva Arifin (’03, DB)

For as long as I can remember, becoming a part of the exciting world of aviation has always been a seed of a dream that resided in my mind. Inspired by real-life heroes, like my grandfather (P-51 Mustang veteran), my uncle (MiG-21 veteran), and my parents (true aviators by passion), I always knew where to put my sights.

Having completed my commercial pilot training a year after high school, finding a job was not as easy as I thought it would be, especially in late 1990s when pilot jobs were scarce. Despite this, going to college was the last thing that crossed my mind. It was encouragement from family and colleagues that drove me to explore getting a degree to leverage my long-term aviation career. It only seemed logical that the best choice would be Embry-Riddle.By spring of 2000, I had enrolled as a freshman majoring in Aviation Business Administration.

Life at the university was quite dynamic for me. There were several subjects that I excelled at, but in many (to most), I was somewhat mediocre. Nonetheless, the entire experience and living life both on and off campus turned out to be among the most valuable moments in my life. Little did I know that all of the knowledge and experience I gained throughout my time at Embry-Riddle would really push me through different spectra in my career.

Despite the shortcomings I had in college, I was able to adapt and retain the values of my education through good work and business ethos. More than 10 years after my graduation, I have had the privilege to work as a career pilot and also as part of a management team in one of Indonesia's reputable and leading air charter companies.

I am now an entrepreneur running an aviation services and business consultancy, along with three of my aviator friends. We are doing extraordinary work in the industry that I love. Even more exciting, I get to give back to the university through my business ventures. During a recent visit to the Daytona Beach Campus, meeting great friends from the Alumni Association and program development only encouraged me to strengthen my existing bond with this remarkable institution.

Thank you, Embry-Riddle. Forever an Eagle.

Submitted: Aug. 17, 2015​

Spencer Gould (’03, DB)

Hello. I just saw the email about the 90th anniversary events and sharing pictures of our times at the university. I was able to find three photos that I thought would be good on the page.

Blue-Springs, Fla., ERAU Scuba, was taken in January 2004 at a Scuba excursion in Blue Springs State Park. Pictured are: Keith Schlee, Angie Hernandez and Chris Grady.

Daytona Beach Senior Design was taken in the fall semester of 2002 for the AE420 Preliminary Design (Senior Design) for the Airframe path class. The subject was a two-seat, Part 23 aircraft (model shown). Pictured are Jason Watt, Spencer Gould, Chris Lawing, Steven Reich, Doug Luby, and Giuliano Vallesi. 

The Prescott, Ariz., RC photo was taken either in 1999 or 2000 on the on Campus RC field near the gym. I'm in the picture holding the flying wing, but I do not remember the names of the rest of the people since it was a long time ago. 


Tim Holt (’01, ’06, WW), Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University

My proudest moment in Embry-Riddle history was my children’s recent graduation.  Being able to present both of my sons with their degrees at the same graduation on May 2, 2015 at the Prescott Campus was priceless. In the picture (left to right), are my son, Randy (’15, WW, myself, my beautiful wife of 25 years (their mother), Karen, and my son, Ryan (’15, PC).

Submitted: May 15, 2015


Christian Schirra (’12, DB), former Embry-Riddle flight instructor

Ever since my first flight to the Philippines at the age of 16 months, I have believed that my career as an aviator would develop based on the progression and completion of a number of personal goals. Accomplishing these goals always brought a feeling of coming "full circle." Of course, a few of these happened during my tenure at Embry-Riddle, and one, in particular, is my most cherished memory of my experience there. Putting aside the one or two discovery flights that I had in my hometown of Ellington, Conn., I can say that Embry-Riddle is solely responsible for making me the pilot I am today. I entered the university in the fall of 2009, and soloed a few months later on Nov. 5, shortly before receiving my private pilot certificate the next month.

That first solo flight was the epitome of my journey to become a pilot. My reaction the first time I looked to my right and saw that the seat was empty is a moment that I can replay to this day. The fact that I alone and had the sole responsibility of such a magnificent piece of machinery was both exhilarating and nerve-racking. The magnitude of emotion I experienced is impossible to define in words, but perhaps can be illustrated better in the picture my flight instructor Hilary took just moments after the plane was shut down and I opened the door.

They say that your first solo will be one of the greatest moments in your life, and I believe that we can all agree on that. However, what I didn't expect was that I would replay that moment about three years later, as an Embry Riddle flight instructor myself. Although I didn't realize it, my solo flight began a new "circle" in my career. One day I would provide to some aspiring aviator the opportunity to embrace the same life-changing experience that I did, and finally on Jan. 12, 2013, I was granted that opportunity.

Stefan Gailliard was a bright student and a man of even brighter character. I was introduced to him only a few activities before the solo flight in his course. After numerous weather cancellations, we finally got the opportunity to have that first experience once again; except this time, I was watching the plane take off from the ground. I can recall that day like it was yesterday: anxiously standing as close as legally allowed on the ramp in Flagler (XFL), clutching the walkie-talkie with an excited yet nervous death grip, and listening to him trading radio transmissions with the tower.

With each takeoff and landing I became more ecstatic, knowing exactly how he was feeling. Even though I was 1,000 feet below him, we both shared the same sensations. I may have even publicly threw a fist pump or two into the air. Just like my flight instructor Hilary did with me, I marshaled him in, ran to the door and snapped a picture to capture the first reaction on his face. At that moment, my life circle was complete. I had witnessed firsthand the transfer of not just knowledge and mentorship, but also pure emotion and feeling. It was like replaying my own experience right in front of me.

They say that your first solo "as a pilot" will be the best day of your aviation career, and they are right. But for me, the next best day, will have to be my first solo... "as an instructor." Life circle complete, and I have Hilary, Stefan, and Embry-Riddle to thank for that. On to the next one.

Syed Hammad Mumtaz (’12, DB)

I am lucky enough to be considered a member of the Embry-Riddle family. I have timeless memories embedded in my mind from the Daytona Beach Campus. During my undergraduate years, every person I met was special. Embry-Riddle students are a different class. It would take me a whole website to share all of my vivid memories of ERAU!

One particular memory that will always be with me was the trip to New York City, right before my graduation in December 2012. It was the icing on the cake! I was extremely lucky to be part of a group of students from Prescott and Daytona Beach representing Embry-Riddle at the Wings Club in New York City. We also got a chance to meet up with alumni based in New York. There were many pictures that I took on that trip. This is a picture of the Embry-Riddle table at the Wings Club luncheon. I hope to visit Embry-Riddle soon.

​Submitted Oct. 26, 2015

Kevin Garland ('12, DB)

About 18 years ago, my grandfather, who lived next door, introduced me to radio control (R/C) airplanes. Since that day, I have been hooked on aviation and it is the reason why I attended Embry-Riddle to pursue a degree. A lot of money was spent on my hobby flying R/C aircraft, but I knew that one day it would pay off.

With the help of a side job and my family, I was able to afford many different size model aircraft. I was also able to get sponsored by the top R/C companies. After completing my degree at Embry-Riddle in 2012, I obtained a job flying UAVs as a test pilot for a Navy program. I am proud to say that I get paid to have fun every day at work and my hobby of flying R/C aircraft turned into a career. Embry-Riddle, thank you for everything, because my education is the reason I was able to obtain my dream job! 

Submitted: Aug. 21, 2015​


Ralph Coleman Jr. (’13, WW)

I learned about E-R-A-U in 1997, while attending an FAA-approved part 147 school in Florida. Since 1997, I have been associated with aviation or aerospace platforms. I served on active duty in the Air Force from 2003-2010. After my Air Force career; I leveraged my education and work experience to determine the optimal career. My wife suggested I attend Embry-Riddle’s Master of Science in Logistics and Supply Chain Management program. In 2012, I started the program and a new job. To make a long story short, I graduated in 2013 with 3.64 GPA. My favorite professor is Dr. John F. Kros. The decision to complete the master’s degree has increased my career prospects and writing a 50-page thesis increased my confidence. Forever an Eagle!

​Submitted: Aug. 21, 2015

George Chatzitheodosiou (’13, PC, Non-degree)

It was summer 2013, when I embarked upon the greatest journey of my life: a one-semester Study-Abroad experience at Embry-Riddle, through the newly forged partnership with DEREE - The American College of Greece. An amazing Prescott campus, a marvelous set of facilities, world-class professors and an overall experience that I will never forget. Nearly graduating from DEREE, I am already considering going back for a master’s degree at my dearest Riddle....The one Riddle you just don’t want to end! Kind regards and greetings from Greece.

Submitted: June 23, 2015


Haleigh Raksnys (’14, WW)

I had just finished both my Associate of Arts and Associate of Science degree in Social and Behavioral Science when I became a student at Embry Riddle. Like many college students, I was blindly going through the motions, getting any degree I could and hoping it would land me an awesome job.

My community college offered a trade school program, sponsored by Northrop Grumman, which on a whim I enrolled in to broaden my career opportunities. I excelled through the structures sheet metal course and made an impression in blue printing, which helped me through the interview process for a position at Northrop Grumman.

Two weeks after my 21st birthday, I started my career at Northrop Grumman as an aircraft structures mechanic on the assembly line in Palmdale, Calif. I knew I didn’t want to spend my life on the shop floor, but I had no clue what I wanted to do; becoming a mechanic was never in my life plan. A fellow classmate had mentioned she was going to attend Embry Riddle and wanted to become an engineer, so I jumped right in with her and enrolled for the next semester. While searching for classes to take, I noticed that she hadn’t enrolled at all and I was about to go through this alone.

So there I was, the first day of class at Embry-Riddle, a psychology student now studying aeronautics—and the only female in sight. I was ready for the challenge ahead of me and was anxious to learn as much as I could about aerospace. Working full time as a mechanic and going to school full time, I was able to prove to the company that I was serious about my work and education.

Three years later I was accepted into the Manufacturing Engineer Apprenticeship program while I completed my degree. Little did I know that the engineering blood had been passed down to me from my father and great-grandfather. I was so thrilled to be in this new position, but wrapping up my degree was proving to be difficult.

Stepping into a new field of work, along with limited on-campus classes, I decided to take some Eagle Vision courses. Eagle Vision courses were great; I could stay home after a long day’s work, and still had the opportunity to work with classmates all over the country. It was such a great experience working with people in different fields and different walks of life. This allowed me to open my mind to all the possibilities within my career field.

Never did I imagine that in one of those Eagle Vision classes I would meet my future husband. He in Oklahoma and I in California; we worked together in a project management class, which turned out to be my favorite course. Ironically, we were on the same college path, B.S. in Aeronautics with a minor in Aviation Safety and in Management. Having a competitive personality, I knew I had to one up him somehow, so although he graduated a semester before me, I made sure to graduate Magna Cum Laude. Embry-Riddle has given me so much opportunity to grow within my company and career field and it has truly changed my life, giving me the man of my dreams.

Yochabel Zink ('14, WW)

As an immigrant who arrived in this magnificent country in 2008 from Japan, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University greatly contributed to providing me with the opportunities that this country could offer. I successfully transferred to Embry-Riddle in 2011, after building a competitive academic record from a community college in San Diego, Calif., and in record time, I graduated with a B.S. in Aeronautics with a minor in Security and Intelligence. Today, I continue my journey with Embry-Riddle, as I was admitted into the Master of Aeronautical Science program with a specialization in Space Studies. This institution never fails to recognize my capabilities and grant me the opportunity to soar as a high-flying Eagle and U.S. Air Force airman. Indeed, with Embry-Riddle, thesky is the limit.

Submitted: June 2, 2015

Georgina D. Lopez (’14, WW)

Living most of my life in Cuba, a country where flying was and still is a luxury, I could only dream of being close to an airplane, nothing more. In 1977, I enrolled in the Telecommunication Engineering program at the Technical University of Havana. I graduated in 1982. At that moment, a massive engineering draft to the military put me in a position to work in the industry that I thought I wanted to work in.

As part of what is called in Cuba, the “Social Service,” I was assigned as an engineer in charge of tools, test equipment and documentation for testing and troubleshooting of radio communication equipment in an aviation repair station servicing military equipment. That was the closest I came to aviation in Cuba. Through the years, my dream of being part of the aviation community never materialized, but I continued studying and working, hoping one day things would change in my country.

That positive attitude and hope were the only things that helped me to succeed as a professional. I got a job as a telecommunication professor at the same university where I graduated from. In that position, I was able to teach everything that I had learned and influence the lives of hundreds of students. Being a professor made me a better person and a better mother, even while operating in a country that lacked liberty and freedom of speech.

Today, dozens of my students and friends who are immigrants like me, remember those days when we shared our enthusiasm for knowledge and innovation. It is fair to say that by 1992, I had no dreams at all; my passion for airplanes had been killed by external forces stronger than mine. At that moment, I choose to exile. Looking for the human liberties that we were denied in my country, I immigrated with my family to United States in 1999, and my life changed completely.

My first job in this country, which I am proud to say I am now a citizen of, was as an avionics technician for a FAA Part 145 repair station. For the first time in my life, three months after I arrived in the United States, I was on a path to accomplish my dream. I was part of the aviation community. Working in aviation maintenance and safety became my passion.

I got my professional engineering license in the state of Florida and I obtained the Miami-Dade College School of Aviation Certificate in Aviation/Airline Management. I am also a graduate of the Master of Aeronautical Science program at Embry-Riddle’s Worldwide Campus and had the privilege of walking at the graduation ceremony beside my youngest daughter, Diana Rosa Cobas.

I feel I have accomplished in 16 years much more than I did in the 40 years I lived in my country. I highly value the support and encouragement that I have received from my husband, James, my daughters Dafne and Diana, and the rest of my family. I am who I am because of them. Since I have years of experience in aviation maintenance and engineering, I have continued working in aviation, focusing on the safety aspects of the industry.

Presently, I work for the FAA as a safety inspector. I am a member of Women in Aviation, and I have a lot of plans for the future. I would like to be a professor one more time before retirement. Teaching aviation courses would be a great opportunity to share my experiences with new generations of aircraft maintenance mechanics, technicians, engineers or high school students, who have the same feelings that I had 30 years ago. I would love to prepare them to face the challenges of the air transportation industry. Of course, work and travel in airplanes is not an issue anymore.

Today, thanks to this great country, the only part of my dream that is still pending is to be a pilot. Although I think time is catching up with me and I am getting old, I still believe that I can do it. That day, from the skies, I will be giving thanks one more time to this country for the opportunity to make my dream comes true.

Julia Bury (’14, DB)

On Oct. 2, 2011, I completed my commercial solo cross country flight to Marathon, Fla., with four other commercial students. It was one of the most fun, scenic, and great experiences I have had while flight training at Embry-Riddle. It combined all of my flight training up until that point including flight planning, weather, decision making, and single pilot resource management.

After completing a solo flight that was that long and completely on my own, I felt like all of my training and knowledge was coming together and I felt great pride in my accomplishments. It was an awesome experience as a student at the school and with some fellow classmates.

​Submitted: Aug. 10, 2015

Yreka Flores (’14, DB)

I am a business aircraft finance consultant for CIT Aerospace in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

​Submitted: June 5, 2015


Lorenzo “Enzo” Vito Galicia (’15, PC)

I was a freshman residential adviser (RA) for Hall 3 during 2011-2012 and for Hall 4 during 2012-2013. At the end of freshman orientation there is an event called "The Olympiad," which pits freshman halls against each other in field games in a battle for supremacy and awesomeness. Myself, and the other RAs (shout outs to Aidan Doherty, Sam Sedivy, Alan Marlowe and Jaron Wong) came up with the tradition of face painting the residents and creating chants and battle cries, which still continue today. The 2011-2012 mascot for Hall 3 was the Bacon Shark, and the 2012-2013 mascot for Hall 4 was the Bacon Badger. Both halls came in first place for their respective years.

Submitted: May 18, 2015

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