Vintage photo of Alex and Mary Wells

Follow Your Dreams

'I ventured south to interview at the small school in Daytona Beach that many still considered a fixed-base operator'

I never planned on being a teacher. I worked for 12 years — the first six as an aviation underwriter for the Royal-Globe Insurance Companies in their New York City and Chicago offices. This was followed by three years as an economic planner for United Airlines and finally a large insurance brokerage firm in Chicago handling the United Airlines account.

I earned a master’s degree in economics from DePaul University and began teaching part-time at local colleges in Chicago. Around this time, I met Dan Sain, academic dean at Embry-Riddle, at a University Aviation Association meeting. In March of 1972, I ventured south from wintry Chicago to my interview with Lowell Chrisman (and the aviation management staff) at the small school in Daytona Beach that many still considered a fixed-base operator. I remember staying at the old dormitory and walking along the dirt shoulder adjacent to Clyde Morris Boulevard to my interview. I was hired and started that fall.

My wife Mary and two children followed me to our new Florida home, which had an added benefit: It was closer to our retired parents. I had left a job in Chicago paying $19,500 a year to teach at Embry-Riddle as an assistant professor for $11,000.

Teaching three or four economics courses each term, my primary job was to develop aviation management courses in airline management, airport planning and management, general aviation marketing and aviation insurance. I looked upon my move to Daytona Beach as a tremendous challenge. Until then, a typical college management program was all that was available for those interested in aviation business. My first charge was to create course outlines, handouts and reference materials. There were no textbooks in these areas.

I loved my four years on the Daytona Beach Campus, working with Jack Hunt and the few faculty members who were there at that time. We were all like one family. In 1973, I helped start Embry-Riddle’s first graduate program — the M.S. in Aviation Management — through a partnership with Biscayne College in Miami. Relocating to South Florida in 1976, I became the graduate program director.

In 1978, I accepted a position with Broward Community College (BCC), heading up its aviation program. During my 20 years at BCC, I developed an airframe and powerplant program and managed to author or coauthor nine textbooks in aviation management. All of these have been turned over to younger professors and are now in their 7th and 8th editions. I also served as an adjunct professor in the Miami and Fort Lauderdale area, and for 19 years I went to Europe every summer teaching Embry-Riddle courses for the Worldwide Campus.

Current photo of Alex Wells sitting on a chair.

As I approached retirement, I turned over my books to coauthors who eventually took over full authorship. These included Embry-Riddle faculty Seth Young, John Wensveen, Clarence Rodrigues and Bruce Chadbourne. Bruce and I authored the third editions of the general aviation and insurance books. We also collaborated with the Aviation Insurance Association (AIA) to develop a certification course for AIA members. We presented seminars around the country to prepare practitioners for the certification test.

Retiring in 1998, Mary and I moved to Deland, Florida, where I continued teaching at the Daytona Beach and Worldwide campuses until 2012. For 40 years I had been associated with Embry-Riddle. What started out as an aviation career turned into a fulfilling life of teaching and touching the lives of hundreds of students across the country and internationally, who used the books I wrote and co-wrote as a foundation for their aviation management programs. Awards from the University Aviation Association and AIA were flattering but even more important was the satisfaction and joy I received in following my dreams.

Mary and I will continue to support Embry-Riddle through a gift to the university in our estate. I truly feel blessed and proud to be a member of the Embry-Riddle Legacy Society, where my contribution can be used to provide scholarships to needy students aspiring careers in aviation.

Eagle Wordsmith

Eagle Wordsmith – Aero + BusinessPut your aviation and industry know-how to the test with Eagle Wordsmith, a crossword puzzle created by Faculty Emeritus Alexander Wells. For years, Wells created insurance and finance-related puzzles for the Aviation Insurance Association.