In 1963, newly hired President Jack Hunt knew that in order to thrive, Embry-Riddle needed a cohesive campus with direct access to a runway. With its facilities scattered from Opa-locka and Tamiami Airport, to 27th Avenue in downtown Miami, Hunt started searching for a new home for Embry-Riddle. When Dade County announced it planned to close Tamiami Airport, the move became inevitable.
Philip “Phil” Elliott Jr. (HonDoc ‘04; ‘72, DB, Non-degree), Embry-Riddle Trustee Emeritus; former member of the Committee of 100, a group of Daytona Beach businessmen and city leaders organized to bring industry and jobs to the area; and former Embry-Riddle attorney:
“In 1964, Jack Hunt came to Daytona Beach looking for a place to relocate ERAI. I wasn’t on board at first. I saw the function of the committee as bringing in commercial businesses, not schools, and I was skeptical at first of Embry-Riddle’s ability to make it financially. After meeting with Jack, I came around. Jack wanted to temporarily locate in old Naval Air Station buildings at the Daytona Beach Airport and to build the new campus at the Ormond Beach Airport. The attorney who represented both Ormond Beach and Daytona Beach had doubts about the prospects for the success of ERAI. Relying on his advice, the Ormond Beach City Commission required certain lease terms that Jack could not accept.”
John C. “Jay” Adams (HonDoc ‘08), Embry-Riddle Trustee Emeritus and former member of the Committee of 100:
“When Ormond Beach balked, Gary Cunningham, president of the Committee of 100, suggested Jack call [Daytona Beach City Manager] Norm Hickey. Norm thought it was a great idea. Besides, they had all of these old World War II buildings at the airport that could be used.”
The Daytona Beach City Commission voted favorably to lease 82.5 acres near the airport to Embry-Riddle, with an option to purchase.
Former Daytona Beach City Manager Norm Hickey:
“I thought Embry-Riddle had tremendous potential. I went down to the Miami Campus for a visit and there really wasn’t much to see. But I liked Jack Hunt. I felt through Jack’s leadership there was much more the university could accomplish and become, and that the impact of the university’s future growth would grow the Daytona Beach community.”
Moving Embry-Riddle to Daytona Beach was a daunting task, especially because the school had limited finances. The Committee of 100 and the Jaycees, a local civic group, rallied the community to help and the effort became known as “Operation Bootstrap.”
“It meant ‘by the skin of your teeth.’ It was a term people used because they knew it was grass roots, for sure, and it was done by sweat equity and volunteer labor, and other people’s gasoline and trucks. But we felt like we were getting something. We were starved for employers and payrolls.”
The move began on April 25, 1965, and was completed three days later.
Jim Ladesic (‘67, DB), who later became an Embry-Riddle professor and is now associate dean of industry relations and outreach for the College of Engineering, was a student at the time:
“At the beginning of the first trimester in 1965, a group of us were standing outside the Embry-Riddle bookstore in Miami, waiting for it to open. It was there that we saw a notice on the corkboard. It read: ‘Notice: As of April, 1965, the University will be moving to Daytona Beach.’ There was no explanation—just ‘We’re moving!’ Many of the students chose not to stay. We had something like 400 students enrolled in Miami, but only 283 made it to Daytona—I was one who made it.”