Seven Embry-Riddle alumni are being honored with a 2021 Eagle Alumni Award for their achievements. The recipients, who will be recognized in a virtual program, are: Barry Hyde, D.B.A. (’07); Moriba Jah, Ph.D. (’99); Lisa Anderson Spencer (’99, ’03); Matthew Savoca (’94); Narendran Muraleedharan (’16,’17); Jean Olivier Mbog (’13); and Phil Rosnik (’86).
Hyde, Spencer and Jah will receive the Distinguished Alumni Award. Savoca was chosen for the Entrepreneur Alumni Award, while Muraleedharan was selected for the Young Alumni Award, and Mbog and Rosnik received Volunteer Alumni Awards.
“I never dreamt of receiving this award when I came to Embry-Riddle,” Hyde says. “There were many factors that came forward in my life that allowed me to do it.”
Barry Hyde, Ph.D. (’07)
Distinguished Alumni Award
Hyde miraculously survived a 1998 plane crash, but he permanently lost his vision and ability to fly a plane again.
“I never dreamt of receiving this award when I came to Embry-Riddle,” says Hyde. “There were many factors that came forward in my life that allowed me to do it.”
Hyde, then 26 years old, was a passenger in the plane crash, and suffered a traumatic brain injury, 14 broken bones and permanently lost his sight, taste and smell. But he didn’t give up his dreams to work in aviation.
The former pilot and flight instructor embarked on a new career path, studying aviation safety at Embry-Riddle. He went on to earn his doctorate and is now an aviation safety analyst for the Federal Aviation Administration.
Hyde works at the FAA and is part of its Airman Testing Standards Branch. In 2000, he became the first blind Advanced Ground Instructor and Instrument Ground Instructor certified by the FAA. Hyde also recently completed and published his autobiography titled, Seeing New Horizons: A Blind Aviator’s Journey after Tragedy.
“Embry-Riddle’s degree really opened the door for me to be able to work for the FAA,” says Hyde. “It allowed me to pursue my passion for aviation and help make sure what happened to me doesn’t happen to another pilot.”
Lisa Anderson (’99, ’03)
Distinguished Alumni Award
Spencer is the chief of the Commercial Air Travel Safety Unit with the United Nations since 2011. Prior to her current role, she was a commercial pilot and an aviation consultant, which included work at the International Civil Aviation Organization.
“This award was so unexpected and humbling; I’m honored and filled with gratitude,” she says. “Being selected for this award demonstrates confidence in me as a valued alumna. I feel a degree of responsibility to be the best that I can be, as I represent the faith that Embry-Riddle has in me, as well.”
Spencer is a member of the College of Business Philanthropy Council at the Daytona Beach Campus. She was a member of the Alumni Advisory Council from 2009-2015 and involved in Embry-Riddle Alumni Chapters in Washington, D.C. and New York City. As an adjunct professor at the Embry-Riddle Worldwide Campus in 2010, she taught Strategic Management and was the 2011 recipient of the Eagle of Excellence Award. In the Spring 2016 issue of Lift, she authored an article for the “In Other Words” feature.
“My Embry-Riddle education has impacted my life at every level. It has been more than just an education or university,” she says. “Embry-Riddle is a community of experts and peers, resources for my career and a social group that has assisted me in my personal and professional growth. I am a better global citizen because of Embry-Riddle and its worldwide reach, and I couldn’t be more grateful.”
Moriba Jah, Ph.D. (’99)
Distinguished Alumni Award
Jah is an associate professor of aerospace engineering and engineering mechanics at the University of Texas at Austin. His prior experience in space object detection at the Air Force Research Laboratory and his ongoing research make him a leading voice on the problem of space debris in Earth’s orbit.
“I am extremely honored and pleasantly surprised that the university felt I was someone who would earn this sort of distinction,” says Jah. “It is welcomed and a very moving gesture.”
He worked in spacecraft navigation on multiple Mars missions at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). He is also TED Fellow and has been named in more than 75 publications.
“One of the things that I got from Embry-Riddle, in terms of education, was hands-on experience with real data and real systems. Certainly I would say one of the biggest benefits was the time I spent as a NASA Space Grant researcher through the Arizona Space Grant Consortium working with Dr. Ron Madler,” says Jah. “He initiated me on my path to becoming an Astrodynamicst and now a Space Environmentalist. After Embry-Riddle, I followed in his footsteps, attending graduate school at the University of Colorado at Boulder – he has always been a guidestar for me.”
Matt Savoca (’94)
Entrepreneur Alumni Award
As cofounder of Kutta Technologies, Inc., Savoca helped grow the company from a small startup into a successful defense contracting business, focused on the control of unmanned systems. Since its acquisition by Sierra Nevada Corporation in 2015, Savoca serves as Kutta’s executive vice president and is primarily responsible for the day-to-day operations of the company.
As a student, Savoca was elected Student Government President. After graduation, he worked as an engineer at Honeywell’s prestigious Software Solutions Laboratory.
“I was a little lost and in my mid-twenties when I started at ERAU,” Savoca says. “I graduated with the confidence to know I could take on life’s challenges. There are many great minds and many great entrepreneurs who have graduated from ERAU, and to be selected for this award is truly an honor.”
Narendran Muraleedharan (’16, ’17)
Young Alumni Award
After completing his undergraduate and graduate engineering degrees at Embry-Riddle, Muraleedharan didn’t waste any time following his passion for solving engineering problems in robotics and artificial intelligence.
“I am honored to be chosen for an alumni award,” he says. “I loved my experience at Embry-Riddle – from the classes to the independent studies with professors and research projects.”
At age 26, Muraleedharan is the CEO and founder of Aptus, a software solutions and artificial intelligence development and consulting firm providing aerospace, mechanical and software engineering services to companies around the world. Aptus has recently been rebranded as a venture studio called Inventives, Inc. to create and commercialize revolutionary and innovative new technology.
He is also the founder and partner of Stax.ai, an intelligent business administrative operations (BAO) platform that uses artificial intelligence to automatically sort, route, index and backup incoming emails, attachments, faxes and scans.
“ERAU has been a pivotal aspect of what makes me who I am today,” says Muraleedharan, who is a member of the Prescott College of Engineering Philanthropy Council. “Embry-Riddle’s research opportunities for undergraduates empower their students to solve real world problems and build entrepreneurial agency and autonomy.”
Jean Olivier Mbog (’13)
Volunteer Alumni Award
Born in Cameroon, Mbog knew early on that he wanted to be a pilot.
“On my very first plane ride, I caught the aviation bug,” he says. “From that point on, I knew I wanted to ‘be one of them!’”
Now, Mbog, who is a flight officer for United Airlines, wants to inspire the next generation of aviation and aerospace leaders. He has conducted international outreach to inspire and educate students in aviation, meeting with hundreds of students annually, particularly in the Caribbean and Africa.
He is currently the membership chair for OBAP’s Board of Directors and director of its Houston Aerospace Career Education (ACE) academy, which offers one-week summer aerospace camps.
“I’m in love with aircraft, aviation and everything that goes into them. Give me a chance to upskill, and I’m as happy as I can be,” Mbog says. “My life and my career is an endless learning journey, and I’m loving every minute of it!”
Phil Rosnik (’86)
Volunteer Alumni Award
Rosnik (’86) is a retired senior aerospace executive with United Technologies (now Raytheon Technologies). Now his focus is on giving back to institutions that are important to him, including his alma mater.
“Earning my degree at Embry-Riddle was a solid foundation for my career in aerospace manufacturing,” he says.
A member of the Embry-Riddle Prescott Board of Visitors, Rosnik also serves on both the College of Engineering and School of Business Philanthropy councils at the Prescott Campus. He is the Embry-Riddle Denver Network leader and a board member of the Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport.
“Receiving an award as recognition for my efforts is certainly an honor and always appreciated,” says Rosnik. “However, the real reward for me is observing the actual positive impact that Embry-Riddle and the student population experience from my efforts.”