Today, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University is synonymous with aviation and aerospace around the world. But it wasn’t always that way. What began in 1926 with a businessman, a barnstormer and a small WACO aircraft on a modest airstrip in southern Ohio would take decades of ups and downs before soaring to become the world’s leader in aviation and aerospace education. As we celebrate Embry-Riddle’s 90th Anniversary, here are the key moments that show you how we made it happen.
Look for the footprints icon throughout the timeline for information on Embry-Riddle’s expanding facilities footprint.
T. Higbee Embry and John Paul Riddle sign a contract on Dec. 17, 1925, to form a company in their names at Lunken Field in Cincinnati, Ohio, with Embry as president and Riddle as general manager. The company became known as “Cincinnati’s first aviation corporation to amount to anything.” The Embry-Riddle Flying School begins operating in spring 1926, gaining fame a year later after training student Frank Shelton to fly solo in only 5 hours and 34 minutes—believed to be the shortest amount of time at that point. The company slogan becomes “If it’s flying, we do it; if it’s airplanes, we have them.”
Embry-Riddle secures the U.S. Post Office Air Mail contract for service from Cincinnati to Chicago.
Embry-Riddle holds its first graduation exercises.
After thorough examination by the Aeronautics Branch of the U.S. Department of Commerce, Embry-Riddle’s Flying School becomes one of the first five schools in the country to receive an “Approved School Certificate” under the Air Commerce Act.
Embry-Riddle Aviation Corporation is formed as part of an agreement of acquisition by the Aviation Corporation (AVCO). The next year, AVCO forms American Airways and the Embry-Riddle division is ultimately absorbed into this new entity.
John Paul Riddle partners with attorney John McKay and the Embry-Riddle Company is reborn as a seaplane base in Miami with two planes, one flight instructor and one maintenance man. Shortly thereafter, Riddle enters into agreement with the University of Miami to train college students to fly under the 1939 Civilian Pilot Training Program; he leases a hangar at Municipal Airport and expands the training fleet to 15 aircraft.
Oct. 18, 1940
The first edition of the Embry-Riddle Fly Paper, a weekly newsletter published by the administration from 1940 to 1957, is produced and distributed.
Embry-Riddle expands its technical school, renames it the Embry-Riddle School of Aviation and moves the operation to the former Fritz Hotel. In 1942, the U.S. Army Service Command establishes a training detachment at the school.
March 22, 1941
Embry-Riddle opens the new Carlstrom Field, the first of five fields established for training pilots (1941-45) for the U.S. Army Air Corps/Army Air Forces and British Royal Air Force. The latter were primarily trained at the No. 5 British Flying Training School, which opened in Clewiston, Fla., in 1942, and operated under the 1941 Federal Lend-Lease Act.
Embry-Riddle establishes the Escola Técnica de Aviação in São Paulo, Brazil, to train Brazilian cadets in basic aircraft construction and maintenance. In 1944, John McKay buys out John Paul Riddle’s interests in the Embry-Riddle Company, while Riddle retains interest in the Brazilian school, which in 1946 transitions to a nationally operated school.
Embry-Riddle becomes one of the first aviation schools to train veterans under the GI Bill®.
Jan. 1, 1951
John McKay dies and his wife, Isabel McKay, becomes president of Embry-Riddle.
Chandler Titus, Embry-Riddle faculty (1953-2006), establishes the Embry-Riddle Engine Repair Station as a means of providing the school’s airframe and powerplant (A&P) students hands-on aircraft maintenance training on certificated airworthy engines that after overhaul would be used within the school’s fleet of flight training aircraft. To this day, Embry-Riddle continues to be the only university that operates an FAA-certified Part 145 Powerplant Repair Station to facilitate and enhance its A&P student training. In recognition of Titus's contributions to the university, upon his retirement, the engine repair station was dedicated the “Chandler Titus Engine Repair Station.”
U.S. Navy Cmdr. Jack Hunt, who would become Embry-Riddle’s first university president, pilots the longest nonstop, non-refueled trans-Atlantic flight in a blimp (9,400 statute miles), receiving a Distinguished Flying Cross and the 1958 Harmon International Trophy (Aeronaut) for his achievement.
The Engineer’s Council for Professional Development accredits Embry-Riddle’s Aeronautical Engineering Technology program.
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical Institute (ERAI) is established as a nonprofit corporation.
Student Council and the PI Chapter of the Sigma Phi Delta, an international professional fraternity of engineers, are officially initiated at Embry-Riddle. The Epsilon Rho Chapter of Alpha Eta Rho, a coeducational international professional college aviation fraternity, is founded in January 1961. While coeducational, due to the scarcity of women enrolled at Embry-Riddle, the first female students were not initiated into the Epsilon Rho Chapter until 1975.
Jan. 1, 1962
Isabel McKay resigns as president to become chairman of ERAI’s Board of Trustees. Shortly thereafter, Jack Hunt is hired to lead Embry-Riddle and the Hunt Era begins.
April 23-25, 1965
Embry-Riddle moves from Miami to Daytona Beach, Fla., in what was termed “Operation Bootstrap,” with assistance and support from members of the Daytona Beach community. Just weeks later, the school reopens in Daytona Beach.
At the urging of President Jack Hunt, a group of alumni officially form the Embry-Riddle Alumni Association and apply for nonprofit status with the state of Florida. The first Alumni Reunion is held three years later in 1969 at the Daytona Beach Campus.Facilities Footprint
Embry-Riddle becomes a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics and begins competing in statewide baseball, basketball, soccer and wrestling events.
The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools accredits Embry-Riddle Aeronautical Institute as a “special purpose institution.”Facilities Footprint
June 9, 1970
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical Institute becomes Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. It touts a two-college structure: Aeronautical Studies and Aviation Technology.
July 6, 1970
The first Residence Center is established at the U.S. Army Aviation Center in Fort Rucker, Ala., to assist military students in attaining credits for the purpose of future matriculation to the university’s home campus. Two similar centers open later that year: Fort Stewart/Hunter Army Airfield in Georgia, and Fort Wolters, Texas; and in 1971, a fourth center opens at Fort Eustis, Va. In 1973, the Residence Center operation is renamed the College of Continuing Education and its students are no longer required to matriculate to the main campus to complete their degrees.
Jack Thompson, director of the Embry-Riddle Worldwide Campus at Fort Eustis, Va., started as an adjunct faculty member at the Fort Eustis Residence Center in 1974. Recalling those early days, he says: “From 1974 to 2001, the classes were held in World War II ‘temporary’ buildings. Each building had two classrooms on the first floor and one classroom upstairs. Both floors had 8-inch square posts throughout the rooms and some of the students had to peer around the posts while I conducted class. They weren’t made for classrooms, but for bunks and soldiers. [Furthermore] at times you had to stop teaching if your class was on the first floor, because you were being drowned out by the boots on the stairway to the second floor.”Facilities Footprint
The Maintenance Technology Division at Embry-Riddle is recertified by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), becoming one of the first Airframe & Powerplant Schools in the country to be recertified under the new curriculum developed for FAA compliance.Facilities Footprint
Air Force ROTC Detachment 157 debuts as the first ROTC program at Embry-Riddle.
Left to right, Chuck Davis, Lloyd Terry Jr. and Kevin Parker.
Embry-Riddle’s College of Continuing Education begins offering the university’s first graduate level program, an M.S. in Aviation Management, through a partnership with the Miami Education Consortium and Biscayne College.
The Daytona Beach Campus forms the office of Graduate Studies to assist in the management of graduate degrees offered through the university’s College of Continuing Education and partner universities/consortia.
Embry-Riddle's College of Continuing Education opens 15 European Residence Centers and 20 U.S. Residence Centers.
Embry-Riddle’s Prescott Campus opens in Arizona with 240 students.
Time magazine article calls Embry-Riddle the “Harvard of the Sky.”
President Jack Hunt implements what he calls a “new single university – multiple campus concept” that divides the university into three campuses: the Daytona Beach Campus, Prescott Campus and the International Campus (later becoming the Worldwide Campus), which includes professional programs, the College of Graduate Studies, the College of Continuing Studies and the External Degree (Independent Studies) Program.
International Campus enrollment surpasses both the Daytona Beach and the Prescott campuses with 23,000 students.
Jan. 7, 1984
Jack Hunt passes away and Kenneth Tallman becomes president of the university.Facilities Footprint
Legendary entertainer and comedian Bob Hope delivers the keynote address at the spring commencement ceremony at the Daytona Beach Campus.
The Daytona Beach Campus offers its first graduate programs: M.S. in Aeronautical Engineering, MBA – Aviation, M.S. in Aviation Management and Master of Aeronautical Science. The Prescott Campus launches the M.S. in Business Administration, M.S. in Aviation Management and the Master of Aeronautical Science.
Embry-Riddle’s Daytona Beach Campus is reinstated as a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, following a 10-year hiatus of inactivity, and begins competing in men’s basketball, baseball, soccer, tennis and golf.
Steve Sliwa becomes president of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.
The wrestling club, which formed in 1988 at the Prescott Campus, becomes that campus’s first intercollegiate sport, competing as a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA).
The Daytona Beach Eagles Flight Team wins its first National Intercollegiate Flying Association’s (NIFA) Safety and Flight Evaluation National Championship. In 1993, the Prescott Golden Eagles Flight Team wins its first NIFA Safety and Flight Evaluation National Championship. To date, the Golden Eagles team has tallied nine national championships.
The College of Continuing Studies/International Campus changes its name to Extended Campus, which is comprised of more than 100 residence centers and teaching sites in 32 U.S. states and five European countries.
Women’s sports begin at the Daytona Beach Campus with volleyball.Facilities Footprint
Susan L. Still-Kilrain ('82, DB) becomes the first Embry-Riddle alumna/NASA astronaut to go to space (STS-83 Columbia).
Women’s sports begin at the Prescott Campus with volleyball.
George H. Ebbs becomes president of Embry-Riddle.
Chance Farrar (’00, PC) becomes the Prescott Campus’s first NAIA Individual National Champion in Wrestling. Seven more NAIA individual wrestling championships would follow. The most recent was awarded in 2015 to student Jose Cruz III.Facilities Footprint
U.S. News & World Report ranks Embry-Riddle’s Aerospace Engineering program No. 1 among the nation’s undergraduate aerospace engineering programs without a Ph.D. The program has been ranked No. 1 each year since, through 2015.
Embry-Riddle's men's basketball team at Daytona Beach wins the university's first NAIA Division II National Championship.
John P. Johnson becomes president and CEO of the university.
Worldwide Campus, a dedicated division for student advising and course quality, is created and includes online offerings. It absorbs the formerly named Extended Campus.Facilities Footprint
Embry-Riddle launches its first Ph.D. programs: The Ph.D. in Engineering Physics and the Ph.D. in Aviation, which is the first of its kind in the nation. In 2013, Embry-Riddle confers its first Ph.D. degrees to eight students, five in aviation and three in engineering physics.
Embry-Riddle’s Worldwide Campus establishes its first Asian center in collaboration with Singapore Aviation Academy, the training division of the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore, offering a Master in Business Administration – Aviation degree. Later this year, Embry-Riddle begins offering undergraduate degrees in collaboration with SIM University, including a dual-degree program for Republic of Singapore Air Force personnel. Embry-Riddle’s Daytona Beach Campus also creates collaborative degree programs with three institutions in China. According to then-executive vice president and chief academic officer for Embry-Riddle Worldwide, John R. Watret: “These moves solidify Embry-Riddle’s position within the rapidly growing aviation sector in East Asia. Our MBA-A degree provides students with tools to address issues such as aviation business, economics, procurement, logistics, passenger and cargo management, security and international regulatory systems to help Singapore grow its aviation and aerospace stronghold.”Facilities Footprint
Embry-Riddle surpasses 100,000 alumni.
The Prescott Campus Athletics program joins the California Pacific Conference.Facilities Footprint
Embry-Riddle creates the world’s first bachelor’s degree in commercial space operations.
Men's tennis at the Daytona Beach Campus wins the university's second team NAIA Division II National Championship.
Embry-Riddle opens the largest university research telescope in the state of Florida at its Daytona Beach Campus; and the Prescott Campus launches the nation’s first College of Security and Intelligence.Facilities Footprint
The Daytona Beach Campus’ Athletics program is approved for provisional membership in the National Collegiate Athletic Association—Division II.
President & CEO John P. Johnson retires and Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer John R. Watret is named interim president of the university.
Dec. 17, 2015
Embry-Riddle celebrates the 90th anniversary of its founding.
The first of two new residence halls at the Daytona Beach Campus, Residence Hall Phase I, is scheduled to be complete in December 2016 and accommodate 659 students.
The Advanced Aerodynamics Lab is set to open at the Embry-Riddle Research & Technology Park at the Daytona Beach Campus in February 2017.
The STEM Education Center is scheduled to open at the Prescott Campus.
The ERA of U:
It’s Your Time to Reminisce
Visit ERAU 90 to share your memories of Embry-Riddle and to view others.
Commencement Ceremony Archive
President Jack Hunt announces a 10-year building program to accommodate 6,000 students at the Daytona Beach Campus.
Aug. 9, 1968
The cornerstone for the new $1.4 million Lindbergh Academic Complex (later called Alphabet Soup) is laid at the Daytona Beach Campus. Construction of buildings A, B, C, E, W, the annexes and offices is completed by 1980 (59,613 square feet). The buildings are demolished in 2012 to make way for construction of the new College of Arts & Sciences building.
Doolittle Hall, the first brick and mortar building to be built on the Daytona Beach Campus, is erected (62,325 square feet).
July 6, 1970
The first Residence Center, the precursor to today’s Worldwide Campus, is established at the U.S. Army Aviation Center in Fort Rucker, Ala.
The Gill Robb Wilson Flight Center is constructed at the Daytona Beach Campus (29,687 square feet). It is demolished in 2009 and replaced by the new Hagedorn Aviation Complex.
Oct. 29, 1973
The first European Residence Center opens at the U.S. Army installation in Mannheim (Coleman Barracks), Germany.
Construction starts on the $2 million John Paul Riddle University Center (completed in 1975; 84,133 square feet); and the Gill Robb Wilson Aeronautical Science aircraft parking ramp is completed.
The Jack R. Hunt Memorial Library opens (47,368 square feet). It is demolished in July 2015 to make way for a new comprehensive library and student union (expected completion 2017).
See Next Steps December 2017.
The International Campus moves its offices from Bunnell, Fla., to 948 N. Williamson Boulevard in Daytona Beach. After several subsequent moves, the offices settled in 2009 at 2379 Beville Road in Daytona Beach, the current location of Embry-Riddle's Worldwide Campus Headquarters.
The Wright Flyer sculpture is erected at the Daytona Beach Campus.
NASA donates Lockheed F-104 Starfighter No. 811 to the Prescott Campus.
The ICI Center/Field House is constructed (67,559 square feet) at the Daytona Beach Campus.
The Capt. Willie Miller Instructional Center opens (20,415 square feet) at the Daytona Beach Campus.
The Lehman Engineering and Technology Center is built at the Daytona Beach Campus (127,706 square feet).
Robertson Aviation Safety Center is constructed at the Prescott Campus (7,255 square feet).
The King Engineering and Technology Center opens at the Prescott Campus (20,156 square feet).
The Villages Residence Hall (Juniper, Manzanita, Saguaro and The Dells) is built at the Prescott Campus (64,813 square feet).
The College of Aviation building at the Daytona Beach Campus is built (75,313 square feet).
The Spirit Rock is installed at the Daytona Beach Campus.
Academic Complex 1 is constructed at the Prescott Campus (48,000 square feet).
Prescott Campus’ Visitor Center/Administration building opens (13,028 square feet).
The Aerospace Experimentation and Fabrication building is built at the Prescott Campus (22,486 square feet).
Dec. 25, 2006
A tornado strikes the Daytona Beach Campus, leveling the aircraft maintenance hangar, damaging Spruance Hall, the main administration building, beyond repair, and inflicting minor damage on three other campus structures. Additionally, 40 training aircraft—two-thirds of the fleet—are destroyed. The total damage is $50 million. The administration, faculty and staff rallied, however, and the spring 2007 semester was delayed by only six days.
The Chris and Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Library and Learning Center opens at the Prescott Campus (35,711 square feet).
The Spirit Rock at the Prescott Campus is installed.
The College of Business building at the Daytona Beach Campus is constructed (57,090 square feet).
Robertson Aviation Safety Center II – Aviation Archives opens (4,948 square feet).
The Hagedorn Aviation Complex, which includes a Flight Operations Center (33,850 square feet), the Emil Buehler Aviation Maintenance Science building (48,680 square feet) and the Sam Goldman Fleet Maintenance Hangar (15,020), opens at the Daytona Beach Campus.
Embry-Riddle’s Worldwide Campus in Asia opens in Singapore.
The Jim W. Henderson Administration and Welcome Center is constructed at the Daytona Beach Campus (37,454 square feet).
The College of Arts & Sciences Building, complete with the largest university research telescope in the state of Florida, opens at the Daytona Beach Campus (140,000 square feet).
Proposed rendering of the STEM Education Center.
Proposed rendering of the Advanced Aerodynamics Lab.
Proposed rendering of Student Union and Library building.