You may imagine John Paul Riddle as a dashing barnstormer in his Jenny biplane. You would be right. He was one of many who supported his passion for flying by performing stunts over fields and fairgrounds across America. Some of these early flyers, such as Charles Lindbergh, Wiley Post and Ruth Law, went on to become aviation legends.
With the support of T. Higbee Embry, a flying student who became his partner, Riddle chose to pioneer the business of aviation. [See Wings of Legacy: The Riddle of T. Higbee Embry.] The pair went to work, overhauling engines, selling aircraft and landing one of the first federal airmail contracts. Riddle went on to train the workforce for the first package express business and later trained military pilots for World War II. He opened a charter seaplane service. He established a technical aviation school for the Brazilian Air Ministry.
We continue the twin legacy of flight and business. I think both Embry and Riddle would be pleased — but not surprised — that a nationally respected business leader gave his name to our David B. O’Maley College of Business this year.
Riddle’s love affair with all things aviation lasted a lifetime. He would be intrigued by the data analytics and technical research going on at our campuses and proud of projects based at the MicaPlex that will advance the manufacture and performance of manned and unmanned aircraft.
He would want to hear from students who are acting as consultants to airlines and airports and striking out as entrepreneurs.
At the dedication of the Mori Hosseini Student Union at the Daytona Beach Campus in October, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao acknowledged the contribution Embry-Riddle makes to the country: “American genius for innovation continues to refresh the industry and create exciting new possibilities for the future.” [See Grand Opening.]
That was true in 1926. It is true now. We will continue to be a part of that American genius for years to come. The aviation business is in our DNA, thanks to T. Higbee Embry and John Paul Riddle. As alumni, you can take pride in our role in defining the industry — past, present and future.
P. Barry Butler, Ph.D.
President, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University