Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University

A Message from the Board of Trustees – April 15, 2016

In recent weeks, the commitment, motivations and specific decisions of the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Board of Trustees have been questioned and we offer the following insights in the spirit of our ongoing commitment to transparency. Our doors have always been open to the University community to address questions, concerns or to discuss the future of Embry-Riddle. 

The state of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University is undeniably solid and forever evolving with new programs through the Ph.D. level, growing enrollment, expanding research, world-class facilities, solid return on investment for students and strong industry connections. Our institution enjoys this position of strength thanks to the tireless commitment and passion of our students, faculty, staff and governance from the Board of Trustees. 

The founders of Embry-Riddle were visionary entrepreneurs with dreams that gave rise to a reality bigger than their imaginations. Ninety years ago, The Embry-Riddle Company was established to promote aviation by any profitable and legal means. Today, our collective community can confidently claim that Embry-Riddle has deep roots and is present on every branch of aviation’s history. Together we proudly continue to expand a tradition of excellence in preparing the next generation of leaders across a range of industries. 

Our national rankings continue to soar. The U.S. News and World Report rankings are undoubtedly the most well-known, with Embry-Riddle boasting two No. 1 positions: best undergraduate aerospace engineering programs and best online bachelor’s degrees. And in the regional reports, we have been recognized as the most veteran friendly and the top up-and-coming college/university in the South. As a direct result of our placement rates, in 2015 the Wall Street Journal ranked Embry-Riddle No. 16 nationwide for return on investment. But rankings are just one measure of success—ensuring the continued evolution of Embry-Riddle requires all members of our community to work together, lead change and execute a strategy to move us forward.

The Embry-Riddle Board of Trustees is composed of 20 individuals of national, state and local prominence that includes business leaders, former military leaders, academics, scientists and astronauts. Seven members are alumni. The Board conducts meetings throughout the year; in fact, the majority of the work is accomplished in the standing committees of the Board—many of which meet on a monthly basis. Collectively the committees ensure that the academic reputation, success and safety of students, financial strength, growth and maintenance of facilities, fundraising, regulatory compliance and governance of the Board are continually advanced.

Our members serve without remuneration and give freely of their time in establishing policy and providing guidance to the administration in the furtherance of the educational goals and objectives of the University. In addition, each campus appoints a faculty delegate and the Prescott and Daytona Beach campuses have a student delegate (the sitting Student Government Association President) to offer insight from the student and academic perspectives. Both delegates hold voting privileges on the committees. Student leaders have always been an integral part of board decision-making and a dedicated committee on student life is fervently chaired by alumnus Ken Dufour—ensuring that all initiatives advance student success and ultimately the reputation of the University and its graduates.

On Monday, Embry-Riddle will welcome a new Interim President—Dr. Karen A. Holbrook.   The institution is fortunate to command the talents of an interim leader with the experience of Dr. Holbrook. Her background speaks for itself, and is especially timely considering the rising academic and research reputation of the University. A member of Embry-Riddle’s Board of Trustees for 10 years, Dr. Holbrook most recently served at the University of South Florida, where she held numerous leadership positions including Senior Advisor to the President, Senior Vice President for Research and Innovation, and Senior Vice President for Global Affairs and International Research. Dr. Holbrook served as President of Ohio State University, Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost at the University of Georgia, Vice President for Research and Dean of the Graduate School at the University of Florida, and Associate Dean at the University of Washington’s School of Medicine. Earlier in her career, Dr. Holbrook was a biomedical researcher and NIH MERIT Award investigator. She currently serves on the boards of the Institute of International Education, CRDF Global, Bio-Techne, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, and is the past board chair for Oak Ridge Associated Universities.

Choosing Embry-Riddle’s next president is the most important responsibility of the Board of Trustees. Given our continued rise in national rankings, growing research footprint and continued expansion of academic programs, the University is at a pivotal moment to select a leader who will craft the needed vision and strategy to take us to the next level. 

The Board is sincerely grateful for the leadership provided by Interim President Dr. John R. Watret. Among his many talents, he demonstrated his expert abilities in bridging relationships between administration, students and faculty. Dr. Watret will return to Embry-Riddle’s senior administration and will continue to contribute the same outstanding leadership that he has for more than 26 years. He has been invited and encouraged to apply for the presidency.

The search will be a transparent process with trustees, students, faculty and staff serving on a presidential search committee. With Dr. Holbrook serving as an interim leader, the Board expects more viable candidates will apply for the position. This approach ensures that job candidates will not feel that another applicant has a head start.

As we commence the search process, we are confident that the breadth and depth of academic and administrative leadership at the institution will continue to ensure the success of our students and propel our reputation. 

The Board is particularly proud of the expansion of academic programs spearheaded by the academic committee of the Board, working in concert with faculty and academic leaders. The addition of new, industry-relevant academic programs—now numbering more than 80—has led to record levels of enrollment across the campuses and an increasing diversity of graduates and knowledge to better serve the changing aviation, aerospace and related industries.

Embry-Riddle’s last reaffirmation of accreditation in 2013 was a tremendous success, including the review of Board governance. The University advanced to the highest level of accreditation as an institution that offers four or more doctorates by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The institution has also maintained and gained numerous specialized accreditations including AABI (Aviation), ABET (Engineering) and ACBSP (Business).

The university is fiscally sound, while continually making significant investments in our students and improving the campus experience. This year more than $75 million in institutionally funded scholarships have been awarded to Embry-Riddle students – an increase from $42 million since 2011 with a goal of reaching $100 million by 2020. New facilities are under construction at the Arizona and Florida campuses totaling more than $170 million. In addition, ongoing investments in technology ensure that Embry-Riddle will continue to be a leader in online learning and deliver outstanding student services.

These investments directly impact the student experience and enhance institutional capabilities.  Buildings around our campuses bear the names of famous aviators, government leaders, alumni and Board members who have been integral to our success. Jim Henderson, Jay Adams, James Hagedorn, Harry and David Robertson, Ed King and General William Spruance—all current or former members of the Board—have been honored with buildings for their commitments of time, talent and treasure totaling more than $15 million.

An iconic representation of the University’s expansion is the new Student Union in Daytona Beach. The Board unanimously approved the naming of the union after our chairman and three-time Embry-Riddle alumnus, Mori Hosseini. The chairman has a reputation for openly leading with the students’ best interest at heart to ensure they have access to the best campus environment, programs and career placement, and that tuition dollars are used responsibly to support student success. The ongoing philanthropic support from the Hosseini family and his lead role in securing more than $40 million in state funds, a first for Embry-Riddle, underscores this naming.

Mr. Hosseini has an extensive background and understanding of the business of higher education from which Embry-Riddle continually benefits. During his tenure as chair of the Florida Board of Governors he spearheaded performance-based funding initiatives in the state university system further demonstrating his commitment to drive excellence and reward improvement in higher education.

Ensuring the financial health of the institution requires many difficult decisions. One such decision was to halt planning for the Wings and Waves Air Show. Simply put, this was a business decision not to invest student tuition dollars on a logistically complex event—choosing rather to focus on inviting alumni back to campus to experience the ongoing transformation of Embry-Riddle. We support continued planning to celebrate our 90 years of leadership in the aerospace industry with a range of activities including a campus-wide celebration for alumni, students, faculty and staff. Embry-Riddle will consider future iterations of the Wings and Waves show provided that a viable business model is adopted.

Of course there are areas for improvement. Specifically, Embry-Riddle must do a better job in philanthropic endeavors. Currently a search for a Senior Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations is underway and is a direct response to our self-awareness that we must improve. Over the past 10 years the University has raised slightly more than $75 million—we must reach higher.

The University will explore the launch of a capital campaign focused on raising significant funds for the scholarship endowment. It is envisioned to launch a bold campaign leveraging our specialized programs, leading faculty and industry-relevant research that will connect with individuals interested in investing in opportunities for our outstanding students and future generations of industry talent. 

The Board is proud of our more than 120,000 alumni who directly influence safety, profitability, operational efficiencies and drive innovation in the most exciting industries in the world—including our seven alumni trustees. Our decisions consummately consider the value of your diploma and the reputation of your alma mater. We encourage our alumni to become more involved, to return to campus to experience the growth and ongoing maturity of this great institution, and to continue to represent Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University with professionalism.

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University is a storied entrepreneurial endeavor that began 90 years ago, and the future is more promising than ever. Embry-Riddle will always reach into its history and draw upon its place in the industry, to provide leadership, platforms and creative thought to achieve the extraordinary.

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Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, the world’s largest, fully accredited university specializing in aviation and aerospace, is a nonprofit, independent institution offering more than 80 baccalaureate, master’s and Ph.D. degree programs in its colleges of Arts & Sciences, Aviation, Business, Engineering and Security & Intelligence. Embry-Riddle educates students at residential campuses in Daytona Beach, Fla., and Prescott, Ariz., through the Worldwide Campus with more than 125 locations in the United States, Europe, Asia and the Middle East, and through online programs. The university is a major research center, seeking solutions to real-world problems in partnership with the aerospace industry, other universities and government agencies. For more information, visit erau.edu, follow us on Twitter (@EmbryRiddle) and facebook.com/EmbryRiddleUniversity, and find expert videos at YouTube.com/EmbryRiddleUniv.