As Embry-Riddle officially renamed its Florida-based College of Business on Nov. 13, university leadership, faculty, staff and students turned out to celebrate and honor philanthropists David and Karen O’Maley.
With their generous gift, Embry-Riddle will be able to elevate its College of Business – already widely regarded as offering the best aviation business administration program in the world – to even greater heights, said University President P. Barry Butler.
Members of the Embry-Riddle community convened along the university’s palm tree-lined Legacy Walk as the couple made their way from the Henderson Welcome Center to the new David B. O’Maley College of Business, where the renaming ceremony took place.
An Embry-Riddle Trustee and industry-transforming insurance executive who has been a champion of philanthropy to support higher education, O’Maley intends for his gift to create aviation business leaders. In particular, the gift will advance faculty development within the College of Business and support scholarships for students.
“We see this gift as a unique and powerful way to leverage aviation and business education into the future,” he said at the renaming ceremony. “I see Embry-Riddle as the value proposition leader in upper education, certainly as it relates to all things aviation. Every student, regardless of their studies, be it engineering or aviation, needs some grounding in business so they can become leaders in the industry. That is our dream.”
Earlier in the day, he told staff that he wanted to `pay it forward’ to Embry-Riddle students, as a way to honor someone who had helped him complete his flight training when he was a young person.
At the ceremony, he added: “I’ve always said that nothing happens until somebody … provides some direction and takes the initiative to move things forward. Together, with the outstanding leadership at Embry-Riddle, we can innovate, grow and watch the business school move forward to a dimension it has never seen before.”
Dr. Butler described the gift as “a key moment for business education at Embry-Riddle” that “helps us expand the reach and more closely integrate business education into our other areas of focus – engineering and aviation – as we move into the future.”
Dr. Michael Williams, dean of the College of Business, noted that the O’Maley family’s support will support “breakthroughs in industry operations, safety and manufacturing through transformative ideas and technologies.” David and Karen’s leadership “will allow our students to turn research into new business opportunities, moving their discoveries from our labs into the Micaplex Engineering and Innovation Complex as startups, and then out into the real world,” Williams added.
Student leader Maddie Dietrich also lauded the family’s generosity. “The O’Maleys transformative gift not only impacts the future of Embry-Riddle but serves as an inspirational example of charitable giving that will influence the way my fellow Eagles and I view the importance of personal philanthropy for the rest of our lives,” she said.
Innovative Thinking to Transform Business
A nationally prominent insurance executive until his retirement in 2010, O’Maley served as Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Ohio National Financial Services, a leading provider of competitive individual life and annuity products with more than 40,000 distributors nationwide. Under his leadership, Ohio National grew from $4.1 billion in assets under management in 1993, to more than $27.0 billion in 2010. He was elected Chairman Emeritus in recognition of his significant leadership accomplishments, which were transformational to the company.
While he chose insurance as his vocation, his roots in aviation run deep.
An active pilot, he holds both an Airline Transport Pilot certificate and an airframe and powerplant mechanic’s license. In 2003, he and his family founded the Tri-State Warbird Museum in Batavia, Ohio. The museum is dedicated to honoring America’s rich military aviation history and features one of the world’s largest collections of flyable World War II aircraft. In 2018, he was named president of the Embraer Jet Operators Association, after serving six years as a board member.
The current gift to fund faculty development is not the family’s first to Embry-Riddle. In 2013, they established the O'Maley Family Endowed Scholarship Fund to support students at the college.
Embry-Riddle’s College of Business, established in 2003 and with a history dating to 1966, offers a variety of academic degree programs, from the bachelor’s to the Ph.D. level. “Our state-of-the-art curriculum focuses on the fundamentals of business with an aviation twist,” Dean Williams said.
Students “are getting not just the textbook knowledge, but also the practice of knowledge that’s going on in industry,” added Dr. Norbert J. Zarb, chair of the Department of Accounting, Economics, Finance, and Information Sciences.