Legacy: Philanthropy at Embry-Riddle Ripples Through its Past, Present and Future

It all began with a single gift in 1966. 

From the moment Walter and Helene Booth made the first recorded contribution to what was then Embry-Riddle Aeronautical Institute, they set in motion a wave of generosity that has rippled through the years, growing and ever expanding to help shape the university as we know it today.

Over the years, countless individuals have invested in the Embry-Riddle promise—a promise that started in the minds of founders John Paul Riddle and T. Higbee Embry in 1926 and grew Embry-Riddle from a small flight training facility and aircraft sales company to a globally renowned, fully accredited aviation and aerospace university. 

It’s this promise that continues to ignite students and faculty working side by side in our laboratories, classrooms, cockpits and hangars—and every semester that promise renews when hundreds of recent graduates complete their programs and go out into the world to make a difference.

This is the impact at the heart of every gift made to Embry-Riddle, whether it’s dedicated to scholarships, facilities and equipment, technology, faculty development or student programs. Giving matters. It’s made a difference to Embry-Riddle as an institution of higher learning since 1959, when it officially became a nonprofit organization. And it’s often made the difference between a student closing the door on their dreams, or opening that door wide and boldly stepping through to their next great achievement.

In honor of Embry-Riddle’s 90th anniversary (1926-2016), we celebrate the history of philanthropy at our institution—and the people, businesses and organizations who started and continue the ripple effect of giving, growth and achievement at Embry-Riddle.

Moments in History – Philanthropy at Embry-Riddle

• March 30, 1966 – Embry-Riddle receives its first recorded individual contribution from Walter and Helene Booth of Ormond Beach, Fla.

• 1966 – The first official fundraising campaign is launched by university President Jack Hunt following his announcement of a 10-year program to accommodate 6,000 students at the Daytona Beach Campus. The $350,000 building fund campaign was volunteer-led by John C. “Jay” Adams Jr. (HonDoc ’08). The campaign’s success makes the school eligible for matching federal grant funds and a federal loan to finance construction of the $1.4 million Lindbergh Academic Complex (later called the Alphabet Soup building).

• Jan. 1, 1967 – The first gift from a sitting member of then Embry-Riddle Aeronautical Institute Board of Trustees, Philip H. Elliott Jr. (HonDoc ’04; ’72 Flight Training, DB), is received. He and his wife, Joyce, later establish the Philip H. Elliott Scholarship. Now endowed, it has funded 30 student awards since 2003. Elliott served as a member of the board of trustees from 1965 to 2004, as trustee emeritus from 2004 to present, and as an attorney for Embry-Riddle from 1965 to 1998.

• Jan. 1, 1967 – The first recorded corporate gift is received from the Daytona Beach Jaycees.

• Jan. 1, 1967 – The longest and most consistent annual donors, John C. “Jay” Adams Jr. (HonDoc ’08) and Leila Adams, make their first gift. Since 1969, Trustee Emeritus Jay Adams and his wife, Leila, have made an annual gift to Embry-Riddle. Adams also volunteer-led the university’s first building fundraising campaign, launched in 1966, and several other capital campaigns that followed. Adams was an active member of the Embry-Riddle Board from 1967 to 2009.                    

• May 1971 – The Tine W. Davis Simulation Center Laboratory, later known as the Tine W. Davis Building (flight operations) is dedicated at the Gill Robb Wilson Flight Training Center at the Daytona Beach Campus. It is the first of four university facilities ultimately named for Davis, in recognition of his contributions. These include the Tine W. Davis Swimming Pool (1978) and fitness center; the Tine W. Davis Family Foundation Software Development Laboratory (1995) inside the Lehman Engineering and Technology building; and the Davis Learning Center at the Prescott Campus (1979).

• Dec. 28, 1974 – Samuel Goldman (HonDoc ’08, awarded postmortem) becomes the first donor to surpass $1 million in total giving. In 1977, the Samuel Goldman Maintenance Technology Center is named in his honor.

• 1980 – The first major contribution to the Prescott Campus is made by Dr. W. David Rummel, who served on the Embry-Riddle Board of Trustees from 1979 to 1981. Rummel has remained a consistent donor to the university. The board later names Rummel Road on the Prescott Campus in his honor.

• Summer 1981 – The first recorded Daytona Beach Campus class gift is received. The graduating class of the summer semester raises money to purchase a clock for the John Paul Riddle Student Center’s exterior tower.

• 1981 – The most consistent and largest donor to the Prescott Campus, Trustee Emeritus S. Harry Robertson (HonDoc ’72), makes his first contribution. Four Prescott Campus facilities bear his name: Robertson Crash Lab (1986); Robertson Aviation Safety Center I (1995); Robertson Aviation Safety Center II – Aviation Archives (2009); and the David L. and S. Harry Robertson Simulation Training Center (2002). Robertson is also a loyal contributor to Daytona Beach and Worldwide campus programs and scholarships. He served as an active member of the board of trustees from 1993 to 2010.

• 1992 – The first Worldwide Campus-specific scholarship is established and named the Extended Campus Annual Fund Scholarship. In 2005, the name is changed to the Worldwide Patron’s Scholarship Fund.

• Dec. 29, 1993 – The oldest recorded planned gift, a charitable trust established by Raymond B. Sigafoos, who served on the Embry-Riddle Board of Trustees from 1981-2009, is designated to create the Raymond B. Sigafoos Endowed Scholarship. In 1995, an additional trust is established by Sigafoos to also support the scholarship.

• 1995 – The first named building at the Prescott Campus due to philanthropy is dedicated. The King Engineering & Technology Center is named for Ed King (HonDoc ’90), who served on the Embry-Riddle Board of Trustees from 1987 to 1996, and as trustee emeritus from 1996 to 2010.

• Jan. 17, 2000 – The first named building on the Daytona Beach Campus due to philanthropy, the Capt. Willie Miller Instructional Center, is dedicated in recognition of a major gift from Miller’s wife, Dorothee Miller, who named the building as a memorial to her husband.

• 2000 – Christine and Steven Udvar-Hazy commit the largest one-time gift to the Prescott Campus. Their gift helps construct Academic Complex I (2005) and the Christine and Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Library and Learning Center (2008).

• 2002 – The first major philanthropic artwork is installed on the Daytona Beach Campus, a gift from Helen Wessel. Entitled Wings of Change, the suspended artwork hangs from the ceiling of the College of Aviation atrium. Wessel later commissions and installs four additional artworks on the campus, including the iconic Pathways to the Sky, a stainless steel sculpture located in the courtyard of the James Hagedorn Aviation Complex.

• 2002 – The Embry-Riddle Athletics Fieldhouse at the Daytona Beach Campus is dedicated the ICI Center in recognition of a major gift from Mori Hosseini (HonDoc ’13; ’78, ’79, ’82, DB), chairman and CEO of Intervest Construction Inc. (ICI). The occasion marks the first philanthropic naming of an Embry-Riddle athletics facility. Hosseini has served on the Embry-Riddle Board of Trustees since 1999 and in 2014, he became the first Embry-Riddle alumnus to chair the board.                       

• June 20, 2007 – The largest one-time gift in the history of Embry-Riddle's Daytona Beach Campus is received from James Hagedorn (’79, DB), chairman and CEO of The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company in Maryville, Ohio, and former member of the Embry-Riddle Board of Trustees (2005-2013). The Daytona Beach Campus Aviation Complex is dedicated in his honor in 2011.

• Jan. 28, 2013 – The largest one-time scholarship gift to the university is received from an anonymous donor. The gift establishes a university endowed Presidential Scholarship.

• 2014 – The university endowment surpasses $100 million for the first time.

• 2015 – The first endowed professorship, the Raisbeck Engineering Design/Build/Test Chair, is established with a major gift from the Raisbeck Foundation and James and Sherry Raisbeck.



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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.