Mothers Receive Special Honor at Daytona Beach Campus Commencement

Commencement speaker Joseph Martin

Historically considered the Mother’s Day flower, thousands of white carnations were distributed at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Commencement Monday at the Ocean Center in honor of mothers who provided graduates with a strong foundation.

Commencement speaker Joseph “Joe” Martin, an alumnus and retired senior semiconductor industry executive, made the request and also declared Monday Embry-Riddle Mother’s Day.

Martin, a decorated U.S. Army veteran and former helicopter pilot, told the 2018 class of about 770, the largest class in the school’s history, that one of the most influential people in our lives is our mother.

“They are our first teachers, our first professors. They are our foundation,” said Martin, who is also treasurer of the Embry-Riddle Board of Trustees and retired co-chairman and vice chairman of the Board of Directors of Fairchild Semiconductor Corp., where he also served as executive vice president and chief financial officer.

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This was Martin’s third Embry-Riddle graduation speech. The first time his mother, who had seven children, was in the audience as he spoke to the graduating seniors in 1974 as the senior class president. He returned again as the 2003 commencement speaker. Martin, who currently serves on four boards in addition to Embry-Riddle, including chairman of the board at Brooks Automation Inc., said he learned not only how to listen and respect others from his mother, but compassion and love.

Like his mother, Martin told the graduates their mothers “helped build the foundation that your future will be built on.”

“For the rest of your lives, the values and beliefs, sense of right and wrong, respect to others will be an integral part of your career and successes in your life,” Martin said. “Her love and support will continue to be unconditional and the foundation of so many decisions you make and paths you take.”

Martin, who has a bachelor’s in Aeronautics from Embry-Riddle and an MBA from the University of Maine, was awarded at the commencement ceremony an honorary doctoral degree for his achievements that have left an indelible mark on the university.

The 2018 Embry-Riddle Daytona Beach Campus commencement class of about 770 received diplomas representing the Colleges of Arts & Sciences, Aviation, Business and Engineering, including about 100 students who received master’s degrees and three received Ph.Ds. Shayn Savage Davidson, received his Ph.D. in Human Factors; Derek Hoffman, obtained his Ph.D. in Engineering Physics and Robert L. Thomas, who is also an assistant professor at Embry-Riddle, received his Ph.D. in Aviation.

A posthumous Bachelor of Science in Aeronautical Science degree was also conferred upon Zachary Michael Capra who passed away April 4 in an aircraft accident.

The spring 2018 graduating class also included 67 students receiving military commissions: 27 from Air Force ROTC, 23 from Army ROTC and 17 from Navy/Marine Corps ROTC.

Embry-Riddle President P. Barry Butler, Ph.D., shared with the graduating class stories of previous graduates who are making their mark from astronauts to engineers developing quieter and eco-friendlier aircraft, and graduates launching businesses that service satellites, to name a few.

“Now you are right on their heels, ready to redefine what’s possible,” Butler said. “Your achievements will become part of who we are. I promise that we will uphold the standards that make an Embry-Riddle diploma something that is respected around the world.”

Courtney Marcil, president of the Senior Class Council, who received her bachelor’s in Business Administration, told the crowd that Embry-Riddle is no ordinary university.

“Not every campus has a telescope front and center, or casually builds racecars. But we do. Not every university is full of pilots or rocket scientists. But we are,” Marcil said.

Marcil, who was active on campus as promotions coordinator with the university radio station, WIKD 102.5 FM, and director of internal affairs for the Student Government Association, encouraged her fellow graduates to pursue their passions tirelessly.

“Don’t be afraid to take risks, to make a splash, and to change it up. If something doesn’t feel right, make a change,” said Marcil, who will utilize her business management and marketing skills in the fields of aviation, media and hospitality.  She is also considering obtaining an MBA at Embry-Riddle.

Special recognition was given to students and faculty for outstanding achievements on and off campus, including:

  • Andrea Martinez received the Excellence in Academics, Leadership and Service Award. Graduating seniors for this award are selected based on academic excellence, campus activities and contributions to the university and local community.
  • Jennifer Roberts received the John C. Adams, Jr. Community Service Award, which recognizes a graduating senior who has earned a 3.0 or higher Cumulative Grade Point Average and demonstrated outstanding service to the local and university communities.
  • Katariina Nykyri, Ph.D., professor of Physics in the College of Arts and Sciences, received the 2018 Abas Sivjee Outstanding Researcher of the Year Award.
  • Sarah Fogle, professor of Humanities and Communication in the College of Arts and Sciences, received the 2018 Professor James E. Lewis Outstanding Service Award.
  • James Pembridge, Ph.D., associate professor of Engineering in the College of Engineering, received the 2018 Tej Gupta Outstanding Teaching Award.

A broadcast of the ceremony is available online at