U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao and Gov. Rick Scott Help Embry-Riddle Dedicate Newly Named Mori Hosseini Student Union

The Hon. Elaine L. Chao, 18th U.S. Secretary of Transportation and Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Oct. 25 helped dedicate Embry-Riddle’s transformational new Student Union – now renamed to honor alumnus and Board of Trustees Chairman Mori Hosseini.

Hosseini, who received a B.S. degree in Aeronautical Studies in 1979, a Master’s of Business Administration in 1982 and an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Embry-Riddle in 2013, expressed deep gratitude after being recognized as the Student Union’s long-time champion and now namesake. 

“It was over 40 years ago that I was a student here,” he told several hundred friends, colleagues and Embry-Riddle supporters at the dedication ceremony. “I could not have imagined back then that I would be standing here tonight within the walls of this magnificent new building … I’m deeply humbled and grateful. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University runs through my veins and lives in my heart, and my commitment to the success of this university is something I will never let go of.” 

This is not about me – this is about our children. This is about our students and this is about the future of our country. 
Mori Hosseini
The Mori Hosseini Student Union will usher in a new era of collaborative educational experiences and achievements for students, President P. Barry Butler said at the dedication event, where 2012 Embry-Riddle graduate and WKMG TV anchor Justin Warmoth served as emcee. 

Butler lauded Hosseini’s leadership over the past 20 years in pushing Embry-Riddle to become a better institution and leading efforts to secure more than $60 million in grants for the university. “In my over three decades in higher education, I have never known one person to make such a profound difference in an institution and to give so much of their time and treasure to one place,” Butler said. 

Also during the dedication event, Hosseini honored Gov. Scott with an Embry-Riddle Sky King Award, recognizing him “a supporter of educational excellence and opportunity in Florida and a leader and public servant who has championed technology-based research, development and policies that have made Florida as friendly to industry as it is to tourists.” Through Gov. Scott’s efforts, Hosseini said, “our state has emerged as a national leader in innovation and job creation.” 

In accepting the Sky King Award, Gov. Scott commended Embry-Riddle’s role in advancing educational opportunities for Floridians. “My goal is to continue to make this the place that every parent can get a job, every kid can get the best education possible that they can afford, and every family can live in a safe neighborhood,” he said. “If we as a state can continue to do this, there is no place like Florida.” 

Supporting Future Transportation Leaders 

Secretary Chao, who assumed her current role on Jan. 31, 2017 and previously served as U.S. Secretary of Labor from 2001 to 2009, said Embry-Riddle’s Mori Hosseini Student Union will “help build the human infrastructure that is necessary to ensure that America remains a global aviation leader.” 

She noted that the aviation sector is experiencing tremendous growth, with the number of air passengers worldwide projected to double, to 7.8 billion annually, by 2036. At the same time, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has a decade-long commercial aviation safety record that is “the envy of the world” and “Embry-Riddle has played a role in creating that safety record,” Chao said. Transformative new technologies, including supersonic flight, commercial space and unmanned aircraft systems are driving positive changes across the aviation sector – all good news for graduates, Chao said. 

“American genius for innovation continues to refresh the industry and create exciting new possibilities for the future,” she said. 

The Mori Hosseini Student Union “is destined to be the heart of the university community,” Chao said. “The students who will spend time in this building will build friendships and professional relationships that will last a lifetime. They will go on to work in every facet of aviation – as engineers, technicians, aviators and managers. And they are very likely to become inventors – hatching some of their best ideas under the soaring arches of this building.” 

Governor Rick Scott, Hon. Elaine L. Chao, Mori Hosseini and President P. Barry Butler at the Student Union dedication.

Turning Genius into Action 

Located at the heart of Embry-Riddle’s Daytona Beach Campus, the Mori Hosseini Student Union will offer unique opportunities for students to collaborate on complex aviation and aerospace challenges. 

“This iconic new facility sends a clear message about how much Embry-Riddle values students and invests in the resources they need to thrive as scholars and citizens,” Butler has said. “It’s a uniquely inclusive environment that supports today’s team-oriented learning across disciplines and offers spaces for students to study, relax, interact and pursue their most ambitious goals.” 

Dramatic and modern, with expansive exterior glass walls and a roofline inspired by the gracefulness of birds in flight, the four-story facility is the largest structure on campus. It is designed to invoke a bold spirit of discovery, representing the student experience for the 21st century at Embry-Riddle. 

Hosseini has said that the building “will serve as a center of social and academic engagement and collaboration where students can make new memories, friends and career plans, surrounded by an intellectually and culturally diverse university community.” 

Students entering the 178,000-square foot building can look upward at a towering, triple-height commons that anchors and integrates the collaborative social and learning interiors. Wrapping this space and open to it are lounges, varied dining venues, group study rooms, gaming areas, quiet corners, a one-stop–shop for student services and the newly imagined university library. 

In addition to dining choices, gathering places and student services, the first floor contains a reception area, the university bookstore, campus radio station and an events center that can hold nearly 1,000 people. On the second floor, students now have office space for their clubs, organizations and the Avion newspaper, along with collaborative study areas, computer labs, multiple gaming areas, the student senate chamber and large and small lounge areas. A Starbucks with adjoining exhibit space leads to an outdoor terrace overlooking Daytona Beach International Airport’s Runway 25R-7L’s final approach. From this deck, students can even watch a rocket launch from Cape Canaveral. 

Supporting Exploration, Discovery and Collaboration 

“A common space such as the new Mori Hosseini Student Union gives students the ability to interact at all levels, both academically and socially,” said Dr. Karen Gaines, dean of the College of Arts & Sciences on Embry-Riddle’s Daytona Beach Campus. “This facility is truly exciting. It provides students with a conducive learning environment where they can also develop the social and leadership skills they will need to succeed in life after graduation.” 

The top two levels of the union contain additional student support and career services and the technology-rich Jack Hunt Memorial Library, with shared areas, private study rooms, collaborative workspaces and dozens of computer terminals. 

Design features in the Library focus on flexibility, agility and connectivity. The expansive space includes reconfigurable floating walls, imagination stations, vibrant colors, beautiful views and offices for library support staff. The library’s striking top floor is set beneath a dynamic 300-foot long, gently arching skylight that floods the entire union in light. 

Key Facts about the Mori Hosseini Student Union 

  • The new Student Union building represents the most significant addition to Embry-Riddle’s Daytona Beach Campus in its 50-year history.
  • Encompassing 178,000 square feet, the soaring Student Union, with a roofline that echoes the wings of a bird in flight, invokes the same sense of adventure, discovery and innovation set forth by T. Higbee Embry and John Paul Riddle more than 90 years ago.
  • The design also reflects Embry-Riddle’s mission to put students at the heart of everything we do – just as the new Student Union now serves as the heart of campus life – a place where students can connect and engage every day.
  • The Student Union is intended to serve as a transformational learning hub and a place where students can feel comfortable and confident in their ability to achieve their goals.
  • A 360-foot high crane capable of lifting 250 tons was used to put 70-foot long exposed steel beams into position.
  • The massive, curved steel beams supporting the exterior superstructure were fabricated in Lancaster, Penn., at a plant that makes structural steel for the largest bridges in the U.S.
  • The distinctive design features include floating walls, glass panels and a top floor set beneath a dynamic 300-foot arching skylight.
  • More than 6,100 pieces of structural steel anchor the building.
  • A special ceramic coating on the glass ceiling protects the building from heat and sunlight.
  • Events space in the Student Union can accommodate gatherings of up to 900 people.
  • Designed by the ikon.5 Architects and constructed by Barton Malow, the Student Union won a Design Award for Excellence from the Society of Registered American Architects 

“It is the students’ union, first and foremost,” President Butler said, noting that Embry-Riddle students have committed to supporting half of the cost of the $75 million building. 

“It will also be a gathering site for everyone on campus,” he added. “It is an open-hearted and welcoming space for our alumni, friends, families and community. We thank everyone who has been part of this monumental project, and we hope everyone in the community will stop by and visit the Mori Hosseini Student Union.”