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Embry-Riddle Team Avoids All Errors to Clinch Volusia Literacy Council Spelling Bee

Sporting "Star Trek – The Original Series" team uniforms, the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Spelling Bee Team on May 18 dominated their opponents, correctly spelling 19 words in a row to retain their status as champions of an annual fund-raising event organized by the Volusia Literacy Council and presented by Bethune-Cookman University.

Embry-Riddle’s champion spellers correctly navigated the word “hypogeum” – meaning an underground chamber in a building – in the elimination round, overpowering formidable challenging teams from Daytona State College and Habitat for Humanity. Other word challenges lobbed at the Embry-Riddle team, who also won the spelling bee in 2016, were “bildungsroman” (a novel about a character’s formative years); “bdellium” (an aromatic resin produced by the myrrh tree); and “exsiccate” (a verb meaning to remove moisture).

The Embry-Riddle group, based at the University’s Daytona Beach Campus, included team leader Dr. Anne Marie Casey, Dean of Scholarly Communication and the Library, who serves on the board of the Volusia Literacy Council; coaches Liz Sterthaus and Suzanne Eichler; team captain Dave Gregson; and competitors Kim Barnick, Jessica Bellinger, M.J. Caro, Kristen Davis, Rich Nichols, and Bob Oxley. Sandra Coleman, an administrative assistant in the Hunt Library, served as the team coordinator.

“This was an incredible team effort,” said Casey. “We work diligently to hone our skills every year, because we are proud to represent Embry-Riddle at this event, but also, because it is so important for us to support an organization that helps people in our community learn to read and write at an adult level, leading them to better lives.”

The 24th Annual Corporate Team Spelling Bee generated more than $20,000 for the nonprofit Volusia Literacy Council, said Executive Director William Hinebaugh. The council, now in its 38th year, provides educational services to individuals and families through tutoring in reading, writing, mathematics and workplace skills.

“As a charity, it’s important for us to do fund-raisers to provide income, curriculum, services and materials such as books and dictionaries,” Hinebaugh said of the event.

Embry-Riddle President P. Barry Butler commended all participants in the spelling bee. “As someone who uses Spellcheck,” he joked, “I was amazed by, and proud of our team’s performance, which was all for a great cause – promoting higher literacy levels for everyone in our community. Of course, I was happy that Embry-Riddle won, but every team was impressive, particularly our very worthy challengers from Daytona State College.”

Butler served as a judge for the competition, along with Craig Capri, Police Chief for Daytona Beach; Dr. Frank Lombardo, retired President of Daytona State College; Bob Davis, President of the Hotel & Lodging Association and Trustee of Daytona State College; and Dr. Nan Fisher-Williams, Vice President of Human Resources for Bethune-Cookman University.

Preparations for the 2017 spelling bee were rigorous, Sandra Coleman said. “We started meeting at the beginning of March and we practiced an hour every week. Our team coaches did research to find words for the team to practice. Everyone’s hard work paid off.”

Competitor Bob Oxley offered kudos to the team’s coaches. “Suzanne and Liz have helped us for four straight years and we attribute our success to them,” said Oxley, retired Embry-Riddle associate vice president of academics. “This year, we also had three tables of supporters to cheer us on!”

Embry-Riddle was among the nearly two-dozen teams participating in this year’s spelling bee. Sponsors of the event were Daytona International Speedway, Florida Power-& Light, Glenn Yarbrough Wealth Management, Wells Fargo Bank, Daytona State College, Halifax Health, Florida HealthCare Plans and Embry-Riddle.

In 2016, the Embry-Riddle team prevailed at the Volusia Literacy Council spelling bee by correctly spelling the word for a short sword with a curved, broad blade: “scimitar.”

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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.