Isabel McKay’s Granddaughter Sees Demolition of her Grandmother’s Residence Hall

When students awoke on campus in nearby residence halls Friday, Feb. 10, they were greeted with a shocking sight–an excavator digging into the shell of McKay Hall and dropping debris into a large red dumpster. McKay was being demolished–razed to make way for the second of two new residence halls that will dominate the northwest corner of campus when completed.

The demolition was met with mixed reactions from students.  Some were glad to see the old dorm being torn down, and others noted the fond memories they had of when they lived there. McKay had traditionally been a freshman dormitory, recently with three students per room as enrollment grew faster than room space while waiting for a new residence hall to be completed. The 420 students that had been living in McKay were moved into the newly opened residence hall at the beginning of this spring semester.

McKay Hall was named after Isabel McKay, the wife of John McKay, who owned the Embry-Riddle School of Aviation beginning in 1939. John died suddenly in 1951 and Isabel took over, becoming the school’s first female president and general manager, serving from 1951 to 1962. Under Isabel, the school reorganized as a non-profit school and was renamed the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical Institute.

When Isabel retired from the presidency, she became the Chairman of the Board of Trustees and she served on the board until her death in 1972. McKay Hall was built in 1979 and students voted to name the residence hall after Isabel.

By coincidence, Isabel McKay’s granddaughter, also named Isabel, and her husband, happened to be in Daytona Beach for their first ever visit to campus when demolition had just begun and saw first-hand her grandmother’s namesake residence hall being torn down. The couple toured campus, seeing Embry-Riddle’s modern face and facilities, and various historical exhibits that showcase the university’s iconic history. They also visited Kevin Montgomery at the university archives and saw materials pertaining to McKay’s grandmother.  She was able to identify her uncles, Hobart and John McKay, Jr. in one of the photographs. McKay’s grandmother and both uncles were founding trustees, serving on the Board at the same time. 

Plans for the residence hall that will occupy McKay Hall’s old footprint could be seen at the master planning and visioning open house that was held February 8 in the Henderson Welcome Center. Students got to meet and speak with the University’s master planners, the student union architects, Sodexo representatives and the residence hall architects. Initial plans showed a similar design to the just opened hall, but the proposed new facility will include an expansive and upgraded food court.

This story was adapted from an article in the Avion, written by Jaclyn Wiley. Photo by Andrew Bronshteyn, Avion.



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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, follow us on Twitter (@EmbryRiddle) and, and find expert videos at