Jacksonville University Aviation celebrates 30th anniversary

JACKSONVILLE, Florida  — Jacksonville University’s Davis Aviation Center highlighted its 30th anniversary recently with a special ceremony at the Davis College of Business, with more than 140 students, alumni, faculty, staff and special guests taking part.

“This program has gone through an amazing 30-year journey,” said Davis Aviation Center Director Dr. Juan Merkt. “One of the greatest additions to it is the $500,000 Level 5 CRJ700 flight simulator. The simulator is an exceptional tool when it comes to flight training for our students.”

Other speakers at the Nov. 15 event included JU President Tim Cost; JU Chancellor Emeritus Dr. Fran Kinne; aviation program founder Curtis Truver; Mark Stiehl, the first graduate of the program; Kelly Barrera, the first female graduate; JU Aviation Advisory Board President Ed Booth; and aviation management student Robert Dougherty.

“This program shows off some of our best and brightest leaders, both in students and in the faculty,” said Cost.

As one of the largest undergraduate programs at JU, with 160 current students and more than 550 graduates, the center has come a long way on the path to becoming one of the top collegiate aviation programs in the nation, according to officials. It has accredited aviation degree programs; industry partnerships; a business-centric curriculum; and direct career pathways to the aviation industry, they note.

As a result of its achievements and national reputation, four regional airlines have selected JU for “career pathway” programs guaranteeing job offers from a regional airline and, later, interviews with the major airline partners to qualified JU graduates. Only four other universities have similar pilot hiring agreements with airlines, JU officials said.

The recent ceremony was followed by a reception that included table displays by all seven aviation student organizations, demonstration flights in the new simulator, and music by JU alumni Karla Reigosa and Jacob Schuman.

Speakers had praise for the program:

  • “I am convinced the program has succeeded because it was placed in the business school — first and foremost, aviation is a business,” said Booth.
  • “I have been an aviation fan since I was 5 years old. … You have one of the most exciting professions,” Kinne said.
  • “In this career you’ve got to love airplanes … you’ve got to have a passion for them. The Jacksonville University aviation program gave me my foundation for my passion for airplanes and aviation,” Stiehl said.
  • “Jacksonville University’s aviation program has given me a broad base and many opportunities, and it has taught me to overcome hurdles and given me incentives as well,” Barrera said.

For more information: JU.edu

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