Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University

The Embry-Riddle Story

Only a select few universities in the world can safely be called the absolute best at what they do. At Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, what we do – and do best – is teach the science, practice, and business of aviation, aerospace, and engineering.

T. Higbee Embry

On December 17, 1925, exactly 22 years after the historic flight of the Wright Flyer, barnstormer John Paul Riddle and entrepreneur T. Higbee Embry founded the Embry-Riddle Company at Lunken Airport in Cincinnati, Ohio. The following spring the company opened the Embry-Riddle School of Aviation.

Read a historical paper about Embry-Riddle's early years.

We taught the world how to fly

Embry-Riddle began with a simple plan to train airplane pilots in a thorough, efficient manner and to cash in on a booming post-World War I interest in flying. Today, Embry-Riddle leads the world in aviation and aerospace higher education.


After a period of decline in the 1930s, Embry-Riddle sprang to life again as World War II erupted in Europe and the demand for aviators and mechanics surged. Allied nations sent more than 25,000 young men to Embry-Riddle's several Florida centers to be trained as pilots and aviation technicians. During the Korean War the U.S. Air Force contracted with Embry-Riddle to train airmen in the fundamentals of airplane maintenance. Following the Korean conflict, Embry-Riddle continued providing aviation-related education and training for military personnel.

Daytona Beach becomes home

Under the leadership of John and Isabel McKay, Embry-Riddle expanded its international outreach and strengthened its academic programs. In 1965, with Jack R. Hunt as president, Embry-Riddle consolidated its flight training, ground school, and technical training programs in one location. Financed with dollars and trucks borrowed from civic leaders, the move to Daytona Beach, Florida, proved to be a moment of singular importance. It signaled the rebirth of Embry-Riddle and the start of its odyssey to world-class status.

From technical school to university

Within three years of the move, the institution was accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, Georgia 30033-4097, Telephone: 404-679-4501). Two years later, Embry-Riddle gained university stature.

Prescott, Arizona, residential campus

Expansion of the University began under Hunt's direction when the 510-acre site of a former college in Prescott,Arizona, became the western campus of Embry-Riddle in 1978. This proved to be only the beginning of the growth the school would experience.

Graduate programs added; industry links strengthened

Continuing the legacy of Hunt was Air Force Lt. Gen. Kenneth L. Tallman, who served as president of Embry-Riddle for five years. Under Tallman's leadership, a school of graduate studies and the electrical engineering degree program were introduced. He led the University into research with the addition of the engineering physics degree. He also developed stronger ties between Embry-Riddle and the aviation/aerospace industry.

Strategic industry partnerships formed

Dr. Steven M. Sliwa led the University from 1991 to 1998. Sliwa, the University's third president, is best known for creating an entrepreneurial environment and for developing strategic partnerships with industry. These partnerships included a joint venture with FlightSafety International; a partnership with Cessna that included options to purchase 300 aircraft; a technology alliance with IBM; and an exclusive educational partnership with AOPA. He also spearheaded a $100+ million capital expansion program, which included an $11.5 million congressional line-item appropriation. In addition, new academic and research programs were created at his direction to respond to structural changes in the industry while increasing market share in the University's core programs.

Campuses add new facilities

Embry-Riddle's fourth president, Dr. George H. Ebbs, led the University from 1998 through 2005. Under his leadership, a new graduate degree program in safety science was introduced, as well as new undergraduate degree programs in computer science, communication, global security and intelligence studies, mechanical engineering, software engineering, and space physics. In addition, major construction also began on both residential campuses. Dr. Ebbs also presided over important military contracts. Currently Embry-Riddle has a $23 million contract with the U.S. Department of Defense that maintains the University's long-time status as the sole provider of aviation-related degree programs to the U.S. military in Europe.

Global strategy in development

Dr. John P. Johnson is the University's fifth president. He previously served as Embry-Riddle's interim president and as provost and chief academic officer. Under his leadership the University has expanded its research activity, has established new degree programs, and is developing a global strategy to take its aviation and aerospace expertise overseas. Before joining Embry-Riddle, Dr. Johnson was the provost and vice president for academic affairs at Texas A&M University, Texarkana, and served as dean at the Medical University of South Carolina and at Northern Kentucky University.

Worldwide accessibility for adult learners

In addition to its two traditional residential campuses, Embry-Riddle Worldwide provides educational opportunities for professionals working in civilian and military aviation and aerospace careers. The Worldwide Campus includes classroom and online learning operations.

In the mid-1970s, Embry-Riddle, by then an accredited university, opened its first four Worldwide teaching centers at military bases and began offering its degree programs to servicemen and women who couldn't take classes at the campus, which had been relocated from Miami to Daytona Beach.

As the university extended its outreach, it positioned most of its teaching centers near military installations with aviation functions. Taking advantage of the opportunity to pursue a degree related to their profession in a nearby location, military personnel enrolled in droves. Of today's more than 150 Worldwide Campus locations in the United States, Europe, Asia and the Middle East, the majority are located at or near major aviation industry installations, both military and civilian. Students who don't live near one of the centers can enroll in many of the same programs through distance learning.

Distance learning, by mail and e-mail

Shortly after the first teaching centers opened, Embry-Riddle added distance learning as an option to help on-the-go aviators, sailors, and soldiers earn a degree. Lessons were mailed to students who returned completed work via postal mail. Today, hundreds of Web-based Embry-Riddle classes are in session, attended by students at all hours of the day and night. In addition to associate, bachelor, and master degrees, Embry-Riddle Worldwide offers many certificate programs, via both classroom and distance learning.

Professional education and nondegree training

The Worldwide Campus includes the Center for Professional Education (CPE), which provides professional certification experience and training  to corporate and professional adult learners. Many programs are offered online, such as the 23-course Corporate Aviation Management Certificate. A variety of seminars and workshops are available and several can be tailored to the needs of industry clients. Embry-Riddle offers nondegree programs at its residential campuses as well, including English language training and aviation safety and security short courses.

Industry research leader

Research is a vital component of many universities and Embry-Riddle is no exception. Even though Embry-Riddle is primarily a teaching institution, research plays an important role for our students and for the industries we serve. The focus is on applied, solution-oriented research. In the 2011-2012 fiscal year, 168 faculty members were involved in research and other activities with 161 sponsored projects. The total value of all active awards was more than $17 million.

Students gain industry experience

While pursuing their education, Embry-Riddle students gain valuable experience through participation in cooperative education and internship opportunities. Embry-Riddle has co-op or internship agreements with most of the major airlines; with companies such as B/E Aerospace, Boeing, Gulfstream Aerospace, Lockheed Martin, Pratt & Whitney, and Rockwell Collins; and with governmental agencies such as the FAA, NASA, the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, the National Transportation Safety Board, and Naval Air Systems Command. The relationship established between student and company often results in a full-time job for the student upon graduation.

University alumni networking

The University's alumni, who work in all areas of aviation and aerospace, assist Embry-Riddle's Career Services office by offering their expertise and career opportunities to current students. Alumni participate in recruitment, retention, and mentoring programs, and attend college fairs. The University participates in major trade shows such as Asian Aerospace; the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) convention; the EAA AirVenture event in Oshkosh, Wis.; the Paris Airshow; the U.S. Air and Trade Show; and sponsors the Embry-Riddle Industry/Career Expos. All these activities provide networking opportunities for Embry-Riddle alumni in the aviation industry.

Still evolving

Though it began as a school for pilots and aircraft mechanics, the University now offers more than 40 undergraduate and graduate degrees and provides the ideal environment for learning. It combines an impressive faculty with state-of-the-art buildings, laboratories, classrooms, and a diverse student population. Embry-Riddle enrolls nearly 32,000 undergraduate and graduate students annually, representing all 50 states and 125 nations. The Worldwide Campus enrolls more than 24,000 students, the Daytona Beach campus more than 5,100, and the Prescott campus more than 1,700.

As aviation and aerospace continue to evolve, so does Embry-Riddle. The University is committed to the expansion of opportunities for students to work more closely with the aviation industry in the United States and in other countries. Guiding the process of evolution are dedicated teachers, administrators, alumni, trustees, and advisory board members who share the students' love of aviation and who strive to ensure Embry-Riddle's continued position as the world's premier aviation and aerospace university.