Jacksonville University School of Aviation Program celebrates 40 years

October 16, 2023

The Jacksonville University School of Aviation Program in the Davis College of Business & Technology is flying high, celebrating 40 years this month of training students to be professional pilots, air traffic controllers and aviation executives.

“We offer aviation degree options that help our students realize their career goals and have created industry partnerships to enhance their opportunities after graduation,” said Dr. Barbara Ritter, dean of the Davis College of Business & Technology. “We’re excited about the future and what our students will continue to accomplish, making Jacksonville University an important contributor to the nation's aviation community.”

The JU School of Aviation, accredited by the Aviation Accreditation Board International, was founded as the Division of Aeronautics in 1983 and has graduated nearly 860 total students since its doors first opened.

“Starting with a class of one in 1985 to the present, we have trained over 500 professional pilots,” said Ortega resident Capt. Matthew Tuohy, director for the JU School of Aviation. “Our graduates are flying for virtually every major and regional airline in the United States, and many international airlines. They’re also flying in corporate aviation, own and operate flight schools, air traffic controllers and many hold management positions within the industry.”

The aviation program’s very first graduate, Mark Stiehl, has been flying all over the world for 40 years with FedEx. He retired as a pilot in 2021. “My time at JU was the foundation for my aviation career. It was a great experience, and I appreciate everything they did for me,” he said. The Fort Caroline resident earned a degree from JU in Aviation Management and Flight Operations.

Both flying and JU are a family affair for Mark and his nephew, Rhett Stiehl. He’s a senior following in his uncle’s footsteps and also earning a degree in Aviation Management and Flight Operations. He currently has 175 flight hours and is certified in Commercial Single and Multi-Engine Land and Instrument Airplane Rating.

The Neptune Beach resident says everything he knows about flying, he owes to JU and his uncle. “The Aviation Program has put me where I am right now with my flight training,” he said. “I’d rather go here than any other university with a flight program like Embry-Riddle. There’s nowhere else I’d rather go.”

This fall, the School of Aviation, a Delta Propel and JetBlue Gateway partner university, saw the largest enrollment of freshman students in the program’s history, double that of last year’s freshman class to nearly 300 students. Tuohy attributes the increase to growth in the aviation industry and the fact that students at JU get to fly planes in their first semester on campus, unlike some larger aviation programs.

The Aviation Program has had many highlights over the years, including being accredited by the Aviation Accreditation Board International (AABI) since 2008. Also in 2008, the program won the Loening Trophy for the Best All-Around Collegiate Aviation Program in the nation. Additionally, Tuohy, who has served as director the last nine years, was awarded the ABBI Paul A. Whalen Award as the 2013 Educator of the Year. Former School of Aviation Director Dr. Juan Merkt also received the same award in 2013.

The School of Aviation educates and trains professional pilots, air traffic controllers, and aviation executives. With one-of-a-kind industry partnerships, a world-class curriculum centered on a strong business foundation, and direct paths to the career of your choice, JU Aviation gives students the skills and experience to achieve their dream of becoming an aviation professional. And of course, our aviation degree programs have earned the "seal of approval" from the Aviation Accreditation Board International. For more information about the program, visit here.

The JU Davis College of Business and Technology is the only triple-accredited private college in all of North Florida and South Georgia, with AACSB, ABET, and AABI accredited programs. Its mission is to empower students to achieve sustainable career success with a high quality, relevant and applied educational experience that is delivered by faculty committed to advancing the individual development of each student.


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