Blain's diploma in aviation flight science was awarded by the Western Michigan University College of Aviation in 2014, a symbol of the wisdom he showed in warming to the sales pitches in the "Pure Michigan" messages on TV. He hails from Skokie, Ill., and graduated from Niles North High School in 2010. This level of experience qualified Blain for his current duties -- first officer for Envoy Air, a 14,000-employee subsidiary of American Airlines that was formerly known as American Eagle and is headquartered in Irving, Texas. As American's largest regional provider, Envoy has hubs in Chicago, Dallas, Miami and New York City, and today flies the products of the Brazil-based aircraft manufacturer -- Embraer -- that was established in 1969.
Choosing to plot his course through Western's aviation program seemed "like a great fit from the start," Gokey says, "beginning with a welcoming experience with that first step on campus. I knew Western had a great aviation program, but its other activities and events gave me a comprehensive education." The combination served as a four-year quinella for the program's 2012 alumnus who graduated with a degree in aviation flight science and is currently employed with Delta Airlines.
Raised in the southeastern Michigan village of Pinckney, Thaler says choosing WMU for higher education was an easy decision. "Being a Michigan native and with the opportunity to attend a top-tier aviation program only two hours from home was very appealing. I also appreciated the fact that Western had a Division 1 sports program." Thaler earned his degrees in aviation flight science and aviation management and operation -- with a minor in general business -- in the spring of 2015. On the way to that achievement, he worked as a webmaster for the College of Aviation during his entire time at Western. He also took part in recruitment events and tours for the college, which landed him a post-graduation job with Crosswinds Aviation.
When Maya Thornley was growing up, "Rocky Mountain High" was more than a John Denver song. For her, it meant flying with her dad in the skies over her home state of Colorado. While being a WMU instructor was her first official job in aviation, her first out-of-the-Western-loop position -- no doubt assisted by her Alpha Eta Rho days -- was with PROAIR Aviation that was founded in 1996 and located in Paducah, Ky. The Colorado native is now affiliated with Aviation Advisor Inc. that has locations Kenosha, Wis., Naples, Fla., and the Chicago area. It specializes in charters, aircraft management, acquisitions, and consulting with enterprises seeking to add an aviation component to their operations.
On the way to his 2004 degree in aviation flight science and aviation management with a minor in business, Justin Mertel first served as a dispatcher at the college's airfield. Then, like the majority of his WMU student colleagues, he spent semesters as a flight instructor. Mertel says that job not only added to his air hours, but also taught him a great deal about effective time management, helping to prepare him for his "dream job" at United Airlines.
Abby Ragsdale (Raymond) is making her "success" march as well. Since August of 2019, she has been flying for the aviation department of Steelcase, a century-plus-old enterprise headquartered in Grand Rapids that, with 12,000 employees, has grown far beyond its origins as a maker of office furniture and equipment.
Anthony was not your typical fresh-faced student after the ink dried on his Navy discharge papers. While he knew avionics inside and out, he believed he needed to learn more about aircraft engines and the science of flying. Close to his Gull Lake home was the College of Aviation with its "reputable" program in aviation maintenance.
When it came to a career in aviation, Alexis Brown always seemed to know she was on the right "track." During their college careers, her parents competed in that sport and, listening to their stories about travels and meets while growing up, she wanted to follow in their spike marks as well. Good enough as an athlete at LakeVille Memorial High School in Genesee County, Brown earned a track-and-field scholarship to Western Michigan University. The aviation part of the equation was spawned a little earlier when Brown was a youngster in her hometown of Otisville, a small hamlet northeast of Flint.
Epplett spent about nine years at the WMU College of Aviation as a student and staff member. He earned a bachelor's in aviation science and administration in 2012 and, while employed by Western, added a master's in sports management in 2015. He joined the College of Aviation's recruitment and outreach team right after his first degree was hanging on the wall. Since then, he has joined Kalitta Air, based at Willow Run Airport in Ypsilanti on the east side of the state, as an international flight-clearance coordinator.