New dean appointed to help College of Aviation continue to soar

Contact: Paula M. Davis

Dr. Raymond Thompson

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Dr. Raymond Thompson, a leader with more than 40 years in aviation and aerospace education, including 13 years at Western, has been named dean of the College of Aviation. Thompson’s appointment follows a nationwide search and becomes effective on Jan. 1, pending Board of Trustees approval.

Thompson first joined Western as the College of Aviation's associate dean in 2009. He was tapped to lead the college in fall 2021 after former dean David Powell retired and the University moved forward with a national search for a permanent leader.

“While serving as interim dean, Dr. Thompson has provided exceptional leadership to our College of Aviation, which is one of the top aviation schools in the nation,” says Dr. Christopher Cheatham, interim provost and vice president for academic affairs. “I am confident that he will continue to advance the mission of the college to prepare leaders who are sought after by the aerospace industry.”

In his years in aviation education, Thompson has specialized in aircraft technical education, advanced composite materials and airline maintenance management. And his background includes domestic and international higher education experience.

He spent more than 25 years at Purdue University, where he served in faculty and administrative positions. While at the Indiana land-grant institution, he helped oversee undergraduate curriculum for aeronautical technology, aviation management and professional flight. He also provided leadership in areas spanning staffing, scheduling, internships, cooperative education programs, student services and general day-to-day operations.

Following his tenure at Purdue, Thompson was the founding dean and professor in the College of Aero and Astro Sciences for Dubai Aerospace Enterprise University in the United Arab Emirates. He had one more international higher ed posting when he went on to become program director of aerospace for Khalifa University of Science, Technology and Research, also in the UAE, before joining WMU.

As associate dean at Western, his primary responsibilities have included curriculum, development of graduate programs, increasing college research assessment, accreditation and strategic planning.

“Dr. Thompson has extensive professional accomplishments in the aviation field both in academic as well as industry settings,” Cheatham says. “I believe he is uniquely positioned to lead this college in part due to his knowledge and experiences related to the three different majors in the college.”

Western’s nationally ranked College of Aviation enrolls more than 1,000 students and offers majors in aviation flight science, aviation technical operations, and aviation management and operations.

Thompson’s work as the college’s interim dean has included developing a 10-year plan for program and facility improvements. He also is developing a process that changes when students begin to fly using a priority system based on a variety of criteria. He has provided guidance to the faculty in the Aviation Technical Operations (Tech Ops) program to restructure to be more market reactive and comply with new rules from the Federal Aviation Administration.

Thompson's research interests include aviation maintenance faculty development, using technology and multimedia in the classroom, applied advanced composite technology and airline maintenance management.

His three degrees are from Purdue University, from which he earned a doctorate in educational administration, a master’s degree in industrial technology and a bachelor’s degree in aviation technology.

The WMU Board of Trustees will consider his appointment at its meeting Thursday, Dec. 15.

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