Helping students soar

New $1.5-million scholarship endowment honors late UND Aerospace benefactor James Ray

Larry Martin, chair of UND Aerospace Foundation, announces a $1.5 million scholarship endowment to honor the memory of UND benefactor James C. Ray

Larry Martin, chair of the UND Aerospace Foundation, announces a $1.5-million scholarship endowment to honor the memory of UND benefactor James C. Ray. Photo by Tyler Ingham.

The best aerospace school in the nation and world just got a little better.

A $1.5-million scholarship endowment will help UND’s Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences recruit even more of the best and brightest students in the country, said President Mark Kennedy.

The James C. Ray Memorial Freshman Scholarship Endowment was launched Tuesday in honor of the venture capitalist and UND benefactor who passed away in April at age 94. He gave more than $25 million to aviation and entrepreneurial programs at UND over his lifetime.

“James shared his financial wealth and enthusiasm for young people and aviation,” said Chuck Ahearn, president of the Ray Foundation and a longtime friend. “His passion and his joy was inspiring young people. This is a tribute to James Ray’s spirit.”

The scholarship gift came together in just two days, as friends made plans to fly in for an on-campus memorial service for Ray later that day. Ray was one of four friends, none of them UND alums, who fell in love with UND and its faculty, students and passion for excellence. They have donated millions to UND Aerospace, and felt a scholarship would be a fitting way to remember Ray.

“We lost a great friend in James Ray,” said Larry Martin, chair of the UND Aerospace Foundation. “This scholarship will assure his memory lives on in perpetuity.”

One of the biggest needs, Martin said, is for scholarships to help incoming freshmen aviation majors. There are great scholarship programs for current students, but not for new aviation students, he said. “This scholarship will help fill that void with the best and brightest students.”

Don Dubuque, UND Aerospace director of extension programs, visits with UND benefactor Si Robin, CEO and executive vice president of Sensor Systems, Inc., and Mark Baker, president of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. They attended the endowment announcement and a memorial service in honor of their longtime friend James C. Ray. Photo by Tyler Ingham.

Inspiring

“I am honored to have had the opportunity to meet James Ray,” said President Kennedy. “The highest compliment from UND is to consider him a North Dakotan. He has done so much, and deserves a scholarship in his name. When students receive a James Ray scholarship, I hope it inspires them to make an impact.”

The UND Aerospace Foundation established the James C. Ray Memorial Freshman Scholarship Endowment with an initial $500,000 investment to the UND Promise Scholarship Program. The James C. Ray Foundation added a $500,000 commitment, and that $1 million commitment is being matched by $500,000 from the UND Alumni Association & Foundation.

“With tuition increases and inflation, the top scholarship awarded to high-achievers, the Presidential Scholarship, now covers about 36 percent of a student’s tuition and fees, while a decade ago it was worth 65 percent of those costs,” noted DeAnna Carlson Zink, CEO of the UND Alumni Association & Foundation. “We need to help more students achieve the dream of attending college without overloading their families with student loan debt.”

James Ray tribute

“The Odegard School,” said Dean Paul Lindseth, “is very grateful to the James Ray Foundation, the UND Aerospace Foundation, and the UND Foundation in establishing this scholarship endowment for incoming freshmen. We are very excited!”

“After all the things James Ray has done for students, it’s appropriate to have a scholarship named after him,” said Chuck Pineo, CEO and executive vice president of the UND Aerospace Foundation.

“This is a wonderful honor for a wonderful man,” said Chuck Ahearn, longtime friend and director and CFO of the Ray Foundation. “He was very giving and he invested much time and money for America’s youth.”

“Supporting the growth of aviation and a great institution like UND helps get the word out to the world,” said Mark Baker, president and CEO of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, who attended the memorial service.

“The airplane business has been good to me,” said Si Robin, who with his wife Betty donated toward Robin Hall and was there to honor his friend Ray. “It’s fun to give to a good cause. UND is a good school. I’ve never forgotten what it feels like to learn how to fly, and I want to help these students. They’re the smartest kids I’ve met.”