FedEx hand-delivers scholarships

Leader in package delivery, with mammoth aircraft fleet, sets 20 students on path to be flight instructors

On March 27, package-delivery behemoth FedEx visited campus to present $100,000 of scholarships to 20 UND Aerospace students, aspiring to become flight instructors, as part of its Purple Runway Aviation Scholarship Program. Photo courtesy of Caleb Wilkinson.

It was a day dedicated to FedEx, as the worldwide leader in package delivery was the guest of honor at UND Aerospace on Wednesday.

For its part, however, FedEx was on a mission to honor UND aviation students who have committed to completing their training as certified flight instructors at the school. Nine representatives of the Memphis, Tenn.-based, package-delivery giant, were present to hand deliver scholarships, totaling $100,000 to 20 aspiring flight instructors.

“This is a great day when we can give away $100,000 to 20 very deserving students,” said Paul Lindseth, UND Aerospace dean, while addressing a special gathering for “FedEx Takeover Day” at the school. “Thanks to FedEx for this huge endowment that you’ve created for us.”

In fact, FedEx, which operates a fleet of 650 aircraft flying in and out of 350 airports around the world, has committed to delivering $500,000 in scholarships to UND aviation students over five years. This week marked the first installment in that effort.

Last fall, FedEx announced the arrangement with UND Aerospace. The company is participating in similar initiatives with four other major aviation training schools around the country as part of its Purple Runway Aviation Scholarship Program.

FedEx’s Takeover Day at UND Aerospace gathered faculty and students as company representatives stressed their dedication to supporting young adults on their path of professional aviation success. Photo courtesy of Caleb Wilkinson.

“What they’ve done here is a game changer,” said Jim Higgins, UND Aviation chair. “There are a lot of people in the industry that try to come up with solutions to perplexing problems that we have, such as pilot shortages and some of the other resourcing issues, but FedEx was the first to come forward with money.”

Higgins added that FedEx’s example is a good precedence for other major air carriers to follow.

“They’re enabling people who maybe didn’t have the means to complete all of their flight training to complete that and go on to the next part of their careers,” Higgins said about FedEx.

That next stage just might entail operating an aircraft for one of FedEx’s partner air carriers, and some day, possibly even flying for FedEx.

Janna Hughes, part of the FedEx Express communications team, said the Purple Runway program is part of the company’s broader “FedEx Cares 2020” effort to commit $200 million to 200 communities. The focus of the effort is on education, job training and access to employment, she said.

“We are really focused on providing pathways for youth and young adults so that they can get scholarships in that education category, and so that we can offer credentialing and training programs and then ultimately get individuals to the jobs of the future,” Hughes added.

From left: Aerospace Dean Paul Lindseth, FedEx FAO Safety Manager Nathaniel Eisenman, FedEx Assistant Chief Pilot Pat DiMento,  and FedEx communication executive Janna Hughes (far right) flank student Samantha Ripley, who received a $5,000 scholarship to pursue flight training at UND. Photo courtesy of Caleb Wilkinson.

Pat DiMento, assistant chief pilot at FedEx, helped hand out the scholarships to UND students. He said it was his first chance to personally visit UND Aerospace.

“I’ve been blown away by what I’ve seen here,” DiMento commented. “I didn’t really know what to expect. I had certainly heard a lot about UND …but I have never seen a facility like this … it’s awesome; I really am impressed.”

All 20 of UND’s first cohort of scholarship recipients were present to receive their awards. To be eligible for their $5,000 scholarship, each had to complete a detailed application process, including an essay that demonstrated their commitment to a future in aviation.

The scholarship winners will be able start investing in their future by becoming flight instructors for UND as early as this summer, according to Elizabeth Bjerke, UND Aerospace associate dean.

The scholarship recipients are:

Tyler Barry, Fort Worth, Texas

Maria Cole, Ellsworth, Wis.

Adien Dorsey, Seattle

Hailey Fitzpatrick, Becker, Minn.

Justin Gray, Cedar Falls, Iowa

Gunnar Harris, Grand Rapids, Minn.

Alexis Hesse, Bismarck

Zane Janneck, Mooresville, Ind.

Zachary Kretchmar, Okarche, Okla.

Jason Lieberg, Sartell, Minn.

Kaitlyn McGowan, Monticello, Minn.

Jakob Michel, St. Paul

Adelynn Mrosko, Middlefield, Ohio

Edwin Nova Abreu, New York City

Gavin Oftedahl, Sartell, Minn.

Jason Preston, New London, Penn.

Samantha Ripley, Blue Earth, Minn.

Stephen Smith, Crofton, Md.

Patrick Verner, St. Paul

Paul Wesp, Raleigh, N.C.