Oklahoma State University announced a $1 million naming gift from Ray and Linda Booker during a special groundbreaking ceremony on March 7 for the new flight training center, set to officially open by fall 2021.
“We owe a huge thank you to Ray and Linda Booker for their commitment and vision for our aviation program,” Hargis said. “With this new flight center, Oklahoma State will strengthen its position as the premier destination for aviation education and the home of the best-trained aviators in the country. This facility will have a major impact on the student experience and our work with the aviation industry.”
The new flight center will serve as a premiere resource for students pursuing degrees in aviation education. The 11,600-square-foot facility will include private rooms for individual flight debriefings between students and flight instructors and encourage on-site group instruction and discussions. Additional advances to the student learning experience include space for state-of-the-art simulator technology, dispatch space and student common areas.
Ray, who passed away last year after battling Parkinson’s disease, and his wife Linda, are longtime Oklahoma State supporters and aviation enthusiasts. When they visited the existing flight center together, they were immediately captivated by the energy and student excitement they found there.
“We came and met the students and could instantly see how enthused they were and how much they all loved to fly,” Linda said. “I think anyone who goes into aviation has a passion for it. It takes a lot of hard work, skill, time and energy to pursue it. We already knew the demand for pilots was there, and we could see the enthusiasm in these students, so it was a natural fit for both of us.”
Ray earned a mechanical engineering degree from Oklahoma A&M College, where he was in the Air Force Officer Training Corps and flew. He went on to become a second lieutenant in the Air Force, training and studying at Pennsylvania State University, earning master’s and doctorate degrees in meteorology. His cloud physics research allowed him to fly on a regular basis, combining his engineering skills with his love of aviation. The Bookers endowed two scholarship funds and a professorship at OSU, and, in 2005, Booker Residence Hall was named in Ray’s honor. Ray Booker was inducted into the OSU Hall of Fame in 2012.
“I really believe that with the new fleet, new flight center and influx of students, we are in a position to be one of the best aviation programs in the nation,” said Nate Anders, professional pilot senior from Del City, Oklahoma.
OSU Aviation enrolls more than 300 students annually, offering undergraduate degrees in aerospace security, aviation management, technical service management and professional pilot. It is also one of only 18 universities in the nation to offer graduate aviation degrees.
Enrollment has increased nearly 40 percent over the last five years, with the professional pilot option experiencing almost 50 percent enrollment growth.
“We’ve been outgrowing our space for some time now,” said Lance Fortney, program manager for the OSU Flight Center. “Over the last several years, we’ve been continuously working on upgrades to our facilities, fleet and equipment so our students have a high-quality learning experience. This new flight center plays a major role in ensuring Oklahoma State continues to attract and retain the highest caliber of students.”
The Booker’s support of this project will help ensure the longevity of the program and ultimately increase the number of OSU trained pilots and aviation leaders around the world.
“With this gift, we will finally have a facility that physically reflects the excellence, pride and tradition by which OSU Aviation is already known,” said Stephan M. Wilson, interim dean of the College of Education, Health and Aviation and Dean of the College of Human Sciences. “And even more, Ray’s legacy will live on through OSU Aviation.”
Dream along with us as we strengthen the next era of aviation programs at OSU. To learn more, visit OSUgiving.com/AviationComplex.
MEDIA CONTACT: Rachel Eng |405-744-8320 |firstname.lastname@example.org
Watch the announcement: