OSHKOSH, WIS. – The first “Ray Aviation Scholarship” recipients have been announced. The program, which involves $1 million in scholarships each year, is managed by the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) and administered through its chapter network, which identifies candidates and mentors them through flight training. More than 200 EAA chapters from throughout the United States have applied thus far.
Thanks to the generous support of the “Ray Foundation,” recipients can receive as much as $10,000 to help cover their flight training expenses.
The Ray Foundation was founded by James C. and Joan L. Ray of Naples, Fla. Ray was born in San Francisco, California on January 1, 1923 with the spirit of a true entrepreneur. As a youngster, he was never idle, and had countless part-time jobs, selling magazines, and delivering groceries and laundry. He was also an Eagle Scout, and upon graduation from high school, he became a steelworker.
Ray’s dedication to aviation began shortly after the December 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor which he witnessed firsthand as a civilian steelworker. Following the attack, Ray enlisted in the Army Air Corps and was involved in the D-Day invasion as a B-17 command pilot with the 8th Air Force. Post war, he served in the Air National Guard, and was very involved in general aviation.
Also following the war, Ray married the love of his life, Joan L. Paine, raised two children, and began a very successful business career. Working in venture capital investments, he became a seed investor and advisor to over 300 startup technology companies.
Aviation remained an ever-present part of his life. Throughout the years, Ray owned and flew many different aircraft. One of his favorites was a Cessna 170B, which he flew on business and personal trips in the 1950s throughout the Caribbean, Central America, Europe and Africa, visiting 58 countries. For more than 29 years, he flew Cessna Citations.
The Ray Foundation was first involved in veterinary research in the 1960s. In later years, he focused much of his philanthropy on aviation, supporting the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences at the University of North Dakota; Experimental Aircraft Association’s Air Academy in Oshkosh, Wis.; Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association’s youth aviation and pilot safety initiatives; and Sun ‘n Fun Fly-In’s youth aviation education programs. Ray was also instrumental in funding the construction of Central Florida Aerospace Academy in Lakeland, Florida.
Ray believed that the self-discipline and self-confidence he learned during flight training helped him achieve success in life and business. He felt strongly that these traits, and assuming responsibility for one’s own actions, are learned skills and important character traits that can truly make one free to pursue their dreams. His generous support of so many worthwhile aviation causes helps assure that aspiring young aviators will have the opportunity to learn this philosophy for themselves for years to come.
Ray died peacefully on April 1, 2017 at the age of 94 following a short illness. He was preceded in death by his wife, Joan, in 1986; son, Jim, in 2005; and daughter, Joanie, in 2009.
Jack J. Pelton, EAA CEO and chairman of the board, said: “Through programs, such as Ray Aviation Scholarships, our goal is twofold: To inspire and welcome more young people who want to pursue their personal dreams of flight, and to boost the success rate of those who begin flight training through consistent mentorship and recognition.”
Sporty’s Pilot Shop is providing its Online Learn to Fly Course free of charge to all EAA Young Eagles. And as an added incentive for scholarship recipients, Lightspeed Aviation is awarding each scholarship recipient with a Lightspeed Zulu 3 headset upon completion of their solo flight and ground school, as steps toward ultimately completing their flight training.
One of the first youth to receive the scholarship is Noah Forcier, a junior at Edgewood High School in Madison, Wisconsin. Sponsoring Forcier is EAA Chapter 93 with Morey Airplane Company in Middleton, Wisconsin, providing the flight training.
Forcier holds a 4.0 grade point average and is a member of the Edgewood Honor Society. He is a first-generation aviator, and hopes to fly for Delta Airlines upon completion of his education and advance flight training.
Forcier said that ever since he and his family flew to Portland, Oregon, when he was 8 years old, he was hooked on aviation and wanted to become a commercial airline pilot.
Forcier was a member of the Civil Air Patrol for 3 years, has visited the EAA Museum numerous times, and has attended EAA AirVenture Oshkosh since he was 9 years old when he took his first Young Eagles flight. Since then, he has volunteered at the Heavy Bombers Weekend in Madison, Wis., and joined the Madison EAA Chapter.
Forcier’s mentors include his high school aviation instructor, Diane Ballweg, who recommended him for the scholarship; EAA member, Jeff Plantz; and his flight instructor, Pete Aarsvold.
“I am very lucky to get in touch with such great people and have the support that I do,” says Forcier. Forcier’s parents, Scott and Julie, are not pilots, but support their son in his pursuit to become a professional pilot.