Published in Midwest Flyer Magazine – April/May 2021 issue
Kai Braaten of Duluth, Minnesota, has been awarded a James Ray Aviation Scholarship by Duluth/Superior EAA Chapter 272. The scholarship provides up to $10,000 for flight training, leading to a private pilot’s certificate for the student. Braaten began his training in January of 2021.
In addition to the scholarship, Braaten will receive a Lightspeed 850 aviation headset when he passes the FAA private pilot written exam.
The Ray Scholarship is funded by a $1 million grant to the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) for 100 scholarships administered through local EAA chapters. The scholarship program is renewed annually, and the intent is to provide flight training dollars for young people to become private pilots.
The Ray Foundation was founded by James C. and Joan L. Ray of Naples, Fla. James 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.
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; EAA’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 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.