By Melanie Stawicki Azam
When Alex Wells first accepted a teaching job at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in 1972, its Daytona Beach Campus was a collection of old military buildings and nearly all of its students were soldiers.
“There was virtually nothing here, just a bunch of WWII barracks,” recalls the esteemed retired College of Business faculty member who taught at both the Daytona Beach and Worldwide campuses.
“But I came here in March and the weather was gorgeous, so I said there’s no question,” Wells says with a smile. “ERAU offered me $11,000 to start, which was half of what I was earning in Chicago.”
Wells got his start teaching business aviation at Embry-Riddle and, after a long and successful academic career, he decided that he and his wife, Mary, wanted to give back to the university. The Deland couple made a planned gift to fund the Dr. Alex and Mary Wells Endowed Scholarship to assist aviation business administration students. They said the bequest was easy to make.
“We wanted to do something to specifically help students,” Wells says.
The $5,000 scholarship will go to a business student who has a religious affiliation with a place of worship and is involved in one of the following activities for at least one year: Big Brothers/Sisters, Volusia County Schools mentoring program, Take Stock in Children or the Children’s Home Society. The couple said they want to help a deserving student, who also gives back to others.
“I’d like to see a dedicated individual active in school and out in the community,” says Wells.
The couple's desire to give back grew out of a full-circle relationship with Embry-Riddle that began and ended with Wells' distinguished teaching career, which included courses he led in economics, cargo management, aviation insurance and airline management classes.
“It was a lot of fun in the early days, because there were a lot of things I was able to develop,” he said.
Two and a half years later after starting in Daytona Beach, Wells headed to South Florida to lead the off-campus program for Embry-Riddle’s Worldwide Campus, opening the busy Homestead and Fort Lauderdale campuses.
Then in 1978, Wells was hired away from Embry-Riddle by Broward County Community College, where he spent 20 years teaching the business of aviation and went on to write nine textbooks on aviation insurance and risk management, airport planning and management and commercial aviation safety—all of which are still considered classics.
But even with all his success at Broward, Wells remained connected to Embry-Riddle in one form or another. He stayed in touch with many of his former Embry-Riddle colleagues who often used his textbooks in their classrooms. And for 19 years during the summer, he would teach aviation business for Embry-Riddle Worldwide Campus' summer abroad sessions.
In 1998, he returned to the Embry-Riddle College of Business to teach economics part time, and in 2000, he was awarded the University Aviation Association's Dr. Frank E. Sorenson award for outstanding achievement of excellence in aviation research scholarship.
In his final stint at Embry-Riddle, Wells was hired by the Worldwide Campus to teach economics, airport management and other aviation business courses and taught at least one class per term until retiring in 2012. He and his wife, who have been married 53 years and have two grown children and one grandson, live in DeLand, where they are active in their church and volunteer with a number of youth organizations, like Big Brothers/Big Sisters and Take Stock in Children.
Reflecting on his career, Wells says Embry-Riddle has been a big part of his life and he has fond memories of his time at the university.
“Embry-Riddle was awfully good to me and I’m grateful for the opportunities I’ve had,” he says.