After Commanding Search
and Rescue Missions,
NCU Training and Mentorship Lead Dr. Tim Holt to Top Aeronautical Spot
Walk into Dr. Tim Holt’s office at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, AZ, and you can’t help but notice an old hammer on display. No, the Dean of the College of Aviation doesn’t keep it handy for the occasional campus odd job. Rather, it’s a treasured memento from his childhood, during which he recalls watching his grandfather use it, and the other magical tools in his toolbox, to tinker around the house repairing anything that was even slightly askew.
“He only had a third-grade education, but the things he was able to do with his tools made him as much of an engineer as anyone holding an engineering degree today,” says Holt, a retired Navy Chief with multiple advanced degrees.
“My grandfather came to the United States from Italy after serving in World War I,” Holt recalls. “He worked as a bricklayer, poured cement to build his own home and toiled in the Indiana steel mills to support a wife and three daughters.”
Education was so important to his grandfather that he made sure his own daughters—including Holt’s mother—graduated from high school. The next generation of kids finished college, and some even earned advanced degrees.
But Holt’s own post-high school educational journey in the early 1990s got off to a slow start. After a stint at Purdue University, he decided to pursue his love of aircraft and enlist in the U.S. Navy where he began serving as an electronics warfare operator on P-3 Orion aircraft, hunting submarines during the Cold War and drug interdictions in South America.
Although he took a few courses during his first tour of duty, Holt realized he’d need a college degree to advance into the Navy’s chief petty officer ranks. With the military’s tuition assistance, support from his wife Karen and some creative study techniques, Holt earned a bachelor’s degree in professional aeronautics and a master’s degree in aeronautical science from Embry-Riddle.
“The funding support meant everything to me. At that time in my career, I wasn’t making a high enough salary to go to school, and I probably could not have done it without financial assistance.”
—Dr. Tim Holt
With online education and use of the internet becoming more common at the time, Holt was able to take classes during deployments, collaborating with crew members and getting their feedback on assignments. While traditional learners attended classes in person and met for study groups, Holt wrote papers in the back of aircraft transiting over the Pacific Ocean and took exams in hangars across the globe when he wasn’t flying.
“The funding support meant everything to me,” he explains. “At that time in my career, I wasn’t making a high enough salary to go to school, and I probably could not have done it without financial assistance.”
During his 22 years in the service, Holt headed rescue operations and Navy Seal insertion and extraction missions, taught other navies how to track submarines and served as a master training specialist, instructing and evaluating crewmen. As he approached retirement and looked forward to his next career, teaching seemed like a natural fit. The Veteran’s Administration “Troops to Teachers” program, which helps tailor skills developed in the service for use in the various subjects in the classroom, provided a smooth transition.
Since earning his teaching license, Holt has taught in both public and higher education, including a teaching career exploration course for junior high students interested in aviation, directing high school initiatives at Embry-Riddle, training faculty and serving as program chair for the university’s Master of Science in Management and Aeronautics programs. Recently he was appointed to the role of college dean at Embry-Riddle, which was ranked #1 in U.S. News & World Report’s 2018 Best Colleges guidebook list of the Best Undergraduate Aerospace/Aeronautical/Astronautical Engineering Programs at schools where a doctorate is not offered.
“The research and writing processes at NCU were so current and cutting edge. As dean, I spend a great deal of time reading and writing research topics, so the training I received at NCU has been phenomenal.”
—Dr. Tim Holt
Along the way, Holt managed to fit in a Doctor of Philosophy degree from NCU’s School of Education, again with military support through the GI bill. In fact, Holt credits his NCU education with helping to prepare him for the demands of his current role.
“The research and writing processes at NCU were so current and cutting edge,” he says. “As dean, I spend a great deal of time reading and writing research topics, so the training I received at NCU has been phenomenal.”
Holt also feels fortunate to have had amazing faculty, committees and mentors at NCU. In fact, drawing on the experiences of others, in his opinion, is the best education of all.
“There are only so many experiences we can have on our own,” Holt explains. “Being able to look through the eyes of someone who has spent years seeing things from a different perspective and who is willing to share their time and their past will help you expand your own perspective and recognize that the world offers unlimited possibilities.”
Thinking back about the times he spent with his grandfather, Holt says one of the most important lessons he learned was to not take education for granted. His grandfather came from a time and place where there was little opportunity to go to school, but today his great grandchildren have all completed college and many of them are teachers.
“I tell that story to students,” Holt says. “We have some amazing opportunities that so many others haven’t had. It’s important to follow your passion and be prepared for anything.”