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Together we rise, beginning fall 2024 SVC brings back aviation degree for aspiring pilots

By: Lauren Campbell, Staff Writer

Did you know that Rooney Hall, which houses generations of promising Saint Vincent College (SVC) students, was once an emergency landing site for pilots?

In 1919, after a big storm hit the area, army pilots were forced to make an emergency landing at what is now Rooney Hall at SVC. The Benedictine monks took the pilots in for the night while the storm cleared. After the pilots had left, SVC officially became an emergency landing site, marking the birth of aviation in Western Pennsylvania.

About a decade later, the first collegiate aviation program in the world was opened right here at SVC. The college’s own “Spirit of Saint Vincent” plane flew over Latrobe from the Arnold Palmer Regional Airport, piloted by students working to get their degrees. Unfortunately, during the Great Depression, the program fizzled out, most likely due to air travel and plane fuel being unaffordable.

Now, almost 100 years after the original program ended, SVC is offering a Bachelor of Science in Aviation Management–Professional Pilot. On Wednesday, January 17, a press conference was held at the Arnold Palmer Regional Airport, where the return of the Aviation program was announced.

Dean Urick and Aviation Instructor James Arnold took a flight around campus to celebrate the new aviation major. (SOURCE: MCKENNA SCHOOL INSTAGRAM)

The new aviation program allows students to earn an associate degree from The Community College of Beaver County (CCBC), a bachelor’s degree from SVC, and a commercial pilot’s license, all within four years. Students will take the required core and business classes at SVC, online aviation courses through CCBC, and then all flight training will be held at Laurel Highlands Aeronautical Academy at the Arnold Palmer International Airport.

Dr. Michael Urick, Dean of the SVC McKenna School of Business and head of the new aviation program, emphasized the importance of the business side to the newly proposed program while also highlighting the fact that students can expect to be in the air by the end of their first semester.

However, the program has been uniquely designed so that if a student later decides that flying is not for them, they still have the business core to fall back on, allowing them to graduate with a degree in Business Administration in four years and no time lost.

“If you’re looking at certain industries, what industries are hurting, and where jobs are, we’re talking aviation, we’re talking pilots,” Urick said. “[The aviation program] became something that, more and more, I was convinced this is an avenue we needed to pursue, given our strategic location with the airport, the community’s needs, and how we can best serve the community.”

James Arnold and SVC administration, including Dean Urick, hold a press conference discussing the new aviation major. (SOURCE: STVINCENT.EDU)

Urick explains that this is why the program was put together. The college feels it could generate value for the community and great learning experiences for students.

“This is very much a community-focused and community-based program,” Urick said.

Enrollment for the Bachelor of Science in Aviation Management–Professional Pilot Degree begins in Fall 2024.

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