Delta Air Lines heads major gift to support numerous programs at Auburn University

Published: November 15, 2017
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Delta Air Lines, the Delta Air Lines Foundation and the Jacobson Family Foundation granted $6.2 million to support multiple programs at Auburn University during an event at the Auburn University Regional Airport on Friday.

The gift will fund the construction of the Delta Air Lines Aviation Education Building, as well as support the purchase of an aircraft simulator and create endowed faculty professorships within the Department of Aviation, home of one of the longest standing public flight programs in the country. Delta's gift also will provide funding for the university's Radio-Frequency Identification, or RFID Lab. Auburn is the leading academic institution for RFID technology, conducting research on how specialized sensor technologies can have an impact on industries, including aviation, retail, supply chain and manufacturing. Emerge at Auburn, a new student leadership development program, also will receive funding from Delta's gift.

"We are proud to partner with Auburn University's aviation education program, the RFID Lab and Emerge at Auburn," said Paul Jacobson, Delta's executive vice president and chief financial officer, trustee with the Delta Air Lines Foundation and chair of the Jacobson Family Foundation. "This grant and partnership will help ensure an exceptional aviation education through technology, research and innovation for students, and supports our commitment to enhancing education as a key pillar of our community engagement efforts. We know firsthand how capable Auburn graduates are and look forward to a future with Auburn in which truly, the sky is the limit."

Construction of the Delta Air Lines Aviation Education Building, the first building designed exclusively for aviation education at Auburn, will be completed for fall 2018 classes. The 23,000-square-foot facility will accommodate anticipated growth and increased class offerings, as well as provide state-of-the-art flight simulators; flexible, technology-enhanced classrooms; faculty offices and workspace and meeting spaces for faculty and students.

"Delta is revolutionizing the way we teach aviation at Auburn," said Bill Hutto, interim chair of Auburn's Department of Professional Flight and Aviation Management and director of the Auburn University Regional Airport and Auburn Aviation Center. "We will see the impact of their gift for decades."

The investment in the RFID Lab will provide a dedicated Delta Air Lines Aviation Sensor ID Bay to facilitate research and create an experiential learning center that will include executive, student and industry teaching capabilities. This funding also will establish lead resources for an aerospace consortium sponsored by Delta and create aerospace-focused student and faculty positions within the lab. Delta's support will further the overall growth of RFID applications and contributions to sensor technology solutions across aviation to create the air travel experience of the future.

"We deeply appreciate Delta's trust in Auburn's research leadership and faith in our students," said Justin Patton, RFID Lab director. "This gift will allow us to serve the aviation industry with research and advancements in maintenance and safety history, tracking passenger baggage and overall, in making air travel safer and more efficient."

Additionally, Delta's gift supports a monthly speaker series as part of the new Emerge at Auburn program on campus. Housed within the Division of Student Affairs, Emerge is a four-year leadership program with a curriculum built around the Auburn creed. Speaker events are open to all and will highlight topics that coincide with the themes Emerge students are exploring, such as values, vision and teamwork.