Kent Miller '80, '82 , M'11: When Education Takes Flight

Most everyone, as children, wants to be something amazing when they grow up: a rock star, an actress, an astronaut, a pilot.  When we grow up, graduate from high school, and enter college to prepare for those wondrous careers, we typically find ourselves grounded by reality.  But three times, Urbana University alumnus Kent Miller – ’80 associate,’82 bachelor’s, and ’11 MBA – paved his own path.

Born and raised in Bellefontaine, Ohio, Kent obtained his private pilot’s license by his junior year in high school and continued flying towards a career in aviation.  His high school guidance counselor, however, helped him discover that more than just logging hours in the air was needed to become a professional pilot: he needed a college degree.  Wanting to stay close to home, Kent visited Urbana University.  The small class size and proximity to Bellefontaine convinced Kent to attend.

Kent Miller – ’80 associate,’82 bachelor’s, and ’11 MBA – paved his own path.

“During the pre-registration process, I expressed my interest in aviation to my academic advisor, who in turn told me about a ‘self-designed’ program that I could [use] to obtain an associate’s degree in business/aviation,” Kent remembers.  “I met with [then] Dean Gary Crist who worked with the [Grimes] Airport manager and made it happen for me.”

Two years later, in 1980, Kent graduated with his associate’s degree from Urbana University as well as his Instrument Pilot, Commercial Pilot, and Flight Instructor licenses. Enjoying college life, though, Kent decided to continue his education and pursue his bachelor’s degree in accounting (a major inspired by Professor Steve Hamm). He graduated in 1982.

Kent spent the next fifteen years working as an accountant, accounting manager, controller, and self-employed business owner.  But the last fifteen years he has “had fun”!

“My success allowed me to own my own aircraft and continue aviation activities. I was getting bored with my businesses, [so] I sold them and started working as a professional pilot.”

Kent now flies Lear Jets and Cessna Citation Business Jets, interacting with high net worth clients and business leaders.  He credits his education with allowing him to intelligently discuss a variety of business topics with his clients, and his previous flight history and instruction with having the confidence to enjoy such a career.

He has logged just over 7,000 hours as a pilot, flying across the United States many times and to foreign countries like the Bahamas, Santo Domingo, Brazil, and France.

Kent says, “Flying past the Eiffel Tower in Paris has been the highlight of my career so far.”

In 2010, Kent felt the need to “reconnect with Urbana University and get another transfusion of the Blue Knight spirit” so he enrolled in the MBA program and graduated just four semesters later.

Kent credits Urbana for teaching him to be flexible and constantly train and learn.  He is required to attend a one week simulator-based training for each jet he flies. Every time he faces a different type of jet, he must go back to school and learn the aircraft.  He is grateful for his education from Urbana that gave him the skills necessary to be both a pilot and an accountant.

“While in Urbana, I made friends both in the community and on campus.  I still maintain some of these connections today, 30 years later, with my private accounting work.”  Kent is an active alumnus, who served on the Alumni Advisory Board for two years.  He also had the honor of performing the Turning of the Tassle Ceremony during his own commencement in December 2011..

When asked what advice he has for future graduates, Kent offers the following: “As a three time graduate of UU, I love this school ... In today’s job market, you must be flexible, multi-talented, and willing to learn.  Employers are looking for go-getters that will get the job done and ask for more. You must be willing to reinvent yourself, and continue your education.

“Going back for my masters at the age of 51 and interacting with the recent [students], I saw many new business leaders in training.  It is refreshing to know that UU is still producing top notch leaders.”

This alumni spotlight was written by Jennifer Kirkham ’09.  Jennifer is a freelance writer and blogger with experience as an editorial journalist.  She is currently working as an Enrollment Office Assistant at Urbana University and lives in Urbana with her husband and their three children.  She can be reached at jkirkham1982@hotmail.com.

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