What is the Ray Aviation Scholarship?

The Ray Aviation Scholarship is a program funded by the Ray Foundation and managed by the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA). Through the Ray Foundation, EAA now funds over $1,500,000 annually in individual $10,000 scholarships to youth to support their flight training expenses.

The Ray Foundation was founded by James C. and Joan L. Ray. Mr. Ray enlisted in the Army shortly after finding himself in the middle of the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941. He served as a B-17 pilot during the War, flying 30 combat missions over Europe, including supporting the D-Day invasion. After leaving active duty, he served in the Air National Guard and had an active career in general aviation.

James Ray with the EAA Freedom Of Flight Award

In 1992, Mr. Ray was awarded EAA’s Freedom of Flight Award; EAA’s highest honor. This award is given annually to an individual whose contributions to aviation closely mirror the integrity, entrepreneurship and innovativeness of EAA members. EAA also named a road on the AirVenture campus in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, in his honor. James Ray was very dedicated to to supporting the EAA and encouraging youth in aviation. The most visible of his gifts is the Air Academy Lodge on the AirVenture grounds. Since 1998, the lodge has hosted hundreds of young people interested in aviation for a variety of camps and programs that have allowed them to discover more about aviation and flying. Mr. Ray was a believer in the life skills, discipline, character and confidence that can be built throughout the flight training journey. The Ray foundation aims to encourage exactly those skills through this scholarship program.

James Ray breaking ground on EAA’s Air Academy Lodge with Tom Poberezny.

The scholarship is managed by the EAA and administered through the EAA Chapter network. In order for a chapter to be eligible for the scholarship, they must fill out an application which explains why the chapter should receive the scholarship and how they will support the program. Once the chapters are selected, it is up to each chapter to choose a recipient for the Ray Aviation Scholarship. After selection the Ray Aviation Scholarship awardee must meet with the EAA Chapter representatives regularly for progress checks. Ray Scholars are also expected to involved in Chapter activities and events.

When Chapter 166 was first selected to administer a Ray Scholarship in 2019, Steve Socolosky, Rick Montero and Russ Beers formed a committee to manage the process. They quickly identified two candidates. Each of the candidates had to write a 150 word essay explaining why they should be selected. Each applicant also had a personal interview with the committee. After the interviews, the committee selected Daniel Royer, with Joe Cassineri as the alternate. In 2021, a similar process led to the selection of Cheyenne Fuoco as Chapter 166’s Ray Scholar.