Approaching his mid-60s and well into his second career after retiring as an airline pilot, Memphis’ Ed Owen decided to tackle another challenge in life — an advanced degree.
Owen wanted to go back to school at age 64 to pursue his master’s degree at Middle Tennessee State University. But with a wife, Mary, and a full-time job as flight simulator instructor for Memphis-based corporate giant FedEx, commuting to class wasn’t an option.
So he chose the comfort of his own home nearly 240 miles from Murfreesboro and joined the Blue Raider educational community online.
“I was looking for an avenue to learn more,” Owen said. “I work full time in the aviation industry. I was looking forward to increasing my knowledge.”
On Saturday, Dec. 14, Owen will be awarded a master’s from the university, which is in the midst of a student success initiative to help place more degrees in the hands of Tennesseans.
Now 66, Owen thus becomes the MTSU Department of Aerospace’s first online master’s degree honoree.
“Ed is our first completely online master’s recipient in aviation safety and security management,” said professor Wendy Beckman, his faculty mentor and adviser throughout his two-year quest.
Aerospace chair Ron Ferrara shared the department’s excitement that Owen, a nontraditional student, achieved the historical milestone online for the program, which began in 1942 and is one of the best in the nation.
“He’s a full-time FedEx flight instructor and a retired captain,” Ferrara said. “He started before we got the program approved. … This supports the theory of using the online degree program to reach nontraditional students who are employed full time.”
On. Nov. 21, Owen made his first-ever trip to the MTSU campus to make an oral presentation of his 80-page master’s thesis, which was titled “Assessing the Status of Airline Safety Culture and Its Relationship to Key Employee Attitudes.”
Owen, who took 12 online courses totaling 36 hours of study, said he would not be attending Saturday’s commencement but has enjoyed the online journey of advancing his education and skills.
“I wondered if I would get anything out of it, and I did,” Owen said of the pursuit of the master’s. He added that it was a “very good” online experience in the relatively new online program. “I was skeptical, but I was very impressed. It was very well done.”
Owen, who took 12 online courses totaling 36 hours of study, said he would not be attending Saturday’s commencement.
“Ed has been an awesome student the entire way,” Beckman said. “He has done a great job in his classwork.”
Owen earned his undergraduate degree in building construction from Auburn University in Alabama. He spent 30 years as a Northwest Airlines pilot. He and his wife have two children, Danielle Fisher and Michael Owen.
— Randy Weiler (Randy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)