Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach is considered the world’s leading aviation and aerospace institution of higher learning. Established in 1926, it is the oldest and largest aviation school and, as would be expected, tuition costs are extremely high, as Lloyd Skeen, then a resident of Peel, found out.
Skeen was determined to achieve his dream of becoming a pilot, however, and his family made huge financial sacrifices to make that happen.
The young man pledged that once he paid off his massive tuition bill and started flying, he would fund a scholarship to help those who might find themselves in the same predicament as he was.
Skeen never got the chance to fulfill his promise. In February 2003, while employed with the Greater Toronto Airport Authority, he died shortly after celebrating his 32nd birthday.
It was left to his family and friends to carry through on his promise, and they did so by setting up the Dream Never Dies Foundation (DNDF), which has awarded 29 scholarships over the past nine years.
Greg Claxton and Stephan Alexander, who met Skeen in Grade 11 when they were part of the Peel District School Board’s regional aviation program at J.A. Turner Secondary School (now Turner Fenton Secondary School), reminisced about their friend at the DNDF’s eighth annual scholarship banquet last Saturday night in Mississauga.
“My fondest memories of Lloyd were his constant smile, grin and the fact that he always challenged himself,” recalled Alexander who is a First Officer at Air Canada. “He had a soulful grace about him and he treated everyone with respect, kindness and compassion.”
Claxton said Skeen was always very positive and was driven to succeed.
“Despite the fact he faced financial challenges, he was so happy that he realized his dream to attend university and he vowed he would set up a scholarship fund to help others who might have been subjected to the monetary constraints he endured.”
Skeen, who was born in England, came to Canada with his mother – Judy Skeen – at age seven.
She said his passion for flying was ignited at age four when the family flew to Jamaica to visit his grandparents.
“It was at that moment he showed a keen interest in flying,” said Judy Skeen. “He was not an ‘A’ student, but he worked very hard in pursuit of his dream to fly.”
This year’s scholarship recipients included Seneca College’s Aviation and Flight Technology second-year student, Akeem Gayle, who was presented with his third DNDF scholarship.
“For me, the foundation has highly contributed to my student success and eagerness to learn,” he said. “It gives students like me who need the extra financial help a chance to excel and do the best I can. The foundation has also provided a support system that I can now rely on.”
Gayle was turned on to flying while vacationing in Grenada, his mother’s birthplace, and Jamaica where his dad was born.
“Everything about flying fascinates me,” said Gayle, who starts flight training next month. “I am so intrigued that such a large machine can go up and down so easily.”
The other winners were Tshea Dowers, Aaron Smelsky, Thaeann Bennett, Jyssica Delpeche, Diogo Mafra and Ziggy Ernest.
The DNDF presented scholarships to students affiliated with the Canadian Aviation program at Georgian College of Applied Arts & Technology, the Urban Pilot Network, Peel Children’s Aid, Crawford Adventist Academy, Mississauga Seventh-day Adventist Church and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.
BY RON FANFAIR