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Top U.S. aviation universities: an interview with Hallmark University

We interviewed Dean of Aeronautics and former Air Force Colonel, Kurt Leslie, of Hallmark University in San Antonio, Texas, and asked all about the organisation’s courses, history, alumni, and more.

An interview with Hallmark University

Chief Advancement and Institutional Effectiveness Officer Brent Fessler speaking at Hallmark University's fourth annual 'It's Time for Change' luncheon
Chief Advancement and Institutional Effectiveness Officer Brent Fessler speaking at Hallmark University's fourth annual 'It's Time for Change' luncheon

ACS: Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions! First off, what courses do you offer aviation and aeronautics students?

HU: We offer an Associate’s degree in Airframe and Powerplant. We also offer all the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) required curriculum to satisfy the training requirements to sit for the FAA exams for the Airframe and Powerplant License.

ACS: What makes Hallmark University courses for aviation and aeronautics unique?

HU: Our program is a 15-month accelerated program that meets the aviation industry needs. We also have a character program interwoven into the 15-month program. You’ll find more information about the program here.

ACS: How long has Hallmark University been in operation?

HU: Hallmark University has been in operation since September 1969.

ACS: Have any famous or noteworthy professionals in aeronautics or aviation studied through Hallmark University?

HU: We think every graduate is famous and noteworthy but Ron Soret, General Manager at Aeria Luxury Interiors, is one that comes to mind. Also Neill Fulbright, who leads the Avionics program at Embry-Riddle University. Others include vice presidents of maintenance at airlines around the world (including the Caribbean and Middle East) and maintenance directors for corporate flight departments.

ACS: Introduce us to some of the faculty staff – any noteworthy names/achievements?

HU: Here to answer the interview questions is Dean for the College of Aeronautics and retired Air Force Colonel, Kurt Leslie.

ACS: How many students do you take on each year?

HU: Our terms are eight weeks long and repeat every eight weeks. So we take in between 25 and 30 students per class. We currently have around 167 students enrolled in the program.

ACS: How long is each course?

HU: Each term is eight weeks long and it takes eight terms to finish the program.

ACS: As one of the top universities for aviation and aeronautics, we’re guessing there are many aircraft lovers at Hallmark University. Care to let us in on your favorite aircraft?

HU: My personal favorites would have to be the P-51 Mustang and the F-15 Eagle.

ACS: What are you most excited about when it comes to the future of aviation?

HU: The innovating technology that is taking over our industry. Also the technological advances in virtual reality and online learning environments. But the most exciting thing is that the students who walk through our doors are way ahead of where I was when I started my aviation career 39 years ago. The invention of computers, the iPhone, iPad, Google Glass etc. has made everyone’s lives easier but has also created challenges. So sorting through all the new technology and properly applying it to the learning environment is pretty awesome.

ACS: How is Hallmark University preparing its students for the future of the industry?

HU: We are currently moving our classes online and are shooting for January 2020 to have the program up and running. We are also looking into virtual reality training environments to see what will assist with our students’ learning. We are entertaining several ideas from companies on how to bridge the gap from where we are now to where we want to be.

ACS: Do you offer any bursaries, scholarships or special entrance options?

HU: We offer a few special entrance options such our Aero CHI program, which saves high school students a significant amount of time and money when they enroll full-time after graduation.

Here are a few scholarships that are available to our students:

  • National Business Aviation Association (NBAA)

NBAA’s scholarship program, generously supported through Member donors, offers nearly $100,000 annually in cash awards as tuition reimbursement for enrolled students.

  • Navigate Your Future

The Navigate Your Future Scholarship is offered to a high school graduate continuing his or her education in the aviation industry.

  • Aircraft Electronics Association (AEA)

Since its inception, the AEA Educational Foundation has awarded more than $1.5 million to students seeking careers in aircraft electronics and aviation maintenance.

  • International Council of Air Shows

The foundation has collaborated with the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) to provide assistance to students seeking an aviation-related degree.

  • Association for Women in Aviation Maintenance (AWAM)

AWAM’s Scholarship Program supports the diverse skills required in the field of aviation maintenance and technology.

  • Northrop Rice Foundation

Provides scholarships to forward the role and status of Aviation Maintenance Technicians, with scholarships for students, instructors, and veterans.

  • American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Foundation (AIAA)

To help support promising future aerospace professionals, the AIAA Foundation annually awards financial aid to undergraduate and graduate students in science or engineering programs related to aerospace.

Other general scholarships and grants include:

  • San Antonio Area Foundation

More than 90 funds at the San Antonio Area Foundation contribute to scholarships, which are available to students pursuing their educational dreams.

  • Scholarship Program

Offers scholarships to the selected winners who apply by submitting an essay in response to the scholarship topic.

  • Life Lessons Scholarship Program

Offers scholarships to students aged 17-24, who are in college or seniors in high school, and have suffered the death of a parent or guardian.

  • Patient Advocate Foundation Scholarship for Survivors

In 2000, Founder, CEO and Chairman of the Board, Nancy Davenport-Ennis established the Scholarship for Survivors program to honor these individuals by offering educational scholarships to those who have suffered (or are suffering) a life-threatening disease or chronic condition.

  • Rotary Club of San Antonio Youth Education Scholarship
Scholarship awarded to students currently enrolled in an accredited college or university.

We also offer a number of military scholarships, including:

  • Pat Tillman Foundation

The Tillman Scholar Program unites and empowers remarkable military veterans and spouses as the next generation of public and private sector leaders committed to service beyond self.

  • Folds of Honor Foundation

Scholarships available for service members and families.

  • Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association STEM and Cyber Security Scholarships (AFCEA)

Many of AFCEA’s chapters provide scholarships, grants and tuition assistance for aspiring engineers, technicians, programmers, military personnel and government officials.

  • Fisher House Foundation Scholarships

Scholarships for military children, spouses and service members.

  • Airforce Aid Society - General Henry H. Arnold Education Grant

Grants ranging from $500 to $4,000 are awarded to eligible Air Force dependents each year. The specific amount awarded correlates to a student’s particular level of financial need.

  • Thank USA Scholarship Program

Scholarships for dependents of military members and scholarships for military spouses.

  • Fallen Patriot Fund

The Fallen Patriot Fund of The Mark Cuban Foundation was established to help families of U.S. military personnel who were killed or seriously injured during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

  • Veterans United Foundation Scholarship

Veterans United Foundation, the charitable arm of Veterans United Home Loans, is dedicated to enhancing lives in our nation’s military community. Their scholarship program fuels a vision for a bright future and ensures student’s hopes aren't threatened by the ever-increasing costs of a post-secondary degree.

ACS: Do you have any partnerships with notable companies in the industry? If so, can you give us a quick summary?

HU: We have several companies that are part of our Program Advisory Council (PAC). PACs are comprised of appropriately qualified representatives external to the institution (i.e., non-school employees) who are able to provide a meaningful review of the school’s programs, and supporting resources and materials. Some of the members of our PAC include Lockheed Martin, Standard Aero, ST Engineering, Mooney Aviation, Knight Aviation, Red Bird Flight Simulations, Valero Aviation, GulfStream Aviation and Aerotek Aviation.

ACS: If there was one piece of advice you could give to prospective aviation and aeronautics students, what would it be?

HU: Aviation is not for everyone. It takes hard work and dedication to become a qualified technician, but the rewards are worth it.

ACS: For Hallmark University alumni, what’s the most common career path? Private aviation, commercial aviation, military and civil, or a combination of all?

HU: The most common career path among alumni of our university is commercial aviation.

ACS: Lastly, how should students go about applying to Hallmark University aviation school? Any tips for up-and-coming students?

HU: Visit our website and apply – be prepared for a fast-past program that is designed for your success.

ACS: Anything else you would like to add about your aviation courses or the industry itself?

HU: Yes – the industry is booming and Hallmark is doing everything it can to meet the needs of the workforce. We will look for ways to improve every day to ensure our students are the best prepared for what they are about to encounter in the wonderful world of aviation.

Are you looking to start a career in aeronautics or aviation? Speak to us about applying for a course and we’ll do our best to provide some helpful advice. ACS also provides aviation and flying scholarships for many of the best aviation institutions in the U.S. and around the world. Find out more on our Aviation Scholarships and Student Grants page.



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