Alpha Eta Rho International Aviation Fraternity is a professional collegiate fraternity founded to bring together those students having a common interest in the field of commercial aviation. Since 1929, the organization has fostered a unique bond among fellow aviators and aviation enthusiasts, and has aspired to uphold our longstanding motto of "Collegiate Aviation Leaders of Today... Aviation Industry Leaders of Tomorrow."
Alpha Eta Rho, the Greek letters which stand for “AIR,” came into being to fulfill a definite need of the time. On the campus of the University of Southern California in the spring of 1929, enrollment in aviation courses was surprisingly high. Faculty members as well as students were voicing the need for an extracurricular activity for promoting and organizing the unified interest in aviation.
Led by Earl W. Hill, Professor of Aviation at the University of Southern California, Alpha Eta Rho was organized on April 10, 1929. After receiving official recognition by the university, the first official election of officers was held on May 23, 1929. Under the leadership of Hill, Founder and National President for 21 years until his death in 1950, Alpha Eta Rho continued to grow in size and reputation within collegiate academia and the aviation industry.
Marshall C. Benedict, an employee of United Airlines, succeeded Earl W. Hill as National President of Alpha Eta Rho (AHP) in 1950. Benedict served in this capacity until 1963, at which time he had become involved with the FAA. Benedict was recalled to active duty with the United States Air Force for a 16-month period from June 1951 until October 1952, and during this period John Goodwin temporarily assumed position of National President.
Benedict resigned in 1963 and was succeeded by Ray Mertes, a great supporter of aviation education while with United Airlines. Mertes died unexpectedly in 1965 and was succeeded by Gene Kropf, Public Affairs Officer of the Western Region of the FAA. Known within the aviation circle as "The Red Baron," Kropf served as National President until 1981 at which time he resigned to accept the position of Chairman of the Board of Alpha Eta Rho. Dr. Harold S. Wood, then National Secretary-Treasurer for Alpha Eta Rho accepted the position of National President. Professor Wood was Chairman of the Aeronautics Department at Parks College of St. Louis University and was responsible for the growth and modern expansion of Alpha Eta Rho, The University Aviation Association (UAA), and the National Intercollegiate Flying Association (NIFA). He managed the National Office of Alpha Eta Rho at Parks College from 1950 to his retirement in 1986.
Collegiate Aviation Leaders of Today... Aviation Industry Leaders of Tomorrow.
In April of 2008, Professor Ronald Kelly passed away and was succeeded by the current National President of Alpha Eta Rho, Capt. Robert H. Clement. Clement is the first student alumni of Alpha Eta Rho to serve as National President. Clement pledged the Pi Chapter of Alpha Eta Rho at Parks College of St. Louis University in 1969. During the period from 1968 to 1973, Clement served as a student volunteer and Special Assistant to Professor Harold Wood at the National Office of Alpha Eta Rho at Parks College. Upon graduation from Parks College, Clement served 21 years as an officer and aviator in carrier based naval aviation. Capt. Clement was in the initial cadre of fleet introduction of the F-14A “Tomcat," a graduate of “Top Gun” and the Naval Aviation Postgraduate Safety Program, and former Commanding Officer of the VF-111 “Sundowners” embarked on USS Kitty Hawk.