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Samuel Priest ('09) Named Young Alumni Award Winner


He grew up just down the street from Bowman Field in Louisville and would often ride his bicycle to the airport to watch the planes come and go. Across town, his father worked with UPS World Port at what is now Muhammad Ali International Airport and would often take his son into the cockpit of the big cargo planes.

Samuel Priest, ’09, was born to work in the aviation industry. And, thanks to an aviation administration degree from EKU, he’s living his dream as acting operations manager at King County International Airport-Boeing Field in Seattle.

When Mr. Priest enrolled in Eastern’s aviation program, it was much smaller, without the national prestige it enjoys today. “This provided me the opportunity to create new things for the program and help shape the program the way I wanted even long after I left,” he said.

He remembers “many great professors,” especially the engaging style and personal touch of marketing professor Mr. Chip Heath; how aviation professor Mr. Dave Henemeir asked tough questions to break him out of his “timid shell”; and aviation professor Mr. James Adamson, for helping him see everyday connections to aviation. “He went as far as comparing a Thanksgiving turkey to aviation because turkeys can fly, and most people travel over the Thanksgiving holiday using aviation to eat turkeys that once flew. Now, I try to connect the dots to anything to see if it really does ultimately relate to aviation. Surprisingly enough, most things do connect to aviation, which makes me happy because a lot of my job is making sure aviation is safe for everyone.”

Mr. Priest, who went on to earn a master’s degree in aeronautical science from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, his pilot’s license and full accreditation from the American Association of Airport Executives, joined Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport as an aviation operations representative in 2012, eventually serving as airfield construction manager. At Hartsfield-Jackson, he oversaw a pavement rehabilitation project for the longest runway of the world’s busiest airport.

“Working in airport operations is a profession where you need to know a little bit about everything, as it is the central nerve center of the airport, and the environment is always changing,” Mr. Priest said. “What’s rewarding is that my decisions and oversight provide a safe airfield and environment that is unknown to your average pilot and passenger, but I indirectly affect the masses.”

Published on October 21, 2022

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