The Role of the WMAA Foundation
As a public charter school, West Michigan Aviation Academy receives a per-pupil stipend which covers the traditional courses. However, the Academy provides educational opportunities above and beyond what can be found in other high schools. Those opportunities require an investment of approximately $1,500-$2,000 per student, per year.
The West Michigan Aviation Academy Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization. The Foundation’s role is to cultivate donors and private philanthropy, raising the additional money needed to fund priorities set by WMAA.
Get to Know WMAA
With a curriculum rich in aviation, STEM (science, technology, engineering, math), and robotics, WMAA provides a unique educational opportunity for students to focus specifically on high-growth employment fields during their high school education. This better equips them to pursue higher education or technical degrees, and find employment in their chosen field. We invite you to learn more about our students and our school.
Take a Tour
Want to learn more about how your support can help our students? Join us for a Soaring Together tour. Simply contact us to schedule your visit.
Get the Facts
WMAA is a public charter school. We are open to everyone. You might be surprised to learn how far our students come, and how much their economic circumstances vary.
Review the Milestones
WMAA opened its doors for the 2010/2011 school year. Thanks to our dedicated staff and donors, we have been able to add incredible programs for students.
Hear from Our Students
Donning a Uniform
Let Cooper Marcukaitis tell you what it means to prepare for serving his country.
Finding a Career Dream
Hear how Meigan Lanning caught the aviation bug and changed her career plans.
Creating a Vision
"I want to be a physician so I can make an impact in the juvenile diabetes field. We don’t fully know the triggers yet, but treatments are progressing rapidly. I hope to be part of the cure.”
— Jack DeVries, Class of 2023
"WMAA is a place that has helped ignite passion, torch creativity, and most importantly enlighten the person I hope to become in the future. An individual that is strong, smart, and not afraid of the choices they have made. Someone with no regrets."
— Madina Mohsini, Class of 2024
"I got interested in the military in 8th grade. Now I'm a Chief in the Civil Air Patrol, passing on leadership skills while teaching 23 cadets from WMAA and other schools."
— Addison Turk, Class of 2023
Bringing Out the Best
How do our students and staff lead? Hear it from them!
Foundation Board and Staff
Ron Baum is the original architect and teacher of WMAA’s Engineering program. He joined our faculty in 2011 to launch the Engineering Department and create its introductory course, which is still taught today. He has since retired from our faculty, but continues to be an active advisor to engineering as well our robotics program. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree with major focuses in both engineering and education from Western Michigan University and holds a Master’s degree from the same institution. Ron has a lifelong love affair with teaching technology and engineering, having developed and taught eleven different courses during his tenure at East Kentwood High School. In addition to his commitment to WMAA, Ron currently serves on the board of a number of different statewide and local non-profit organizations.
Ryan dreamed of becoming a pilot from the time he was three years old. He attended Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and was a rated airline transport pilot for many years before deciding to explore a second career. Ryan earned his MBA from Grand Valley State University and then worked at Amway as a financial analyst in their flight department. Now he is the Head of Aviation Tax at MySky, a specialty firm that designs spend management, budgeting, quoting, and tax software for business aviation. Ryan is also the parent of a WMAA freshman. Ryan is eager to help WMAA students explore exciting careers in marketing, accounting, and other specialties. He knows firsthand that there is great demand for people who have business skills and love airplanes.
Rick is a West Michigan entrepreneur and investor. He was the visionary behind ArtPrize in 2009, launching the competition for the world’s largest art award based solely on public vote. He also formed Start Garden in 2012, a venture capital fund designed to invest in early stage companies. When Start Garden was reorganized in 2016, Rick founded the for-profit fund Wakestream Ventures, an early stage generalist fund. Rick is current with his private pilot license and enjoys flying both helicopter and multi-engine aircraft. In addition to his role at WMAA, Rick serves on the board of directors for ArtPrize and Acton Institute.
Rick Fiddler retired as the Vice President of Aviation for Amway Corporation after 37 years. He has personally logged over 17,000 flight hours and earned the highest level of aircraft pilot certificate (ATP) for both helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft, and holds multiple type ratings. Governor Rick Snyder appointed Rick to the Michigan Aeronautics Commission in 2012 and reappointed him in 2016 for a second four-year term. Rick is also the past Chairman of the Michigan Business Aviation Association, and is a former member of the Gulfstream Customer Advisory and Advanced Technology Board. In January 18th, 2019, Rick was inducted into the “Living Legends Of Aviation,” a unique group of only a 100 members worldwide. Rick’s expertise in piloting, aviation management, and aviation infrastructure give him a unique perspective on the importance of fueling student growth in this critical field.
Larry Fisher (Vice President)
Larry retired from WMAA in 2021 after investing 43 years in education at the high school and college level. He became the Dean of Student Life during the second year of the school’s existence, and he is one of the people instrumental in defining and developing its unique culture. Larry earned a Bachelor of Arts in Education and a Master of Arts in Counseling from Central Michigan University. He also achieved a Master of Arts in School Administration from Western Michigan University. Larry has a passion for helping young people build a foundation for lifelong success. He knew he would remain connected to WMAA in some way after his retirement, and is now pleased to leverage his experience through board service.
Steve Johns (Treasurer)
Steve’s parents founded LL Johns Aviation Insurance in Pontiac when he was young, and that got him hooked on flying. Steve soloed at age 16 and earned his private pilot license a few years later. After receiving his business degree from the University of Michigan, Steve got involved in the family business. Although he is not an active pilot anymore, flying is still on his bucket list and a seaplane rating is his next target. Steve loves the opportunities that WMAA offers to young people, both in aviation as well in other fields. He’s also particularly impressed with the rock-solid character foundation that WMAA instills in all students. Just as others connected him to aviation and now to WMAA, Steve hopes that he will be able to build connections for the school and continue to support high-caliber education.
Peggy Koenigsknecht (Secretary)
Peggy is a career educator who has spent 35 of her 37 years teaching in the Forest Hills District. She’s an avid lifetime learner who earned her Bachelor of Science from Central Michigan University, and her Master of Arts from Grand Valley State University. She and her husband, Tim, are the proud parents of 2019 WMAA alumnus Luke, who was the first non-aviation student to win the prestigious Gulfstream Award. Both Peggy and Tim are committed volunteers and experienced fundraisers for many organizations throughout Grand Rapids. By volunteering her time on the WMAA Foundation Board, Peggy hopes to give back to the school and also to promote the amazing opportunities she sees here for all students.
John’s passion for aviation started when he was young, fueled by his own personal interest as well as an uncle who was a military pilot. John worked for 10 years as a commercial pilot before making the much-desired transition to business aviation. He is a rated airline transport pilot with 20,000 hours of flight time, and is now the Director of Aviation at Steelcase. John is also the president of the Michigan Business Aviation Foundation. He hopes to leverage these dual roles to connect WMAA students with opportunities in business aviation.
Terry Russell (President)
Terry is the president and co-owner of Beaver Research Co. in Portage, MI, a firm that provides specialty chemicals and maintenance systems. As an entrepreneur in a STEM-related field and a private pilot, Terry brings firsthand knowledge in support of WMAA’s emphasis on these two career-growth areas. Terry also offers a unique perspective as a parent. His son and his daughter chose WMAA for the culture and its drive for excellence, although both of them have interests that lie outside aviation. In the past, Terry leveraged his private pilot license to make his business travel more efficient. Now he enjoys flying simply for the joy and convenience of it. He is passionate about helping to build a school environment that develops each student’s unique abilities.
Louis C. Seno, Jr. (Ex-Officio Officer)
Lou was a founding shareholder and CEO of Jet Support Services, Inc. (JSSI) where he still serves as Chairman Emeritus, and special advisor to the Board of Directors. Prior to that, he held senior management positions with the business aircraft units of Boeing Capital Corp. and GE Capital Solutions. Lou has been involved with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University for more than 25 years. Before retiring, he was appointed Vice President and established the Office of Corporate Relations and Government Affairs. He currently serves on Industry Boards for The University’s College of Engineering and College of Business. Lou is a 6,500-hour pilot with an Airline Transport Pilot certificate and a Cessna Citation Jet type rating who has built three airplanes and has owned several single-and twin-engine aircraft.
Albert K. Smith
Al is a retired American Airlines pilot with extensive military and commercial flight experience. He was an International Wide Body Captain who crisscrossed the globe and has more than 500 ocean crossings to his credit. He brings a valuable perspective to WMAA students, having been a pilot recruiter who was involved in interviewing, evaluating, vetting and selecting pilot candidates. He was a Command Pilot in the Michigan Air National Guard and served his country for 26 years in the military. He flew 5,300 hours in the military, and chalked up 18,000 hours as a commercial pilot. Albert has significant experience not only as a pilot, but also in operations, management and leadership related to aviation.
Take a Tour
How do we use donor gifts to fulfill our mission? We invite you to join us for a one-hour tour and get a firsthand look at how philanthropy helps us create unique experiences that engage students in building career pathways. Once you've toured our building and Flight Training Center, we hope you will be inspired to support our students through your gift. Contact us to schedule your visit.