Founder, Richard Fessler in the 1960s

How Hallmark University Changed Aviation

“Need develops a solution, and we knew the only solution was to have a school that trained.”
-Richard Fessler, Co-Founder of Hallmark University

At Stinson Airfield on September 18th, 1969, eight students walked through the doors of the newly established Hallmark Aero-Tech. The new facilities and hangar housed the roots of Hallmark University, an institution later known for creating fast-paced and affordable programs that changed the lives of many in the San Antonio community, but first began by training skilled aviation technicians. The institution was created due to a shortage of FAA-certified technicians in the aviation industry, with many aircraft corporations desperate to hire and retain talented workers. Richard Fessler, the Co-Founder of Hallmark University, saw the need for a new institution specializing in training aircraft technicians in San Antonio.

“The founding of Hallmark was based upon a need,” said Richard Fessler, co-founder of Hallmark University. “There was a very acute shortage of skilled licensed technicians in the aviation and aerospace field. Need develops a solution, and we knew the only solution was to have a school that trained. Since we were already involved with educating and training of pilots at the time, we had the concept of starting the school based upon needs.”

Hallmark began training a new generation of skilled aircraft technicians for an industry that had high demand and pay, helping to offset the ongoing shortage and to provide a pathway to good careers to many people. The institution continued to grow over the next twenty years, expanding the number of schools and degree offerings available. It became crucial at this point to relocate the College of Aeronautics to the San Antonio International Airport, a decision that benefitted not only the program and students but also the aeronautics industry.

“We found that we would bring students to an environment where they were deeply immersed in the daily activity of airline operations where they would hear, see, smell, and feel the aircraft as they taxied out,” said Richard Fessler. “This helped our students to really take in the materials we were teaching and eventually make an impact on the aviation industry. I remember a personal experience that I had walking into a Dee Howard hangar, having someone call to me from across the hangar, and it was one of our recent graduates from one of our first classes. This graduate called me over, and he was the technical builder of the prototypes of Dee Howard’s thrust reverser, an engine component that saved many lives when it was created. So he built this thrust reverser, and he had his mark upon history. Many of our graduates also went to work for Ed Swearington in building the first commuter aircraft used for commercial and corporate use. I had an opportunity of seeing all of this in process, and it was gorgeous, it was beautiful, and it was history in the making.”

Hallmark University Aeronautics campus main hangarIn 2015, the institution transitioned to today’s Hallmark University, the well-known and award-winning school with industry-focused and accelerated degree programs. Hallmark University’s College of Aeronautics continues to train aircraft technicians for the world’s diverse aviation market, often laying the groundwork for partnerships that benefit the community and industry as a whole. Some of these partnerships have developed to include specialized training programs solely for Hallmark graduates, helping to quickly prepare these skilled students for their new careers before they graduate.

“It’s becoming more important for employers to reach further down into the educational process and not just to wait for a graduate to complete their program before they start hiring,” said Brent Fessler, Chief Advancement and Institutional Effectiveness Officer. “We’re seeing more employers who are developing apprenticeship programs where our students are hired on with the company, and they go to school during the day and then go to practice their training in a real-world setting later. We have a special apprenticeship relationship with ST Engineering, where they hire current students to learn about the culture at the organization and their processes. The pipeline is becoming more integrated, and ST Engineering is one of our closest partners in this area.”

Partnerships like these help employers by providing them with a steady flow of knowledgeable technicians, but Hallmark University recognizes the importance of developing the workforce from a younger age. To assist employers in finding reliable and talented workers at the beginning of their careers, Hallmark University began its Aerospace College Head-start Institute (Aero CHI) program in August of 2015, bringing the world of aviation to San Antonio’s youth.

“One of the ways that we innovate at Hallmark University is by expanding to high demand career areas, and Aero CHI is one program we have that does just that,” said Brent Fessler. “Aero CHI is a program that starts with high school juniors, where they spend the next two years with us out at our campus. When they finish the Aero CHI program, they are less than eleven months away from completing two associate degrees and beginning their career at only nineteen or twenty years old. The vast majority of these students are going to continue and pursue their education in aviation maintenance with us, which we’re very excited about, especially with our existing industry partnerships already in place for them.”

Aviation students chosen for Textron apprenticeshipsHallmark University continues to develop new programs and methods to train talented individuals for the high paying and in-demand industries while providing access to untapped talent in underserved communities. The original Airframe and Powerplant program at the College of Aeronautics has grown and been refined since its creation fifty years ago, cementing its status as an integral part of the aviation industry. All of the progress and achievements made by the top tier program have prepared the College of Aeronautics for its future and crucial role in aviation in the upcoming fifty years.

“Our graduates over these five decades have had tremendous impact on the aviation industry,” said Richard Fessler. “We’ve continued to learn and become better at finding out things that have even more impact upon people. What we have planned for the future doesn’t diminish what has been accomplished in the past five decades, but in the coming years you haven’t seen anything yet. We have so many great plans that we’re working on that will impact students and take them to an even higher level. Then they will impact their worlds when they go out there. Some people will say you can’t change the world, well we can impact individuals that will impact their world, and those worlds combined can change the world.”