Three Aviation Students Recognized with Tony Jannus Scholars Awards

Florida Tech sophomore Jacqueline Figueredo is the top winner of the 2021 awards given by the Tampa-based Tony Jannus Distinguished Aviation Society, and two of her peers were also recognized.

As the top recipient, Figueredo, an aviation management with flight major, will receive a Tony Jannus Scholars Award and the Newton Memorial Award, worth a combined $6,000.

Senior Kristina Fudge and junior Karla Medina will each receive a Tony Jannus Scholars Award, each with a $3,000 grant.

Three additional winners from other Florida universities rounded out the 2021 recipients.

The Jannus Award is named for the aviator who, in January 1914, flew a paying passenger from St. Petersburg to Tampa in a Benoist airboat. The achievement established the Tampa Bay area as the home of the first scheduled commercial airline. Past recipients of the Tony Jannus Award include elite aviation pioneers, aeronautical engineers, industry CEOs and governmental leaders.

The Newton Memorial award is presented in memory of the late U.S. Air Force Col. Richard Newton, Jr., a former president of the Jannus Society.

Applicants were evaluated on academic achievement; quality of essay submitted as part of the application process; general accomplishments; demonstrated commitment to aviation; and subjective factors as deemed appropriate by the awards committee.

“We saw a remarkably impressive group of applicants for this year’s Scholars Awards,” said Laddie Irion, chair of the Tony Jannus Distinguished Aviation Society Scholars Awards program. “We’re delighted that the winners are drawn from four different universities across Florida and that three of the six recipients are women. We’re also pleased that three of the six are non-traditional aged students who have found a passion for university-level aviation majors after initially following other paths. One of the Society’s core commitments is to help make aviation careers possible for talented Floridians no matter their background.”

Figueredo, who holds a private pilot’s license with instrument rating and is working toward her commercial pilot’s license, told the Society that she draws inspiration from her late grandfather. After fleeing Cuba, he went on to fly missions over both Korea and Vietnam during a long, distinguished career in the U.S. Air Force.

She is also aware of the importance of diversity in aviation and eager to usher in a more open industry.

“I’d like to become an airline pilot and be an example for young girls. I used to fly a lot when I was younger, and I never met a female pilot, let alone a Hispanic female pilot,” she said. “As (the first American woman in space) Sally Ride once said, ‘Young girls need to see role models in whatever careers they may choose, just so they can picture themselves doing those jobs someday. You can’t be what you can’t see.’”

Fudge, who is majoring in aeronautical science, also is focused on improving gender representation in aviation. A former corporate and airline flight attendant, she returned to college at age 25 to complete her education and pursue flight training.

“Female pilots currently account for 8.4% of the total pilot population, according to Women in Aviation International. However, only 4.6% of airline transport pilots are female. These statistics need to change,” she said. “The next time I return to the airlines, I want to ensure my position is in the flight deck.”

Medina, a native of the Dominican Republic majoring in aviation management with an aircraft dispatch minor, said airplanes were a key part of a challenging time in her life. In 2006, her father was found to have a brain tumor. He ended up receiving treatment in the United States.

“My parents had come to the United States for my dad’s surgeries and treatments, leaving my siblings and me in the DR with my grandmother. At the time I did not know what was going on, but I knew I was away from my mom and dad, and there was only one way to reach them – an airplane. Taking off and flying made me believe that everything in life was possible,” she said.

The Tampa and St. Petersburg Chambers of Commerce established The Tony Jannus Distinguished Aviation Society in 1964 to recognize outstanding contributors to the growth and improvement of the scheduled airline industry.

The Society focuses on a three-part mission to:

  • Perpetuate the legacy of the world’s first commercial airline, initiated and piloted by Tony Jannus on January 1, 1914 between St. Petersburg and Tampa, Florida.
  • Promote and provide financial support to college students pursuing careers in commercial aviation through its Jannus Scholars Awards program.
  • Encourage the interest of high school students in commercial aviation and the legacy of Tony Jannus through its annual Statewide Jannus Essay Contest.

Through the support of its board members and event sponsors, the Jannus Society has proudly provided more than $150,000 to help potential future leaders of the aviation industry. Learn more at

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