William Nelson is flying high these days. It’s fair to say that Nelson has been flying high since he was 14, but this week the aviation major will graduate as Elizabeth City State University’s fall 2018 Bearer of the Mace.
“This was not on my radar, to be top in my class,” said Nelson, an Ahoskie, North Carolina native. “I was just here to fly.”
ECSU’s top student is named Bearer of the Mace prior to each commencement ceremony. Nelson is graduating with a 3.865 GPA, the highest in his class.
Nelson grew up in Ahoskie with the dream of being a pilot. At 14, he began training to receive his private pilot’s license, something he would bring to ECSU when he enrolled several years later.
Nelson attended an open house on the ECSU campus and met representatives from the Aviation Program. His goal was to become a commercial pilot so he knew he was in the right place.
“I was welcomed by the Aviation Department,” he said. “It’s been a great experience.”
ECSU has the only four-year aviation degree program in North Carolina. Nelson came here to continue his flight training and earn his bachelor’s degree in aviation.
He says his experience as a high school student learning to fly prepared him for his experience at ECSU. Both flight training and academic study are important and balancing the two has taught him time management, he says.
“School always came first in order to fly,” said Nelson, who graduated valedictorian from Lawrence Academy.
Nelson says the aviation program faculty has been supportive of his needs as a student. They understand, he says, the need to balance academic pursuits with flight training.
Nelson will lead the graduation procession, carrying the ECSU mace. After commencement, he says he’ll continue his flight training with an eye on becoming a certified flight instructor.
After that, Nelson says he hopes to enter a graduate program next fall. With a master’s degree in aviation, his options are open but he wouldn’t mind returning to ECSU.
“I wouldn’t mind coming back and teaching here,” he said.
In the meantime, Nelson currently has his commercial pilot’s license. That fact alone gives him a lot of room to soar.
“Flying is what I love,” said Nelson.