Hyatt and Cici Brown and in front of Student Center

Game Changers: Cici and Hyatt Brown Invest in New Center for Aerospace Technology

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Cici and Hyatt Brown are reshaping the economic landscape with their historic investment in Embry‑Riddle.

Hyatt Brown has an impressive history of picking winning investments, honed from long days and short nights in building his insurance business. Since he became CEO of Brown & Brown in 1961 and husband to Cici in 1965, Hyatt Brown has turned the family‑owned insurance agency with a single office into one of the world's top brokerages. Brown & Brown currently has 450+ locations, including offices in the United States, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Bermuda, Canada, the Cayman Islands, Ireland and Italy.

Now, after a series of strategic philanthropic investments in Embry‑Riddle over the years, culminating in a history‑making $25 million transformational gift, Hyatt and Cici Brown are betting on the university as the next great growth opportunity for Daytona Beach and Florida.

Shaping the Future

“Hyatt grew up here. I’m the foreigner,” Cici Brown jokes about her 58 years in the area. The couple shares a long‑term perspective — with a view that extends well into the future. “We like things that are built to last that will be around a long time.”

Embry‑Riddle Aeronautical University is one of those things.

“We’ve watched [the university] since it came here in trucks, and that’s fun to remember,” she says, referring to Operation Bootstrap, Embry‑Riddle’s historic 1965 move from Miami to Daytona Beach. Her husband calls the growth of the campus a miracle and believes “there is lots more to come.” He points to the development of all campuses as “expansion done right.”

More than 50 years later, the Browns are equally excited to see the Research Park evolve. “Look what’s happened already. In 10 years, I can’t begin to imagine what it’s going to be like. The potential is just off the charts,” Cici says.

The State of Florida concurs. Recently it agreed to match the Browns’ gift with an additional $25 million. This funding will supercharge Embry‑Riddle as an economic growth engine by adding a business marketplace focused on creating high‑ paying jobs. The Cici and Hyatt Brown Center for Aerospace Technology will soon rise in the university’s five‑year‑old Research Park with more than 105,000 square feet, including 40,000 square feet of research‑quality hangar space.

The couple’s gift will also support the development of the people needed to grow this high‑tech economy, with a portion of the funds going toward scholarships to attract top talent to Embry‑Riddle and its Research Park.

Hyatt Brown sees their gift and the match as a winning investment in the aerospace industry and in Florida.

“The future of space is boundless. The amount of investment, both private and public, in space exploration, is changing the way that we travel, changing where we travel to, that’s the future, and Embry‑Riddle is right at the baseline, so that’s really good for Volusia County.”

He sees Embry‑Riddle as a force that enriches the area intellectually, culturally and most measurably, economically. “In the last 10 years, the median family income in the county has risen faster than it ever has... When every boat floats higher, everybody benefits.”

The Embry-Riddle Difference

Historic gifts like those of the Browns rarely happen overnight; they are often the result of a long and meaningful relationship. For the Browns that relationship began with Coach Steve Ridder, who understands and cultivates integrity, the bedrock value at Brown & Brown. More than a decade ago, Brown & Brown launched a basketball scholarship and internships that turned into a valuable recruiting mechanism for the company.

Hyatt Brown says of his Eagle hires, “They’ve done exceptionally well. They are leaders in terms of sales, heads of offices and departments at our company. Embry‑Riddle has been a great supply depot for us.” The ranks of certified flight instructors are also a pipeline, he adds: “Brown & Brown has seven pilots, all of whom are graduates and all of whom were flight instructors.”

Their extensive travel makes the Browns ambassadors for Embry‑Riddle, and Hyatt Brown is pleased to see that “people know about Embry‑Riddle everywhere you go.” They have even encountered a pilot in Africa who is a graduate. Their conversations with proud alumni are a delight. “They’re so happy to talk about what’s going on. Their enthusiasm is crazy. They light up like Christmas trees,” says Cici Brown.

Keeping Florida Competitive

In Hyatt Brown’s view, Embry‑Riddle securely positions Florida for economic growth, adding the advantages of well‑paid aerospace and engineering jobs to diversify the tax base beyond tourism. Tax advantages compared to the Northeast and Midwest may attract people to Florida, but its universities create opportunities to keep them here.

“Embry‑Riddle and other universities in Florida that are quite advanced in engineering and programs important to the growth of aerospace put us in the catbird seat. I am looking forward to substantial continued expansion.”

Brown sees Embry‑Riddle’s strength in technology‑focused education as a big head start but one sure to face increased competition in the future. Good stewardship of gifts is essential to generate positive cash flow for stability and growth, he notes.

“Embry‑Riddle is in the phase of its growth today where we are on the good side of going up the hill,” says Brown, citing the institution’s great product, great location and skill in marketing all of its assets.

Built to Last

Cici Brown advises, “Anybody who is thinking of making a gift to any institution: Do it. Don’t wait. Help some people who can’t get there on their own. If you’re giving money for scholarships of whatever level to these ‘built to last’ organizations as I call them, it’s a wonderful thing to do.”

“When you invest in an organization, that’s like putting your name on it, meaning: I approve,” her husband adds.

Cici Brown sums up their commitment to philanthropy simply: “It sure makes you feel good.”

Thanks to nearly 60 years of generosity and engagement, the Browns have a lot to feel good about, and there will be more celebrations for them to share in soon.