Jay Adams cuts down basketball net

Grateful Eagles: Athletics Supporters Honor the Legacy of Jay and Leila Adams

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Athletics Supporters Honor the Legacy of Jay and Leila Adams

Steve Ridder was 29 years old when he brought his wife and two children from Kentucky to coach the first season of Embry‑Riddle basketball in 1989‑90.

The team went 4‑22, with two of those wins being forfeits. Home games were held in a middle school gym. There were no athletic scholarships.

But in 1991, his second full season coaching, the team improved to 22‑8. Embry‑Riddle hosted a series at the Ocean Center in Daytona Beach, and at a game against Flagler College, Embry‑Riddle President Kenneth Tallman and Trustee Jay Adams (HonDoc ’08) visited the locker room and spoke to the players about how the university was going to grow athletics.

“It was that day that felt like Jay Adams and I had connected,” Ridder said.

Coach Steve Ridder, former President Steve Sliwa, and Leila and Jay Adams
Pictured left to right: Coach Steve Ridder, former President Steve Sliwa, and Leila and Jay Adams

Ridder, who’s had a 35‑year career at Embry‑Riddle — including 20 years from 1993‑2013 as athletic director — was eager to build the program, and Jay Adams became a father figure to the still young coach and administrator, offering advice and encouragement and never failing to support him and Embry‑Riddle athletics.

Adams, who was instrumental in moving the campus from Miami to Daytona Beach, attended most games both home and away with his wife, Leila. A member of the Board of Trustees for 41 years, he’d call Ridder and give his feedback about how the most recent game was played. He fundraised for scholarships and capital campaigns to create the ICI Center, the Crotty Tennis Complex and the University Sports Complex. He established an internship program for students at his employer, Brown & Brown Insurance. And the couple brought in future board members and supporters to help the university grow.

Now the Daytona Beach Campus has close to 500 student‑athletes on 20 teams with an average GPA higher than the general student body. Ridder says Jay and Leila Adams were a big part of that. Adams loved athletics and he loved winning, being especially proud to cut down the basketball net after a championship game.

Jay passed away in 2019, followed by Leila in January 2022.

Leila and Jay Adams
Leila and Jay Adams

Ridder and friends of Embry‑Riddle wanted to honor the couple’s decades of work building a network of support that is still paying dividends to this day. Civic leaders Cici and Hyatt Brown, Mori and Forough Hosseini, and Glenn and Connie Ritchey made leading gifts, and 100 percent of Embry‑Riddle’s Board of Trustees, as well as other staunch supporters, have raised $1.2 million to date for the Jay and Leila Adams Family Athletic Endowed Scholarship, facilities improvements and support for the men’s and women’s basketball programs. Upcoming improvements include a locker room and fan‑seating zone in the ICI Center to be named for the couple.

Julie Adams Rand, the couple’s daughter, attests to their firm devotion to the university. “I think they would be honored and completely humbled by the outpouring of support,” Rand said of the fundraising initiative. “Athletics had such a special place in both my mom and dad’s hearts.”