President and CEO of International Air and Hospitality Academy Retires After Nearly 30 Years of Loyal Service
Vancouver, WA (Viz Release) February 25, 2021 – – Since its founding in Clark County in 1979, International Air and Hospitality Academy (IAHA) has trained and prepared students for careers in diverse industries including airline and travel, culinary, railroad operations, and wind turbine technology. Colleen Piller, IAHA’s current President and CEO has announced she will retire in March, after almost thirty years at IAHA. Taking the reins as IAHA’s President and CEO will be DJ Schmidt. Nancy Miller, IAHA’s owner and widow of IAHA’s founder, Arch Miller, praised Piller saying,
“Arch always knew he could count on Colleen to work hard and to do the right thing, no matter which position she held in the company. He was so proud of her and how she had grown over the years into such a professional business leader. He valued her patience and insight; he would often tell me that her ‘carrot’ approach to dealing with employees and students was a lot more effective than his ‘stick’ approach.
I will miss Colleen both professionally and personally. She has been invaluable to me the last few years when Arch’s health prevented him from actively participating in the business. No one could have better met the pandemic challenges of 2020 than Colleen did: the overnight switch to remote learning, the uncertainty in the airline industry, and the health and safety precautions that had to be enforced for the safety of students and staff. There are no words to adequately express my gratitude to her.”
DJ Schmidt started at IAHA in October 2019 as a part-time contract CFO and joined full-time in October 2020 as both CFO and Director of Career Services. Schmidt is an operational-minded executive finance professional and a Certified Public Accountant, who brings over ten years of executive leadership, in both finance and operational roles within a large multi-national company, as well as a rapidly growing family-owned business. When asked about DJ Schmidt as the new President and CEO, Nancy said
“I am very excited that DJ is going to assume the President and CEO position at IAHA. Despite his short tenure at the company, he has made countless contributions. He brings us fresh ideas and an outsider’s perspective. After I had worked with him for several months, I told him ‘you think like Arch does. You think like an entrepreneur.’”
We conducted a brief interview with Colleen Piller about her history with the Academy in light of her upcoming retirement.
What is your history with International Air and Hospitality Academy?
Piller: “I graduated in 1987 from the Airline Travel Specialist Program and was recruited from the school prior to graduation by American Airlines. I enjoyed an exciting fast paced career as a flight attendant based in Las Vegas for over 7 years. Ultimately, I wanted to relocate to the PNW and commuted for a year and decided to change directions. I joined the Academy as an Airline Instructor in 1994 and loved training students for careers in travel and enjoyed telling stories of my experiences and travels. I quickly moved into various position after 3 years of teaching, was promoted to VP in 2015, and ultimately became President when Arch Miller retired in 2017.”
What do you like most about IAHA?
Piller: “There is no better place than IAHA to watch people transform themselves into industry professionals and we serve four quite unique industries. I will miss my role at IAHA, my colleagues, and the students.”
Do you have anything further to comment?
Piller: “I feel fortunate to have had such an amazing career and to have had the opportunity to work for both Arch and Nancy Miller. I am leaving behind the most loyal and supportive team of people and I am so grateful for everyone there. I wish DJ nothing but the best in his new role as CEO! I look forward to spending time with my family, traveling, and seeing where the future takes me!”
DJ Schmidt, the new President and CEO will carry on the vision of Arch Miller by ensuring the close-knit and family-like environment within the Academy is preserved. DJ commented on the transition,
“I am grateful and honored that Nancy Miller has entrusted me with being the next steward of IAHA and Arch’s legacy. I look forward to working even more closely with the talented and experienced leadership team. I will be an active listener of all the stakeholders while also developing various new ideas and strategies for the school. I am determined to ensure the high-level educational standards are well-met and the curriculum remains relevant in an ever-changing economy.”
In 2020, International Air and Hospitality Academy adopted a hybrid-style of learning, which led to extremely positive staff and student feedback. With this new form of learning, students can dedicate their time on campus to labs and other hands-on activities. In the near term, IAHA will focus on refining and improving this new delivery model of learning to provide an even better student-staff experience. Longer term, the school will continue to play a vital role in helping students obtain the skills and training to pursue their dreams. For over 40 years, International Air and Hospitality Academy has been a cornerstone for its community, students, graduates, and staff. Despite these big changes, IAHA intends to continue building on Arch Miller’s legacy in the years to come.
For additional information on International Air and Hospitality Academy, visit https://aha.edu
Source: International Air and Hospitality Academy
2901 E Mill Plain Blvd | Vancouver, WA 98661 | 800-868-1816