Kenn Ricci Receives the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law Distinguished Alumni Award

“When the time comes to review your life’s work by standards other than what car you drove or how many stock options the board of directors awarded you, you will experience the all-too-rare satisfaction of knowing you aligned your principles with your actions, in business as in the rest of your life. You didn’t cut corners or compromise on the things that really mattered. You were more than just a successful manager and leader—you were admired and respected as honest and full of integrity. You were someone’s hero. And you were somebody people could trust.” – Kenn Ricci, Management by Trust

Last Friday evening, I attended the CSU Distinguished Alumni Awards ceremony where two of our great alumni were honored. Kenneth Ricci ’86 received the C|M|Law Distinguished Alumni Award and Judge Annette Butler ’70 received the George B. Davis Award for Service to the University. This is the second consecutive year that one of our graduates received the George B. Davis Award. Last year Timothy Cosgrove ’87 received the Davis award, and Michael Gibbons ’81 received the Cleveland-Marshall Distinguished Alumni Award.

It’s particularly appropriate that we honored Kenn Ricci,a global leader in the aviation industry, because C|M|Law is proud to be a national leader in the related area of space law. Air and space law is a fast-growing field, and our C|M| Space Law program,led by Professor Mark Sundahl, is one of only two such law school programs in the country. It’s also appropriate that we honored Kenn because he is well-known for building successful companies built on the concept of trust. At C|M|Law we emphasize professionalism, respect, and trust as enduring values of the legal profession. Kenn’s management strategies based on creating a culture of trust have been featured in Inc. Magazine and other national publications. He is the author of Management by Trust, a book featuring practical management techniques for building employee trust and success, which the New York Times deemed “a landmark success manual for corporate America.”


Kenn’s story is inspiring. In 1980 Kenn founded Corporate Wings, an aircraft charter operation providing charter flight service to corporate clients. In 1990, Kenn founded Inertial Airline Services, which became an industry leader in the modernization of long-range navigation systems. In 1998, Kenn revolutionized the fractional aircraft ownership industry by founding Flight Options. His leadership took the company from inception to annual sales of more than $600M in just 4 years. A pioneer in the field, Flight Options outperformed over 50 other start-ups in this industry. Flight Options merged with Raytheon Travel Air in 2002, and with a fleet of over 200 aircraft, 1,500 employees and almost 1,000 pilots, Kenn (a pilot himself who flew Governor Bill Clinton throughout the 1992 presidential campaign) grew Flight Options to rank as the second largest company in the industry. Today, Kenn is the principal of Directional Aviation Capital which owns various aviation enterprises including Flight Options, Sentient Jet, Nextant Aerospace, and Constant Aviation, and recently purchased Flexjet.

Kenn was honored as an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year in 2000 and in 2010 Kenn received the Harvard Business School’s Dively Entrepreneurship Award. In 2012, he was the youngest recipient of the prestigious William Ong Award for extraordinary achievement in the general aviation industry. In 2015, Kenn received the Aviation Week Laureate Award, a benchmark of industry excellence.

We could not be more proud to call Kenn Ricci “one of our own.”

Lee Fisher
Interim Dean and Visiting Professor of Law
Cleveland State University
Cleveland-Marshall College of Law
2121 Euclid Avenue, LB 138
Cleveland, Ohio 44115 -2214