Spotlight On: Cortland E. Mehl, ’74, ’80
A lifelong learner with a love of education, history, aviation, and country, Dr. Cortland E. Mehl, ’74, ’80 has quite a story to tell. Currently in semi-retirement at the age of 66, he recently earned a Doctorate in Business Administration specializing in Global Operations and Supply Chain Management with a dissertation focusing on “Managing the United States Airline Pilot Shortage,” and was inducted into the Delta Mu Delta honor fraternity at his graduation. With his newly-earned 2016 doctorate from Capella University—an online education institution whose “Live & Learn” motto fits Dr. Mehl’s lifestyle like a glove—he recently reached out to his alma mater to recall fond days of yesteryear. Still on-the-go in full force, Mehl, a Vietnam vet, owns and manages Archangel Air Cargo, Inc. His intent is to put his latest degree and all the others before it to optimum service for others.
My UB Story
Q. Now that you’re in retirement from the U.S. Army but still “living and learning,” tell us what pops up first in your mind when you think back at your UB years.
The University of Bridgeport had a slogan that was very much in vogue during the early 1980s. It was “The University of Bridgeport educates for the real world.” The education I received at UB not only formally trained me to be a teacher and a business manager, it instilled in me a stronger sense of work ethic already present in my Polish / German DNA. The history degree taught me to research and a respect for culture, the MBA taught me strong management skills and business work ethics, and the Army taught me leadership, discipline, and a respect for all cultures.
All these skills came into play when I worked as a Personnel and Administration Manager in a highly diverse multicultural environment at a foreign-owned international air and sea freight forwarder in New York. The skills I picked up at UB and the Army both manifested themselves while leading several truck convoys driven by Arabian, Bangladeshi, and Pakistani nationals during Operation Desert Shield. When in doubt during a mutual language problem? Smile a lot.
Q. What were your recollections of UB after your service in the Vietnam War?
My recollections of UB as a veteran are that it was peaceful. From 1972 to 1974, prior to my receiving my M.A., the Vietnam War was winding down and classes were held in the basement of a beautiful old Victorian House on Park Avenue. My classmates and I were going for an M.A., so classes were very small and we few students received some excellent one-on-one attention from our teachers. When I went for my MBA in 1978-1980, there were no online programs, and classes were usually full with night students from the various corporations attending class. I had completed my first tour in the Army and my classes were funded by the Vietnam Era GI Bill which was a full “ticket” at the time. It was 1978, Vietnam was over, and people were starting to pick up their lives…or so I thought…
Q. What compelled you to switch your career focus from history to business management?
Upon graduation from the College of Steubenville in 1972 and UB in 1974, I entered the U.S. Army armed with a B.A. focusing on American and Latin American History, and an M.A. in history focusing on China, India, and Japan. Because I had an Education minor at Steubenville, I was a certified teacher grades 7-12 in History in both the states of Ohio and Connecticut. Upon leaving the Army in June of 1977, I was also classified as a Vietnam Era veteran.
I started to apply for teaching jobs in southwest Connecticut only to encounter a very demeaning and degrading form of discrimination finding employment as an educator from several of the high schools and teaching agencies that I contacted. It must be known that during the Vietnam War, teaching was considered a deferment and many draft dodgers entered the field to avoid military duty. I remember three of them as teachers at my high school in Stamford alone. This situation lasted in both the schools and corporations until the mid-1980s, and abruptly turned 180 degrees to support the military and veterans when the call came for Desert Shield in August 1990. Another factor was that there was an oversupply of teachers during the late 1970s and early 1980s.
This was the situation I was in. I, therefore, changed career lanes by taking the transportation/logistics training I received in the Army and applying it to the business world. After I was hired by a fellow veteran at International Salt Company, I immediately started using my Vietnam Era GI Bill to acquire the UB MBA to strengthen my formal business skills, while simultaneously using the Army’s ongoing training to hone my transportation, logistics, and aviation skills.
History is still my first love and always will be, but unfortunately, during the post-Vietnam period, history was not going to earn me a living.
Q. With a passion for history, education, and aviation, you seem to have devoted your life to weaving the three together into an extraordinarily productive and intriguing career. Walk us through, each step of the way.
I graduated from the College of Steubenville (now Franciscan University) on May 7, 1972. Two days prior to that I was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant, Transportation Corps, through the Duquesne University Army ROTC where I was also registered for my Junior and Senior years on a cross-town agreement between the two schools. After receiving a two-year graduate deferment from active duty to attend graduate school, I chose to spend it picking up an M.A. in History. I was accepted in three schools but chose the University of Bridgeport because it was close to my home in Stamford. I began the two-year program in August of 1972, focusing my studies on China, India, and Japan. I was blessed with some very fine teachers: Dr Stanley Brush, Dr Wei Ping Wu, Dr Cook, and Dr.Gertiny. I worked for Hertz Rental car during the day and went to school at night, and passed my oral exams in mid-February, 1974. It was a Friday night. I reported into the Army at Ft. Eustis, Virginia that Sunday night and my degree was mailed to me in the barracks that May.
I served three years and three months of active duty as a Platoon Leader for an Amphibious Boat unit that was in Vietnam and then as Assistant Adjutant for Ft. Story, Virginia. I was discharged from my first tour of duty on June 2, 1977, and the next day I was the Executive Officer, Platoon Leader, and Training officer for a Light / Medium Truck Company in Fairfield, Connecticut. I was unemployed until December when a veteran hired me, and while still in the active reserves I became a Distribution Supervisor for the former International Salt Company in Stamford, where I was responsible for all rail and truck movements in a 13-state area, out of two New York mines. During this time frame I worked to move road salt to many municipalities affected by the 1978 blizzard.
In January of 1978, I entered the University of Bridgeport’s MBA program pursuing a degree in Business Management and Industrial Relations. I went to school nights, worked for International Salt during the day, and was transferred in the Army Reserves to become the Division Transportation Officer for the 76th Division (Training) in West Hartford, Conn. I graduated with my MBA in December 1980 from the Riverside campus, inspired by the following UB professors Dr. Valerie Sodano, Dr. Akula, Dr. Stokes, and Dr. Wasson. From 1980 until the present, I worked for two other companies in the mining industry, re-entered the Army on a series of successive six-month tours where I worked in transportation planning and was promoted through the ranks to my retirement rank of Major.
Around this time in the late 1980’s I also designed a course in Transportation and Logistics for the University of Bridgeport’s MBA program and team-taught with a member of GE’s Boston Avenue Transportation office as an adjunct at Bridgeport’s MBA program both in Bridgeport and Stamford. Also, just prior to this I taught Aviation studies for one semester at St. Francis College in Brooklyn Heights, NY. During the 1980’s and 1990’s, while in the active Army and Army Reserve, I served as a Company Commander, Transportation Staff Officer, Team Leader, and Assistant Chief of Container Control. I also actively served in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm and performed a support role for Operation Restore Hope, Somalia. During this time I also received my third master's degree from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in Aviation Management and graduated from the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College and Logistics Management College where I was certified as a Logistician. My civilian duties at this time were as Assistant Corporate Secretary and Administration Manager for Mitsubishi’s Air and Sea Freight Forwarder where I had personnel and administrative responsibility for 300 people at 30 air stations at the company’s New York headquarters.
After leaving this position in the late 1990’s, I worked for several years at Virgin Atlantic Airways in Norwalk in a sales capacity, and very briefly for JetBlue in White Plains in an operations capacity. In 1994, I left the Army after 21 years and formally retired in November 2010. From 2002 until now I, while retired part-time, I tried to start a veterans owned and managed small air cargo charter airline called Archangel Air Cargo. From October 2013 to October 2016, I attended Capella University where I pursued and successfully received a Doctorate in Business Administration specializing in Global and Supply Chain Management.
Education, Certificates & Specialized Training
- Capella University, Doctorate in Business Administration, Global Operations & Supply Chain Management, 2016
- Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, Masters in Aviation Management, 1987
- University of Bridgeport, MBA in Management & Industrial Relations, 1980, MA in History, 1974
- LaSalle University, Diploma in Traffic and Transportation, 1987
- College of Steubenville, BA in History & Education, 1972
- U.S. Army, Associate Logistics Executive Development Course, 1989, Command & General Staff College, 1986
- CTL, American Society of Transportation and Logistics
- Certified Logistician, U.S. Army
- Certified for Transportation & Storage of Hazardous Materials
- U.S. Army Marine Certificate (Class B & C Vessels)
- FAA Current Instrument Rated Commercial Pilot & Ground Instructor
- Ohio and Connecticut Teaching Certifications (Grades 7-12)
- Independent IATA Travel Agent
Honors and Community Service
- American Society of Transportation and Logistics Educational Service Award
- Two Army Commendation Medals for Transportation & Logistics
- Norwalk Community College Outstanding Veterans Service Award
- Knights of Columbus Lafayette Assembly 109 Patriotic Service Award
- Multiple Virgin Air Customer Service Awards
- Hertz Heart & Diamond Awards
- Eagle Scout / National Eagle Scout Association Member
- Co-Founder and Current Commander, Catholic War Veterans, Kulka Brothers Post #1957
- Historian and Boy Scout Liaison, American Legion Post #3
- Charter Member, Veterans of Foreign War Post #6933
- Major, Mission Pilot, Emergency Services, Search & Rescue, U.S.Civil Air Patrol, 219th Squadron
- Co-Founder and past Board Member, Southern New England Chapter of AST&L
- Former Director and current Member, Stamford Historical Society
- Co-Founder, Norwalk Community College Veterans Club
Connecting With Me Today
I would welcome connecting with anyone in the UB community who might remember my time there. I can be reached at airtransporter(at)yahoo(dot)com.