A Dream Taking Flight

Tyler Haritan poses in Talley Student Union

Senior Tyler Haritan says scholarship support helped him navigate NC State’s Naval ROTC program and set him up for success as he chases his dream of becoming a fighter pilot. Photo by Becky Kirkland.

When Tyler Haritan arrived at NC State University in the fall of 2015, he had his life pretty well planned out. He would study business, graduate and join the corporate world.

A year later, during an internship experience that “opened his eyes,” Haritan decided it was time for a different direction, one that would lead him away from a desk job and into a life of service. The moment of clarity also led Haritan back to his childhood dream of flying.

“I knew I wanted to start flying when Chesley Sullenberger landed the plane on the Hudson River,” Haritan said, recalling the improbable landing of US Airways Flight 1549 on Jan. 15, 2009. “Some neighbors I lived near were on the flight, and the plane is now at the (Carolinas Aviation Museum) in Charlotte.”

Everyone on board survived what became known as the Miracle on the Hudson, and the emergency landing led to a movie starring Tom Hanks in 2016.

Haritan’s love of flying grew throughout middle and high school in Charlotte, so much so that he thought about attending a service academy. As a senior, however, Haritan said he decided he’d go into a business career, with the first stop in NC State’s Poole College of Management.

“My senior year, I lost that motivation to go to a service academy, and I wanted to go into the corporate world,” Haritan said.

Haritan enrolled at NC State and jumped right into his supply chain management concentration as a freshman.

“That summer between my freshman and sophomore year I worked an internship at a property management company. It was the first time I ever worked an 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. job, and I thought, ‘Whoa. This is not what I want to do for the next 40 years,’” Haritan said. “That July, one night, I emailed a lieutenant with the Navy and then talked with my parents.”

Within a month of his lightbulb moment, Haritan had enrolled in the Naval ROTC program with the goal of becoming a fighter pilot. Now, as graduation nears, he’s ready to chase his dreams at 30,000 feet.

Haritan will graduate with a degree in business administration next week and enter the Navy soon after. He couldn’t pass up the thought of flying while serving others. But he is also quick to point out the people who have helped him along the way.

Haritan’s family supported his choice, he met other like-minded students in the ROTC program and received financial support in the form of the Dan and Lois Coutcher Scholarship for Naval ROTC. Dan Coutcher served in collegiate and ROTC ministries for 40 years, including at NC State’s program as chaplain, before passing away in 2015.

Created by Tim Hughes and Gail Coutcher, Dan’s brother-in-law and sister, the scholarship provides awards for students participating in the Navy or Marine Corps ROTC programs.

“This was the first scholarship I received at NC State, and it meant that I didn’t have to work the night shift,” Haritan said.

Prior to receiving the scholarship, he said his schedule was tough to navigate.

“I would work midnight to 4 a.m., go to ROTC around 5:30 a.m. and then have class until mid-afternoon,” he said. “Many of those days I would sleep from 7:30 to 11:30 p.m., so receiving the scholarship meant I didn’t have to work the overnight shift. I could choose to work instead of needing to work, and that offered a profound sense of relief.”

That sense of relief allowed Haritan to thrive and fully embrace all that his major and ROTC offered. Now, he is ready for the next challenge.

“I don’t feel like I’ve sacrificed anything compared to those who have or are serving, but I’m thankful that I’ve been able to build comradery through the ROTC program,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot about self-discipline, and it’s incredible to know that we all choose to be in the program and eventually the military.”

Haritan will be commissioned as a Naval officer on May 10 and will report to flight school in a few weeks in Florida.

Though he never met Dan Coutcher, Haritan will share a special moment with his family when his military career officially begins.

“(Dan) passed away two years before I joined ROTC, but I was able to meet his widow Lois and her daughter, Emily, at our scholarship luncheon in March,” he said. “We’ve been emailing, and they are coming to my commissioning ceremony.”

Haritan said he hopes the donors who make opportunities such as the Dan and Lois Coutcher Scholarship possible realize their impact on students.

“Scholarships take away stresses that don’t need to be there. Every little bit helps, and scholarships allow students to focus on school, or ROTC, or intramural sports,” he said. “$500 makes a difference. $100 makes a difference. No matter the amount, the students who receive scholarships are extremely grateful for the support we get. It can change a person’s life.”