My Cool Job: Nova Hall

Today, we kick off a new series about Sun Devil alums with interesting, intriguing or otherwise “cool” jobs. Our first profile candidate is Nova Hall, a 2010 alumnus of ASU with a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary arts and sciences, who is the president of Flying Over Time, an educational charity and traveling exhibition that focuses on the contributions of the designer and chief engineer of aviator Charles Lindbergh’s plane “Spirit of St. Louis,” Donald A. Hall Sr. He is also the author of “Spirit & Creator: The Mysterious Man Behind Lindbergh's Flight to Paris,” which recounts his grandfather’s contributions to Lindbergh’s epic flight.
Nova’s journey to his present career began in 1999 when he discovered a steamer trunk belonging to his grandfather in his family’s garage in Sedona. Along the way, he has added many skills to his resume and has found a way to integrate his love for science and his talent in the fine arts. Enjoy his insight and vocational reflections!

ASU alumnus Nova Hall. (c) 2012 Flying Over Time

ASU Alumni Association: Your grandfather had a significant role in Charles Lindbergh's pioneering New York-to-Paris flight in 1927. Tell us about that, and how it has impacted your career path.

Nova Hall: In 1927, the world discovered a young airmail pilot named Charles Lindbergh and his famous aircraft designer, Donald A. Hall Sr. Lindbergh became the most famous man alive by braving the Atlantic Ocean and flying solo in a uniquely aerodynamic airplane that was built in San Diego and engineered for this single death-defying flight. No one expected him to survive.

The airplane, the “Spirit of St. Louis,” was designed by the chief engineer of Ryan Airlines, Donald A. Hall Sr., and had performed perfectly. Built in 60 days, it allowed Lindbergh to takeoff in New York and land in Paris after 33-and-a-half hours. Lindbergh beat two competitors by making the journey first, forever establishing his place in aviation history and winning $25,000.

In 1999, I uncovered a locked World War I-era steamer trunk in our family’s garage in Sedona, Ariz. The collection held more than 900 never-before-seen photographs, personal correspondence between my grandfather and Charles Lindbergh, design instruments, models, negatives, blueprints of the Spirit of St. Louis and original film footage. This discovery would become a foundational moment in my career.


When you discovered the trunk in 1999, did you have any idea that it would influence the course of your career?

Not at that time. However, it did open up a whole new chapter in understanding who my grandfather was, since I had never met him, and who my family became as a result. It continues to open my eyes because what he decided to save had a purpose, but he didn’t leave any directions for what should be done with the collection.

Charles Lindbergh with Donald A. Hall Sr. (at right) in front of the Spirit of St. Louis aircraft. (c) 2002 Donald A. Hall Estate.

What is Flying Over Time and what is your role with the organization?

Flying Over Time is an educational nonprofit charity focused on innovating exhibitions and curricular tools. Our mission is to teach history, art, and the engineering sciences in relation to transportation and commerce, to explore the concepts of design, function, art and to create an original educational experience for young students.

I am president of Flying Over time. I handle duties related to executive management, fundraising, team building, speaking and development, intellectual property management, historical assets, contracts, copyright and trademark law, manufacturing, marketing, graphic design, sales, public relations, customer service and presentations. I am also the resident artist and artistic director of the exhibition.


When did it become apparent to you that this discovery of the trunk would blossom into an organization that would become part of your career?

Things started to come together after my first solo art show in September 2009 when Flying Over Time showed in Second Stage West at the ASU West campus. Professor Charles St. Clair had invited me to do the show because I won the student research and art expo in May 2009. With Charles’s experience and mentorship, because of the opportunity to utilize the resources of ASU, for the first time I displayed my artwork which incorporated original content from the trunk, manipulated lighting for drama, and weaved my unique knowledge into the attendee's experience. That moment of interaction, because of my speaking talent, communicating to the freshmen students about what they were seeing, crystallized that this was something I needed to follow up on and turn into a career.


What life experiences have influenced your career the most?

When I was in high school I had a physics teacher, Dan Tyler, who saw that I was depressed about not being naturally talented in STEM like my friends. I felt I had no future in science or engineering, yet I loved technology and science. He asked me if I wanted to be in the "trenches" doing calculations, or if I would be better served by leading those people. It changed my perspective forever. I wanted to be a leader. Had I not had this conversation I would not have had the drive to join Toastmasters. The choice to invest my time in learning the ability to speak effectively was an important choice in my professional life. It is critical for leadership and running meetings.

The discovery of the trunk in 1999 was a huge moment, and it led to building professional relationships and my first time on television and in front of a camera. That allowed the experience of publishing my book in 2002 and continues to be a major part of our exhibitions and my presentations.

After publishing and marketing the book, I decided to return to college at ASU. Shortly thereafter, I happened to walk into an advisor’s office in the wrong department on the wrong floor and she suggested I take a class in a different major, so I took her advice. I found myself in an Interdisciplinary Arts and Performance drawing class with professor and international Cuban artist Leandro Soto. He mentored me. One day after being in his drawing class for a semester, I brought him a copy of my book and he look at me, looked at the book and very simply asked “Why are you not doing your art from this?” I had never thought about it that way, but ever since then, I made progress toward being a professional fine arts artist while I finished my degree at ASU.  

Finally, there was the moment when I felt like a true professional artist when one of my pieces, “Transatlantic,” sold for $10,000 at a fundraiser in 2013.

The Lindbergh Foundation board reviews the "Flying Over Time" exhibit at the Challenger Space Center. (c) 2012 Flying Over Time

You're an artist, whose nonprofit organization has a deep commitment to the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) educational community. Why is it important to include the arts and humanities in your organization's activities?

The story of the Spirit of St. Louis is a compilation of drama, engineering, leadership, teamwork and science. As an organization we use this "history" as the glue that brings together STEM plus the aesthetics concept of form following function. At the start of the development of our business model, we refined the concept of great design down to two essential elements: great engineering plus great art.

There is a great need to inspire the next generation of applied engineering and that cannot be limited to those who are highly talented in math, but must include the creative mind.  STEM careers are the future and students of humanities must realize that they have a critical role in that future.


Do you have any tips for readers on leveraging your personal assets - including one's family history - in a career?

  • First understand what you want. What are you aiming for?
  • Take an inventory of your assets, your skillset, your real world experiences and especially your personal relationships and break down what that focus is into what you have already built and what you need to build on.
  • Assess what it will take to add to those areas where you have deficits in your experience or knowledge.
  • Then look into careers or jobs that will allow you to cultivate those experiences.
  • Reach out to SCORE or other career services to create a career plan which might include the writing, development, and critique of a business plan.


Is there anything else we haven't discussed you'd like to share related to your career path?

Yes ... be fearless in your art, whatever your “art” is. You can always start over.  

~Liz Massey, Managing Editor, ASU Alumni Association


Watch a 2001 “Hunt for Amazing Treasures” video segment about the discovery of Donald Hall Sr.’s trunk!