Connected: Amelia Earhart, Thiel College and Its President

GREENVILLE, Pa. – Thiel College’s connection to Amelia Earhart and its president is in the news following recent developments in the 80-year-old mystery about how the aviation and women’s rights pioneer disappeared.

In 1931, Thiel awarded Earhart an honorary degree. Susan Traverso, installed earlier this year as the college’s first female president, has conducted research into women’s rights and social welfare programs in early 20th century Boston — including Denison House, where Earhart worked before beginning her career in aviation.

“Amelia Earhart was a historic visionary who endeavored to build a world where gender would not be a qualifier for accomplishment,” says Traverso. “She was an innovator and made a profound impact on our nation and our college.”

Traverso hopes new information about Earhart’s final flight will rekindle interest in her work to advance women’s rights.

A newly discovered photo is the centerpiece of the claim that Earhart was captured and died while being held captive by the Japanese. A show exploring that possibility aired July 9 on the History channel Earhart has been the subject of two news stories (July 5 and July 6) on the NBC “Today Show” and an expedition is in its second week of looking for Earhart’s remains on the former Gardner Island, now Nikumaroro in the Republic of Kiribati.

On Dec. 11, 1932, Earhart was awarded an honorary doctor of science degree by Thiel . Earlier that year, she was awarded the National Geographic Society’s gold medal by President Herbert Hoover and the Distinguished Flying Cross by the U.S. Congress. Earhart’s father, Edwin, graduated from Thiel College in 1886. Edwin Earhart’s sister, Kate, also attended Thiel College and was present when Amelia Earhart was awarded her honorary degree.

In his book “The Search for Amelia Earhart,” author Fred Goerner said, “The most satisfying recognition, however, came from her father’s alma mater, Thiel College of Greenville, Pennsylvania, in the form of an honorary doctor of science degree.”

Before disappearing in 1937 while attempting to circumnavigate the globe, Earhart met with Thiel College’s president. Earhart had expressed affection for Thiel during her keynote address in 1932. Because of her affection for the college and her desire to empower women, she had planned to work with and raise funds  for groups that would create opportunities for women on campus.

Members of a group founded at Thiel in honor of Earhart met with first lady Eleanor Roosevelt. The group raised about $48,000 in 1940 — the equivalent of more than $800,000 by today’s standards –to promote and strengthen women’s activities and causes on campus. The spirit of that group can be traced to the women’s groups that exist on campus today.

Pictured: Amelia Earhart at honorary degree ceremony in 1932.

SOURCE: Thiel College

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