Amelia Earhart was More Than Just an American Aviator

Born July 24, 1897 

We celebrate Amelia Earhart as a pioneering woman of science, someone who participated in and promoted STEM education, much of it here in Indiana.  In 1935, Earhart became a visiting faculty member at Purdue University as an advisor to aeronautical engineering and a career counselor to female students.

Being an Indiana company with deep roots stretching all the way back to 1930, you might imagine the connections with Purdue University are also deep-rooted. We are a company that is involved in construction, materials, chemicals, and environmental services with research and development across all of our businesses. These areas of parallel commonalities to a Purdue University STEM education are just a few reasons why these roots are so deep.

Purdue embarked on several groundbreaking areas in their support and team approach they took with Amelia Earhart; A career counselor to female students, in the 1930s. A woman as a visiting faculty member. A major source of funding for her aviation endeavors.

Women in STEM at The Heritage Group

Amy Schumacher is the Chief Executive Officer of The Heritage Group. She leads our company’s portfolio of more than 30 businesses and over 5,000 employees. She is also a member of our board of trustees.

She graduated from Purdue University with a B.A. in Education and B.S. in Civil Engineering and received her M.B.A. from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She serves on the boards of the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, the Women’s Fund of Central Indiana, Calumet Specialty Products, and is a member of the Young Presidents’ Organization. You look up Women in STEM in the dictionary and you may find a picture of Amelia or Amy, or both!

Earhart as a Pioneer

Earhart was an aviation pioneer, writer, and the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. She set many other records which include being one of the first aviators to promote commercial air travel, writing best-selling books about her flying experiences, and being instrumental in the formation of The Ninety-Nines, an organization for female pilots.

While at Purdue, Earhart lived on campus in what is now known as Duhme Hall in the Windsor Court complex. She met formally and informally with students, seldom speaking about her achievements in aviation, but instead focusing on vocational aptitudes, goals, and careers for women. At a time when opportunities for women were limited and most studied home economics at Purdue, Earhart said all people – men and women – could be whatever they wanted to be.

The first woman to pilot an airplane across the Atlantic and holder of many aviation records, honors, and awards, Earhart was recruited to Purdue by then-President Edward Elliott, who was impressed by her spirit of adventure as well as her message to women.

In April of 1936, an Amelia Earhart Fund for Aeronautical Research was created with the Purdue Research Foundation. The fund purchased the $80,000 Lockheed Electra that became known as Earhart’s Flying Laboratory. During an attempt at becoming the first woman to complete a circumnavigational flight of the globe in 1937 in that Purdue-funded Lockheed Model 10-E Electra, Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan disappeared over the central Pacific Ocean near Howland Island.

“Amelia Earhart personified the determination, the strength of will to achieve, and the ingenuity that has and will continue to inspire generations,” Purdue President France A. Córdova said in 2009. “At a time when opportunities for women were very limited, she stepped forward to pursue her dreams, setting an example that continues today.

Decades after her presumed death, Earhart was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 1968 and the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1973. She now has several commemorative memorials named in her honor around the United States, including an urban park, an airport, a residence hall (at Purdue University), a museum, a research foundation, a bridge, a cargo ship, an earth-fill dam, four schools, a hotel, a playhouse, a library, multiple roads, and more.

Amelia Earhart Residence Hall opened in 1964 as a residence hall for women at Purdue University and became coed in 2002. An eight-foot sculpture of Earhart, by Ernest Shelton, was placed in front of the Earhart Hall Dining Court in 2009. The Purdue University Amelia Earhart Scholarship, first awarded in 1940, is based on academic merit and leadership and is open to juniors and seniors enrolled in any school at the West Lafayette campus.

So take a moment to celebrate the women in your life, and if they are in a STEM-related industry, drop a happy birthday Amelia on them!

Spotlighting Some of our Women of STEM

Read about some of our Women of STEM below. If you would like to learn more about our career opportunities, you can tell us about yourself by clicking this link which will launch the Career Interest Form.

Annie Hynes, Manufacturing Engineer – Asphalt Materials, Inc.

Annie Hynes: “I love working in STEM because it allows me to help create products that people interact with daily.”

Patti Gault, Strategic Communications Director – Heritage Construction & Materials

Patti Gault: “I am proud to work for an organization that prioritizes creating opportunities for women to explore their potential at every level of our business. We see our traditionally male-dominated construction and materials industry reaping significant benefits from the diversity of thought and approach women bring to the table. The women of HC+M are creating, innovating, and turning big challenges into even bigger opportunities.”

Rebecca Rivers Duncan, Business Administrator – Asphalt Materials, Inc.

Rebecca Rivers Duncan “I feel working in a STEM industry means we get to actively build a better world while simultaneously improving the lives of individuals. We are literally world changers!!”

Zayna Salih, Associate Brand Manager – Asphalt Materials, Inc.

Zayna Salih: “Working in the STEM industry is one of the most rewarding and fulfilling things I have gotten the opportunity to be involved with. As a woman in a male-dominated industry, it can make you feel like a minority. However, being surrounded by respecting individuals who share mutual adoration and interest in science and technology brings everyone together like a family. There is no better feeling than sharing passion and respect in the workplace, and I feel like I found my place!”

Katie (Haslett) DeCarlo, Ph.D., E.I.T, Sr. Pavement Research Engineer – Heritage Research Group

Katie (Haslett) DeCarlo: “I love working in the STEM field where every day presents a new challenge and an opportunity. Working for the Heritage Research Group allows me to grow, learn, and find innovative solutions to challenges that our industry and customers are facing.”

Kierstin Janik, Chief Talent Officer – Heritage Construction & Materials with Bill Corbett, US Aggregates

Kierstin Janik: “The great thing about being in HR within STEM industries is that you get to make a large-scale impact.  It’s rewarding to get youth involved and excited about our STEM careers or to support our employees to excel in the career that they’ve worked hard for in Engineering, Operations, Quality Control, or other STEM-focused roles.”