Wilma Dolezal: Pioneer for Women in Aerospace

Wilma Miriam Dolezal, Photo Credit: SA

Wilma Dolezal was born in 1914 in Cleveland, Ohio. As she grew up she developed an independent personality, did not pursue the typical homemaker role of women of the times, and became the first in her family to attend college. According to My San Antonio Online, she obtained a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts from Ohio State University and relocated to San Antonio, Texas. She had a love for writing and was a journalist for the Southside Reporter in the 1950s. Dolezal always had a passion for education, and this ultimately led her back to school to obtain a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from Southwest Texas State University (now Texas State University). She spent some of her time teaching 6th grade reading classes and eventually worked her way up to principal.

Dolezal had a passion for aeronautics, and she tried to convey that information to the children at the school. She had the ultimate desire to relay the interesting work that was being done in aeronautics to the kids to provide inspiration for future astronauts and engineers. She went on to complete a Ph.D. in aerospace education in 1968 and began developing aerospace curriculum for elementary schools.

What was significant was that Dolezal was the first female ever to obtain a Ph.D. in aerospace education. She was a pioneer, a woman pursuing a career in a male-dominated field and taking it one step further and excelling. On June 27, 2011 Wilma Dolezal passed away at the age of 97.

It was said that as she attended many aerospace and aeronautics-related symposiums, she would often be the lone female in the crowd. Dolezal was proud to be that woman, proud to be the woman pioneering for the rest of the women out there who had similar passions. As a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering, I look up to her and have the utmost admiration. Women like her are paving the way for the next generation of young women. So thank you, Wilma Miriam Dolezal. Thank you for being a pioneer in the aerospace field so girls like me could grow up and pursue their dreams.

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