Almost everyone knows the story of Amelia Earhart and the legacy she left behind. She was an inspiration to women and men alike everywhere, with her drive, determination and fearless attitude. At a time when women’s rights and opportunities were profoundly lagging behind men’s, she didn’t let the inequality suppress her and her career pursuits. She was the first female and second person EVER to fly across the Atlantic alone. Boilermakers take special pride in Amelia, as it was the Purdue Research Foundation who helped fund her final flight. It is assumed that Amelia came to Purdue because of our outstanding aviation and engineering programs, as well as being the first (and only, at the time) university with our own airport.
What many people don’t know is that Amelia seized the opportunity to be a career counselor to Purdue women on campus. After the current president of Purdue, Edward C. Elliott, heard Amelia speak about women’s careers during a luncheon, he knew she was just what the Purdue community needed. At the time, the most prominent career services offered by Purdue were simply job placement services for men in engineering. Elliott knew Amelia could be of great inspiration to the women on campus (she already was to women all over the world), as she embodied all the traits of the soon-to-be modern woman.
With all of the aviation opportunities available, as well as the opportunity to mentor young women, she was sold and accepted the offer without hesitation. She moved into the women’s hall on campus, which is now known as Duhme Hall, and jumped right into building relationships with the women who lived there. She would often take them out for ice cream and talk to and inspire them to find their passions and follow their dreams. According to the official website of Amelia Earhart, “she also kept a scrapbook of newspaper clippings about successful women in predominantly male-oriented fields, including film direction and production, law, advertising, management, and mechanical engineering.” Amelia found great solace in knowing that she was making a difference in these women’s lives and even more so, contributing to the advancement of women.
“Yes, her passion was flight, but she was devoted to inspiring others to find their callings in life,” said Robin Jensen, an assistant professor of communication who studies Earhart. “She spent more time writing about her flights and what she hoped they meant for others than she ever spent in the sky.” In other words, Amelia Earhart was really the first modern career counselor obtained by Purdue. While others in similar positions focused mainly on finding and placing men in jobs, Amelia was driven to help students find their passions and figure out how to pursue them. Just like Amelia, all of our career counselors have their own independent passions and pursuits, but are dedicated to serving our students through counseling and career services.
While Purdue’s career services did not fully change their models for quite some time even after Amelia’s disappearance, her legacy still lives on through the CCO and Purdue students. Her drive and determination, strong work ethic, courage and imagination are staples today for anyone aspiring to be successful and are traits strongly emphasized through Purdue’s values. The CCO focuses on helping students recognize their skills and passions and work on placing them in careers where they can utilize their strengths, just as Amelia did so many years ago. She truly was ahead of the game in so many ways, and she was and is still an inspiration to many.