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Amelia Earhart: The Penn State Alum You Probably Didn’t Know About

From television stars to professional athletes, Penn State is home to many famous alumni. But did you know legendary pilot Amelia Earhart was also a Nittany Lion? Well…kind of.

Back in the day, Earhart attended the Ogontz School for Girls, which later became Penn State Abington in 1950. While Ogontz was mainly for upper-class women to attend, Earhart was most definitely not wealthy.

According to Penn State University Libraries, Earhart’s father did not have a great career or a steady income. It wasn’t until her mother inherited family money that Earhart was able to go to a private school.

Ogontz was the modern-day equivalent of a community college, as students would spend two years there and then move to another institution or into the workforce. Earhart began at Ogontz in 1916 and left in 1918 but never graduated.

While in Toronto visiting her sister, Earhart was struck by the sight of soldiers who had lost a limb and became amputees. She returned to school with those images in her head, decided to drop out, and become a nurse’s aid in the Voluntary Aid Detachment at a Toronto hospital.

Even though Earhart didn’t last the full two years at Ogontz, she still made many memorable contributions to the school. Her accolades include being voted student body vice president, secretary of the Ogontz Red Cross chapter, and secretary and treasurer of a group called Christian Endeavor.

She was also a member of a sorority and was actively known for trying to make sororities more inclusive for women. Earhart got into an argument with the headmistress at the time, Abby Sutherland. Instead of making rules for the current sororities on campus to be more inclusive, Sutherland disbanded them all together. Earhart earned a spot on the Honor Board, which made sure everyone followed the rules and that no one met in secret.

Despite not graduating from Ogontz, Earhart does have a cap-and-gown photo. These photos were typically taken around Halloween, and she was still in school at that time. She would later be named an honorary member of the Class of 1930.

Her final year at Ogontz happened to be the first year for students to reside at the Rydal School, which is now the location of Penn State Abington. So, if being the first woman to fly across the Atlantic wasn’t cool enough, Amelia Earhart can claim she was a member of the first-ever class of students on a (future) Penn State campus.

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About the Author

Owen Abbey

Owen Abbey was a Secondary Education major before he graduated from the wonderful institution known as Penn State. When he was not writing for the blog, he enjoyed rooting for the Baltimore Orioles and Ravens, supporting Penn State basketball and softball, dreaming of all of the ways he would win the TV show "Survivor," and yes mom, actually doing school work. All of this work prepared him to teach his own class of students, which was always his true passion. He still can be found on Twitter @theowenabbey and can be reached for questions and comments at [email protected]

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