* Purdue University dedicates statue of Amelia Earhart, the aviatrix and career counselor who has inspired generations of women to reach higher. (2 minutes, 6 seconds)
* Link to Amelia Earhart song

April 16, 2009

Purdue unveils Amelia Earhart sculpture

Unveiling ceremony
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A larger-than-lifesize sculpture that will inspire students to pursue their dreams while connecting the campus to its early history in flight was unveiled Thursday (April 16) outside a Purdue University residence hall.

The sculpture of aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart, who encouraged women to follow careers in whatever field they chose, was made possible by a gift from alumna and Purdue trustee Susan Bulkeley Butler.

The unveiling ceremony was at the Earhart Hall Dining Court entrance. The hall, which opened in 1964, is named for Amelia Earhart, who worked at Purdue from 1935 to 1937 as a career counselor for women students and an adviser to the Department of Aeronautics. Earhart Hall was originally opened as a women's residence, but also has housed men since 2002.

Susan Bulkeley Butler
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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.

"Someday," Earhart said, "people will be judged by their individual aptitude to do a thing and (society) will stop blocking off certain things as suitable to men and suitable to women."

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.

"(She) represents better than any other young woman of this generation the spirit and courageous skill which may be called the new pioneering," Elliott said.

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.

Amelia Earhart sculpture
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With navigator Fred Noonan, Earhart disappeared July 2, 1937, near the tiny Howland Island in the Pacific Ocean while attempting an around-the-world voyage aboard the Flying Laboratory.

"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. "At a time when opportunities for women were very limited, she stepped forward to pursue her dreams, setting an example that continues today.

"Purdue, its faculty and graduates have played an incredible role in the history of flight, from Cliff Turpin who worked with the Wright Brothers, to Amelia Earhart, to astronauts Virgil ‘Gus' Grissom, Roger Chaffee, Neil Armstrong, Gene Cernan and now Drew Feustel, who will fly aboard a shuttle mission scheduled next month to the Hubble Space Telescope.

"We're so thankful to Susan for not only serving Purdue, but also for giving so generously. Like Amelia Earhart, Susan is an inspiration to young women and men to set high goals and achieve them."

The eight-foot sculpture, by California artist Ernest Shelton, depicts Earhart standing and holding a propeller. Shelton crafted the sculpture in 1969, and it was displayed in steel and fiberglass at North Hollywood Park in North Hollywood, Calif. In 2002 the sculpture was removed and recast in bronze as originally intended. It was rededicated in 2003 during celebrations for the Centennial of Flight. The Purdue sculpture was cast from Shelton's original work at the request of Córdova, who saw the sculpture in North Hollywood and thought the replica would be good for the university.

"There is so much that Purdue students can learn from Amelia," Butler said. "This sculpture will serve as a daily reminder to everyone who walks past it to reach for the stars. Amelia flew when aviation was considered a man's world. She opened doors for women not only in aviation, but in other fields as well."

Butler graduated in 1965 with a bachelor's degree in industrial management. In 1966 she became the first professional female employee at Arthur Andersen & Co. and ultimately served as managing partner of the office of the CEO for Andersen Consulting/Accenture until her retirement in 2002.

She founded the Susan Bulkeley Butler Institute for the Development of Women Leaders as a means of offering leadership training for women, with the mission of helping them tap and develop their leadership potential. Butler also is the author of "Become the CEO of You, Inc.: A Pioneering Executive Shares Her Secrets for Career Success." In her book, Butler offers a four-step model to enable women to take charge of their lives in the manner of corporate CEOs with goals, strategic plans, boards of directors and differentiation from the competition.

She has established the Butler Center for Leadership Excellence in Purdue's Discovery Park and endowed a faculty chair at the center. At the Krannert School of Management, she also endowed a faculty chair and a scholarship for women student leaders. Purdue Women Lead is an initiative of the institute and provides women faculty and staff leaders with the opportunity to enhance their leadership skills through a series of monthly programs.

Her gift to Purdue Libraries created the Susan Bulkeley Butler Women's Archives, documenting the lives and accomplishments of women affiliated with Purdue and the state of Indiana.

The George Palmer Putnam Collection of Amelia Earhart Papers, the world's largest compilation of papers, memorabilia and artifacts related to the late aviator, is housed in the Purdue Archives. Palmer was Earhart's husband.

Writer: Jim Bush, 765-494-2077,

Sources: Murray Blackwelder, senior vice president for advancement, 765-496-2144,

France A. Córdova, 765-494-9708

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

Purdue President France A. Córdova and Susan Bulkeley Butler unveil the sculpture of former Purdue faculty member and famed pilot Amelia Earhart during an event on Thursday (April 16). The 8-foot-tall sculpture is at the entrance to Earhart Dining Court on campus. Earhart was at Purdue from 1935 to 1937. (Purdue News Service photo/Andrew Hancock)
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Susan Bulkeley Butler speaks on Thursday (April 16) at the unveiling of the Amelia Earhart sculpture in front of Earhart Hall Dining Court. Butler is a Purdue alumna and trustee and donor for the sculpture. (Purdue News Service photo/Andrew Hancock)

A publication-quality photo is available at

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