Honoring the Mercury 13 Women
May 12, 2007 * UW Oshkosh Spring Commencement

Before Sally Ride, Christa McAuliffe and Eileen Collins, courageous women were setting new records and conquering new horizons. Though largely unrecognized in history, the Mercury 13 women showed their determination, strength and bravery in the Space Race with accomplishments that paved the way for generations. The University of Wisconsin Oshkosh is proud to recognize the pioneering spirit of these women with honorary Doctor of Science—honoris causa—degrees.


Marion Dietrich

After graduating from the University of California-Berkley in 1949, Marion Dietrich parted ways with her twin sister, Jan, and chose a career path in journalism. She worked as a general writer and feature reporter for the Oakland (Calif.) Tribune. Her love of flying led her to cover as many aviation-related stories as possible, and she had the opportunity to ride in a supersonic jet.

Off the clock, Dietrich kept a “hand on the stick” by flying charters and ferrying aircraft. Having earned her pilot’s license as a teenager, she had built up more than 1,500 hours of flying time by the time she was invited to the Lovelace Clinic in Albuquerque, N.M. in 1961.

When Jan initially hesitated to accept, Marion wrote to her, “Jan, we are poised on the edge of the most exciting and important adventure man has ever known. Most must watch. A few are privileged to record … To be ASKED to participate, the greatest honor.”

She died of cancer in 1974, preventing her from meeting all of the other women of Mercury 13. Her sister scattered her ashes from the air over the Pacific Ocean.

Download Marion Dietrich commendation (pdf)