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.


Mary Wallace "Wally" Funk

As a child, Wally Funk was interested in mechanics and built model airplanes and ships. At 14, she became an expert marksman, receiving the Distinguished Rifleman’s Award and also represented the southwestern United States as top female skier in Slalom and downhill races in U.S. competition.

At age 16, she entered Stephen’s College in Columbia, Mo. She has been flying professionally since 1957, and she graduated in 1958 with an associate of arts degree, rating first in her class of 24 flyers. In 1964, her work in aviation was recognized when she became the youngest woman in the history of the college to receive the Alumna Achievement Award.

At the age of 21, Funk volunteered for the “Women in Space” Program with an independent clinic that had the support but not the official sponsorship of NASA. It was at that time that she became fully absorbed with the idea of becoming an astronaut and traveling into space. Though denied the opportunity to launch, Funk has since flown the C.S.T. Apollo Static Space Simulator at Edward’s Air Force Base Flight Test Center.

She has accumulated more than 17,000 hours of flying time and was honored by the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum to speak about her life in the IMAX Theater.

In February 1995, Funk joined seven of the Mercury 13 as guests of Lt. Col. Eileen Collins, as she became the first female to pilot a space shuttle.

In 2005 and 2006, Funk visited the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh to talk with students as part of the Odyssey Program.

Download Mary Wallace "Wally" Funk commendation (pdf)

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