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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.

Biographies

Geraldine “Jerri” Sloan Truhill

Jerri Sloan Truhill’s first exposure to flying was at the age of 4, while sitting in the cockpit of an airplane chartered to take her father to a business meeting in Texas. When she told her father how much she loved flying, his answer was reflective of the attitudes of the era: “Work hard, do well in school and you can grow up to be an air hostess and fly all the time.”

Determined to become a pilot, she began taking after-school flying lessons at age 15—unbeknown to her parents. She got caught, however, and was sent to a Catholic school in San Antonio. But that was only a setback in her path to the sky: by 1960, she was one of the country’s most experienced pilots.

In a partnership (and, eventually, a marriage) with another great pilot, Joe Truhill, she flew twin-engine North American B-25s for Texas Instruments. She also helped to develop Terrain Following Radar and smart bombs, which entailed very dangerous, top-secret missions over the Gulf of Mexico. She has participated in numerous air races and has won more than a few trophies.

After she and the rest of the Mercury 13 were “scuppered by NASA” (as she puts it), she resolved to speak out on radio programs and in the press whenever she witnessed NASA favoring white men over others.

Truhill returned to Texas Instruments and also served as vice president for two companies: Air Freighters International and Air Services Inc., a test pilot and plane company.

Download Geraldine “Jerri” Sloan Truhill commendation (pdf)