Spirit of the Gift Biography Project

Histories of the men and women behind WSU's endowed funds

Walter H. and Olive Ann Beech Collection Endowed Fund

As a young boy, Mr. Walter H. Beech dreamed that one day he might fly. This dream resulted in a lifetime commitment to aviation as pilot, instructor, engineer and manufacturer. In 1925, he organized Travel Air Manufacturing Company with a group composed of Clyde Cessna and Lloyd Stearman. Later in 1932, at the height of the depression, Mr. Beech and his wife, Mrs. Olive Ann Beech, co-founded Beech Aircraft Corporation. After her husband's untimely death in 1950, Mrs. Beech became chief executive, earning her the title, "The First Lady of Aviation.” Her own successful career spanned more than 50 years.

The Walter H. Beech Memorial Wind Tunnel was dedicated in 1951, on what was then the University of Wichita campus, in honor of the aviation pioneer. Through the estate of Mrs. Beech, a collection of correspondence, scrapbooks, publications, photographs and more were given to the University Libraries Special Collections Department. The Walter H. and Olive Ann Beech Collection Endowed Fund supports the preservation and enhancement of this important collection, which ensures that the story of Walter H. and Olive Ann Beech, Beech Aircraft and Wichita's early aviation history live on.