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Wally Funk Speaks to Young People at Frontiers of Flight Museum

Dallas—Legendary aviator Wally Funk appeared at the Frontiers of Flight Museum for a special event on Saturday, Oct. 2. The event was presented by IF/THEN, an organization that encourages girls and women to get into the STEM field.

“[This event] showcases our mission,” Dan Hamilton, CEO and chairman of Frontiers of Flight, said. “The core mission of the IF/THEN initiative is to activate a culture shift among young girls and open their eyes to STEM careers. What better way to do that than with a role model like this?[Funk] has gone to great heights, literally, to show what women can do with STEM careers.”

Throughout Funk’s speech, she encouraged children in the audience to pursue aviation.

“You know about the spirit of the Taos Mountain?” Funk asked. “Taos Mountain,it’s got snow on it all the time. Mother said, ‘You look at the Taos Mountain, and it’s going to tell you in your heart what you’re to do today and who you’re going to see.’This morning when I did that, I knew I was going to see all of you.

“I had the great pleasure of doing a lot of things in my life.When I was about seven or eight years old, I got my first time to fly, so I was flying at seven. Get your kids flying. Get them out of the house.I got my [pilot’s] license at fourteen. For those of you who want to fly, and you youngsters, get in there and do it.”

Funk had an extremely fascinating career, including being the youngest member of the Mercury 13 program.

“Now in the ‘60s, they started the Mercury program, and I am the only one left of the Mercury 13,” Funk said. “I was doing stuff in Albuquerque, and I beat all the guys.All the astronaut guys in those days. I had the get up and go to do it.

“Growing up I did many things that were abnormal for a girl to do. I want to teach all the girls who are sitting here and you young ladies to do anything you want to do, whatever comes into your heart. Pretend you have the spirit of the Taos Mountains. You don’t pray to it. You just talk.”

Funk also spoke about her recent trip on the Blue Origin to space with billionaire Jeff Bezos.

“[Jeff] came up to me and said,‘I’m going up to space. I want to take you with me,’” Funk said. “I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.”

Nikki Sereika, the ambassador from IF/THEN, awarded Funk the George E. Haddaway Medal for Achievement in Aviation.

“As an ambassador, I have been given a large platform to reach more young girls [through] my career as an aircraft mechanic, as well as be a part of ceremonies such as this where we recognize and award achievements by others,” Sereika said. “I am excited to present this award to Wally Funk for her achievements in aviation. Wally Funk is a perfect example of what we strive to do as IF/THEN ambassadors: inspire women in science, technology, engineering, and math by empowering current innovators and inspiring the next generation of pioneers.”

Funk answered questions from members of the audience, many of whom were young children. One youngster asked Funk if she was afraid of anything.

“I’ve never been scared of anything,” Funk said. “Are you kidding? I wouldn’t be here where I am today if I ever got scared, and all you youngsters you should not be scared at all of anything.”