Spring 2006

Aviatrix Marvel


Marvel L. (Nordyke) White ’35, who passed away Jan. 1 in Wichita at the age of 99, certainly lived up to her first name.

Homemaker, former school teacher, Joyland Amusement Park ticket-taker, babysitter, gopher-trap painter, day-care provider, barnstormer, daredevil and reportedly the first woman in Kansas to pilot an airplane, White flew her first plane after graduating from Wichita’s East High School in 1926.

She flew Canucks, Eagle Rocks, Jennys, Swallows, Travel Airs — all biplanes. “I wanted to do something no other woman had nerve enough to do at the time,” she once told a Wichita Eagle-Beacon reporter. Recalling the exhilaration of her early flights, she said: “It’s a feeling you can’t describe. You just look down and do a little prayer and trust that God Almighty is up there with you.”

Her first husband was her third flight instructor — and a stunt pilot. The two married in June 1927. Later that summer she performed her own stunt during a Wichita water festival: She rode a bicycle from the top of a boathouse down a wooden ramp right into the Arkansas River, then dove to the riverbottom to fetch the bike. “That,” she noted in a 1981 newspaper article, “attracted thousands and thousands of people.”

After having a son and giving up flying and most forms of daredevilry, White attended the University of Wichita, graduating with a degree in physical education. She taught elementary school for five years, married her second husband, George, in 1939 and became the first woman member of the Kansas Wing of the OX5 Aviation Pioneers, a club for pilots who flew before 1939 in aircraft powered by the 90-horsepower water-cooled OX5 engines. She was also a member of the Aviatrix Pioneers of America, a group of the first woman pilots.

In a note to Class of 1935 50-year reunion planners, White wrote: “I have two beautiful awards, one given me by the OX5 Aviation Pioneers and the other from the Wichita Aeronautical Historical Association. I feel very proud to be a member of these two fine organizations.”


Aviatrix Marvel

Marvel L. (Nordyke) White ’35, who passed away Jan. 1 in Wichita at the age of 99, certainly lived up to her first name.

Stamp of Approval

Award-winning entertainer Karla Burns ’81/81 never met Wichitan Hattie McDaniel (1895-1952), the first African-American to win an Academy Award.

A Stately Reminder

The trio of stately columns that stands at WSU’s Fairmount Avenue campus entrance off 17th Street points back in time to the early years of Fairmount College.

Found Stories

One hundred years ago, back when Fairmount College was young, one family forged the first Shocker sports dynasty.