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Alumni Feature 1

Lois Coots Tonkin, Class of 1940

Aviator and Meteorologist

Lois Coots Tonkin

It was while a pre-medical student studying biology at Marietta College that Lois Coots Tonkin of Parkersburg was first introduced to the rapidly developing field of aviation. She embraced this interest: it became her passion and transformed her life. One of the first women in the United States to qualify for the Civilian Pilot Training course of the Civil Aeronautics Authority, Tonkin earned her wings following her Marietta College graduation in the summer of 1940, receiving both a private pilot's and ground instructor's license. Employment quickly followed as a ground instructor teaching tyro pilots at a Detroit, MI airport.

With the outbreak of World War II, Tonkin received a Civil Aeronautics and Weather Bureau Scholarship to train as a meteorologist at New York University's College of Engineering. The first and only woman in the N.Y.U. class, Tonkin went on to become the first professional woman to win a post in the District of Columbia’s Central Office of the Weather Bureau, serving as assistant to the head of Research and Training. While with the Weather Bureau, Tonkin devised correspondence courses for Bureau field observers, prepared exams for graduate school meteorology students, and was assigned a commission to recruit as many as 30 to 40 qualified young women throughout eight northeastern states for training as meteorologists.

A pioneer for women in the field of aviation and meteorology, Tonkin, and those who followed, made significant contributions to the war effort and their profession.