Female WWII pilot donates $2 million to Case Western

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CLEVELAND — A pioneering female aviator who served her country during World War II has made a $2 million gift to Case Western Reserve University’s Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing.

Alumna Dorothy E. Ebersbach, who died Nov. 14, pledged $2 million to establish the Dorothy Ebersbach Academic Center for Flight Nursing.

The center will expand on the flight nursing program’s mission of training graduate-level nursing students to provide critical, on-site care during emergencies and transport to medical facilities.

Pomeroy native

Ebersbach, a Pomeroy, Ohio, native who was born Dec. 9, 1914, led an extraordinary life. In 1943, after earning her pilot’s license she applied to the Women Airforce Service Pilots. She was one of just more than 1,000 women selected to report for duty.

These young women were the first trained to fly American military aircraft. They ran non-combat missions — ferrying new planes long distances from factories to military bases and testing newly overhauled aircraft, among other duties. Thirty-eight WASP fliers lost their lives while serving during the war.

The WASP was disbanded in 1944, but members were considered civilians rather than military personnel; they were not granted veteran status until the 1970s.

In 2009, however, Ebersbach and her peers received the Congressional Gold Medal for their service. At the time, Ebersbach said, “I was surprised. It was really a magnificent honor. It was more than I expected to receive.”

Case graduate

After WWII, she chose a career as a nurse and graduated from the Frances Payne Bolton School of nursing in 1954. Upon earning her degree, she went to work for the Hillsborough County Health Department in Tampa, Fla., where she worked in the field of public health until her retirement in 1975.

About the program

The flight nursing center at the school of nursing is a master’s level program requiring advanced practice clinical courses, a concentration in flight nursing and participation in an internship through the world-renowned Cleveland Clinic, during which students accompany flight teams on critical transport missions.

The program, the world’s first of its kind, was founded in 2002.

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