While Amelia Earhart’s exploits are known the world over, few may be aware of her connection to Norwich University. On March 7, 1935, the pioneering aviatrix visited her longtime friend, Norwich’s 16th president, Porter Adams, and addressed the Corps of Cadets.
In 1935 Earhart spoke at the Vermont State House in support of increased aviation in the region. She captivated the media and a crowded gallery of citizens with details of the flight she made from Hawaii to California earlier that year.
Earhart and Adams became friends in the 1920s when he served as president of the National Aeronautics Association in Washington, D.C. Like Earhart, the thrice-married Adams was a colorful character. An MIT graduate, Adams was an early proponent of aviation and supported the efforts of aviator Charles Lindbergh. When Adams married his former secretary, Sue Shorter, Earhart served as the bride’s matron of honor.
Adams served as President of Norwich from 1934 to 1939 and shared Earhart’s spirit of adventure and love of technology. He built the first wind tunnels on campus and in the summer of 1937, President Adams was seen on the streets of Northfield demonstrating his new three-speed bicycle. That same summer Earhart’s plane disappeared somewhere over the Pacific Ocean. When classes resumed in the fall of 1937, President Adams took the first steps to establish Norwich’s aeronautics program. Civilian pilot training and the Norwich Flying Club program continued on campus until 1960.
Contributed by C.T. Haywood
The Norwich University Archives and Special Collections have numerous collections that give insight into Porter Adams’ administration and the history of flight and aeronautics at Norwich. Two newspaper articles from the 1930s, one from the Record and one from the Guidon, mention Earhart. These articles are not yet online but can be viewed by visiting the Archives on the 5th floor of Kreitzberg Library.