Wally Funk - Special Guest at the Empowering Seniors EXPO on September 28!
July 27, 2023
Mary Wallace Funk (born February 1, 1939) is an American aviator, commercial astronaut, and Goodwill Ambassador. She was the first female air safety investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board, the first female civilian flight instructor at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and the first female Federal Aviation Agency inspector, and one of the Mercury 13.
Funk became the oldest person to go to space on July 20, 2021, at age 82, flying on Blue Origin’s New Shepard spacecraft during its suborbital flight, breaking a record held by John Glenn for 23 years. Her record would stand until later that year when William Shatner’s flight took place on October 13; Shatner was age 90 at the time. Funk holds the record for the oldest woman to travel to space.
Together with Gene Nora Jessen, Funk is one of the last two surviving members of the Mercury 13 group. She is also the only one of the thirteen to have traveled to space.
As a high school student, Funk wanted to take courses such as mechanical drawing and auto mechanics, but because she was a girl, she was permitted to take only courses such as home economics. Frustrated, Funk left high school early at the age of 16 and entered Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri. Funk became a “Flying Susies” member and was rated first in her class of 24 fliers. She graduated in 1958 with her pilot’s license and an Associate of Arts degree.
Funk moved on to complete a Bachelor of Science degree in Secondary Education at Oklahoma State University. While at OSU, Funk was an Alpha Chi Omega, Gamma Epsilon chapter member. Funk was drawn to OSU primarily by its famous “Flying Aggies” Program. At OSU, Funk earned a large number of aviation certificates and ratings, including her Commercial, Single-engine Land, Multi-engine Land, Single-engine Sea, Instrument, Flight Instructor, and all Ground Instructor ratings. Funk was elected as a “Flying Aggies” officer and flew for them in the International Collegiate Air Meets. She received the “Outstanding Female Pilot” trophy, the “Flying Aggie Top Pilot,” and the Alfred Alder Memorial Trophy” two years in succession.
Funk currently lives in Grapevine, Texas. She enjoys sports and restoring antique automobiles, with a collection that includes a 1951 Hooper Silver Wraith. She has over 18,600 flight hours and, as of June 2019, still flew each Saturday as an instructor.
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