I’ve known Carolyn for nearly 30 years—almost my entire professional career. What began as a business relationship quickly became a deep and abiding friendship. That bond deepened as we both became founding members of Women in Aviation (WAI). We never anticipated the wonderful journey that lay ahead. As we grew together in our lives and careers, we shared life’s milestones as well as career achievements—marriages, babies, kids’ graduations, grandchildren (well, for Carolyn, anyway!) and some tough times as well. Looking through photos from years and events past, I noted that in every photo with Carolyn, she was laughing, always enjoying life and her friends and family. And always surrounded by our other friends and colleagues, most of them WAI members.
|Carolyn with the cover of the
inaugural issue of Aviation
for Women magazine.
Carolyn’s aviation career began at the University Aviation Association (UAA). In 1997, she left UAA to serve as WAI Staff Vice President until 2001. Among the many things she accomplished in her time at WAI she began the local chapter program and was the founding editor of Aviation for Women.
In 2001, Carolyn left WAI to serve as UAA Executive Director, a role she assumed one month after the attacks on 9/11. As chief staff executive, she was responsible for the administration and programs of the 500-member organization. She resigned her post in August 2014 due to health issues. During her tenure UAA received the prestigious Frank G. Brewer Trophy for “serving as the voice of collegiate aviation for over 60 years in support of professional development, scholarship, industry collaboration, and promotion of aviation and aerospace careers.”
|Frank G. Brewer, III; Lindsey Brewer; Dr. David A. NewMyer;
and Carolyn Williamson in 2009 awarding Dr. NewMyer
the Brewer Trophy at the NAA Fall Awards Ceremony.
In 2013, Carolyn was inducted, along with fellow WAI founding board members, into the WAI Pioneer Hall of Fame and recognized as a volunteer of the year. In 2013, Carolyn was awarded the UAA President’s Award in recognition of more than 20 years of “leadership and distinguished service to the organization and collegiate aviation.”
When Carolyn was first diagnosed with cancer more than three years ago, she fought it with everything she had and we were all confident that if anyone could kick this, she could. And we celebrated when, after a year of harsh chemo, she was told that the cancer was gone. But alas, cancer is fickle and unpredictable and came back with a vengeance. And yet we still hoped for a miracle. Sadly her time ran out at the end of this summer.
We have lost a wonderful friend and the aviation community has lost a tremendous advocate. Carolyn’s tireless devotion and hard work through UAA and WAI has had an impact on the future of the aviation industry and all who had the tremendous fortune to cross her path. Her efforts will leave a special place of honor in the hearts of her family, friends and colleagues.
I believe that the mark of a great life, well lived, is the impact we have on people before we pass—as we all surely will. By that measure, Carolyn had a truly great life. Her legacy will continue through the many aviation students and colleagues, family and friends whose lives she touched and forever changed for the better.
Tailwinds and blue skies, dear friend. —Cassandra Bosco, WAI 3
“I first met Carolyn through the organization Women in Aviation. We were founding board members back in 1995. She was a joy to meet and be around and we served many wonderful years together as board members. I always looked forward to being with Carolyn.
“It was a joy to spend time with Carolyn at these meetings and she brought much information to us all. We had a good time on our own personal time and that’s when I really knew her and came to love her and cherish our friendship. She was a wonderful woman who gave her all to the people she met and to the organizations she served. She will be missed.”
Nelda Lee, WAI 15
|L-R: Shelly Simi, WAI 8; John Travolta;
Cassandra Bosco, WAI 3; and Carolyn Williamson, WAI 4.
“Carolyn had such an influence on my life from the first time we met at the beginning of my aviation career. As the new ‘green’ aviation education representative for the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA), I met Carolyn, then head of meetings and membership for the University Aviation Association, at the National Congress on Aviation Education conference and we became fast friends. Over the years, we always found ourselves in sync in our aviation education mission in supporting teachers and educators. As Founding Board Members of Women in Aviation we were able to join with other dynamic aviation leaders to formalize a way to give back. In addition to her being a role model she also gave generously of her time to mentor others and encouraged so many to fulfill their dreams of aviation.
“As friends, we shared good times with marriages, children, grandchildren, travel, shopping, laughter and our love of flight! And then there was the sickness, accidents, health, loss of family members and other heartbreaks that life dealt us that somehow became manageable through friendship and support. I miss her laugh when she would get so tickled over silliness that being tired and weary brought on. I miss her kindness when I needed her love and compassion and I miss who she was as a person—dedicated, loyal, tenacious and giving of herself. I miss my friend.”
Shelly Simi, WAI 8
“Carolyn and I met when the WAI organization was formed in 1995. We served together on the WAI Board of Directors for many years and formed a wonderful friendship.
“When Carolyn was working for UAA, and I needed information for community outreach programs, speeches, presentations and/or discussions concerning aviation careers, she was ‘ready, willing and able’ to provide me with whatever it would take to make my presentations successful. Additionally, she was an excellent resource for information concerning aviation scholarships, schools, colleges and universities. She was a source of knowledge and wonderful inspiration for many, many students, colleagues and friends. She was a beautiful lady and will be sorely missed.”
Sandy Anderson, WAI 9
“Carolyn Williamson and I served on the founding board of WAI together. I remember her dedication to family—her girls and husband were so important to her—and her dedication to WAI. She built the foundation of the chapters that are so successful today.
“I also remember the two months of transition while Carolyn taught me what she knew about Aviation for Women magazine. She was the outgoing editor and I was incoming. Even though she was heading into a great position with UAA, she was absolutely emotional about leaving her position at WAI. And she was meticulous about making sure that I understood all of the intricacies of putting out the magazine. I could not have made it through that first issue without her excellent guidance (and for many years after she was never shy about letting me know when she found a typo!). I miss her.
Amy Laboda, WAI 14