On Friday, October 20, at 7:00 p.m., students from the Ina E. Gordy Honors College, alumni and community members are invited to join us for an elegant evening in downtown Columbus. The Welty Gala begins with a Friends reception with this year’s Welty Symposium authors followed by dinner and presentation by Colonel Eileen M. Collins, USAF (Retired), NASA pioneer, first female Space Shuttle pilot, first female mission commander in NASA history, and author.
The Welty Gala is our annual fundraiser for the MUW Scholarship Fund. To ensure the success of this event, MUW is seeking supporters who will participate as Benefactors, Patrons, and Friends. We are especially grateful for your support of this event and the opportunity it provides to the community and our Ina E. Gordy Honors College students to further their academic experience beyond the classroom.
The first woman to pilot and command an American spacecraft, astronaut Eileen Collins has led an inspiring life of adventure, leadership, and achievement. As a child in Elmira, New York, Collins dreamed of becoming a pilot. Her parents nurtured her dream, often taking her to Elmira’s “soaring field” to watch gliders take flight. Reading every book she could on aviation, Collins began saving up money for flying lessons at the age of 16.
After graduating from Syracuse University, Collins entered the Air Force Undergraduate Pilot Training Program. In 1990, she was selected for NASA’s astronaut program, and in February 1995, on the STS-63 Discovery mission, she became the first woman ever to pilot a Space Shuttle. She piloted STS-84 Atlantis in May 1997, and in July 1999 she achieved another milestone when she became the first woman ever to command a Shuttle mission, STS-93 Columbia. After flying one final NASA mission in July 2005 as commander of STS-114 Discovery, Collins retired.
While logging 872 hours in space, Collins earned a reputation for coolness under pressure. With that same calm demeanor, she shares how her career as an astronaut took shape, from her early years in the U.S. Air Force to her ground-breaking experience with NASA. Her memoir, Through the Glass Ceiling to the Stars, was published in 2021. In 2022, Collins was awarded the National Aeronautic Association’s Wright Brothers Award for her inspirational career as an astronaut, teacher, and leader.
Now that she has realized her dreams of being both a pilot and an astronaut, Collins has a new dream: that someday people will discover new ways to fly higher, faster, and farther, and that someday we will travel beyond our solar system. Recognized as one of America’s most admired women, she now shares her experiences as a test pilot, astronaut, and space flight commander with audiences around the world.
Scholarship funds help The W strengthen our dynamic learning environment to benefit our entire student body. Scholarship support does so much more than provide tuition assistance; it recognizes and rewards hard work and dedication giving students opportunities to hone career choice and pursue their dreams. Scholarship funds make the difference in whether or not many deserving students are able to attend The W.
October 20, 2023
Trotter Convention Center
402 2nd Avenue North
Columbus, MS, 39701
Black Tie Optional
5:30 p.m. Private reception with Colonel Collins for Benefactors and Patrons
6:00 p.m. Friends reception with Welty Symposium authors in the Trotter Main Lobby
7:00 p.m. Dinner in the Trotter Ballroom
8:30 p.m. Colonel Collins presentation
9:15 p.m. Book Signing
$5000 ($3,800 tax deductible)
Eight seats at a named table including preferred dinner service
Eight invitations to a private reception with Colonel Collins
Four autographed copies of Colonel Collins's memoir
Prominent program recognition
One quarter-page advertisement in the Spring 2024 issue of our alumni magazine, Visions
A 20-meal ticket to the MUW Hogarth Dining Center
Or a 20-session pass to the MUW Stark Recreation Center
$500 ($400 tax deductible)
Dinner seating for one
Invitation to a private reception with Colonel Collins
An autographed copy of of Colonel Collins's memoir
$100 ($50 tax deductible)
Dinner seating for one
Invitation to friends reception with Welty Symposium authors in the Trotter Main Lobby