Dorothy Ebersbach, NUR'54

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Formal portrait of Dorothy Ebersbach smiling.

Aviator. Nurse. Pioneer.

After a lifetime of contributions to flight and nursing, Dorothy “Dot” Ebersbach and her estate dedicated a total of $4.7 million in gifts to the flight nursing program at the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing to further the center’s mission of educating nurses to provide advanced care. In 2011, the center was renamed to the Dorothy Ebersbach Academic Center for Flight Nursing in her honor.

Born in Pomeroy, Ohio in 1914, Ebersbach was the second of two daughters for Charles and Ellen Ebersbach, owners of a growing road construction company in Ohio and Florida.

Ebersbach exhibited an early passion for adventure, learning and service. which was evident during a family trip to the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair. Soon after, Ebersbach flew for the first time with her father in a seaplane—an experience that would lead to a lifelong passion and future career.

Ebersbach earned her private pilot’s license in 1939, three years after she graduated summa cum laude from Ohio University with a bachelor’s in education, mathematics and English. Her father gave her a Piper Cruise—a three-place, single-engine plane which she logged for more than 350 hours transporting supplies statewide for the family business. 

When the United States entered World War II, Ebersbach put her new aviation knowledge to work for her country. She was one of only 1800 women from a pool of over 25,000 applicants accepted into the newly-formed Women’s Airforce Service Pilots (WASP). While more than 700 of those accepted dropped out of the rigorous training to fly non-combat missions, Ebersbach thrived ferrying new planes from factories to military bases. She tested newly repaired airplanes and towed targets for the male anti-aircraft pilots to practice their dog-fight skills.

WASP members were considered civilians rather than military personnel and were not granted veteran status until 1977. In 2010, Ebersbach and her peers were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for their distinguished service to their country in its time of need.

Following the war, Ebersbach continued to serve others. She graduated from the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing in 1954 and joined the Hillsborough County Health Department in Tampa, Florida. She worked in public health until her retirement in 1975. Ebersbach was also a lifelong active member of the Hyde Park United Methodist Church, the Tampa Bay Garden Club and the American Association of University Women.

The Dorothy Ebersbach Academic Center for Flight Nursing merged her three loves: flying, nursing and service.