Monday, March 16, 2015

Flying the Friendly Skies with Alumnae Phyllis Sheeran (class of 1944)

March is Women's History Month. To celebrate, our Spartan Stories this month feature alumni from the Woman's College, North Carolina College for Women, or State Normal eras. 

Phyllis Sheeran
Phyllis Sheeran (Class of 1944), a native of Virginia, caught the “flying bug” quickly after graduating from Woman’s College of the University of North Carolina (now The University of North Carolina at Greensboro). She began her career with Eastern Airlines during a time when commercial airlines were still in their infancy. Sheeran flew on a twenty-one passenger airplane with a crew of three, which included a pilot, a co-pilot, and a stewardess. She worked for Eastern Airlines for nine years, first as a stewardess, then as a supervisor, training other young women to become flight attendants.

Sheeran was first based in Atlanta and then New York with short flights to Atlanta, Miami, St. Louis, and Boston. Correspondence to friends describe her experiences viewing the world in miniature from 14,000 feet above ground; illuminated cities, silver rivers and streams, and sunrises over Lake Pontchartrain. She joked that being in the clouds was the closest that she would come to heaven.
Her early years as a flight attendant corresponded with the last years of World War II and many of her passengers were service men either going overseas or returning home. Those who were returning often told horrible tales of their war time experiences. Soldiers, generals, diplomats, politicians, and ambassadors crossed her path. She also met celebrities in her travels; most notably, actor Robert Taylor and singer Lena Horne.

Her job enabled her to keep in touch with many of her Woman’s College friends and she frequented weddings and other important occasions throughout the east coast. On several occasions, former Woman’s College students who were on her flights, recognized her class ring and they would reminisce about their days as students.

Sheeran married Frederick Lyon in November of 1953 and made the decision to cease her career with Eastern Airlines. She subsequently raised a child and became heavily involved in civic work. When she was a flight attendant, Sheeran often complained that she did not have time to actually see the places she traveled – as she was working. Sheeran would remedy this in years to come as she and her husband traveled extensively both in the United States and abroad.

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