Irene Trowell-Harris to Receive Stinson Trophy

History-making Trailblazer Earns NAA Recognition for Enduring Impact on Aviation.

Washington, D.C., May 14, 2024—The National Aeronautic Association (NAA) proudly announces that Major General Irene Trowell-Harris, USAF (Ret), is the 2023 Katherine and Marjorie Stinson Trophy recipient. Trowell-Harris was selected for a career distinguished by groundbreaking achievements and lasting impact on aviation.

Established in 1997, the Stinson Trophy stands as a beacon of honor, celebrating the achievements of legendary aviation pioneers Katherine and Marjorie Stinson. The Stinson’s, two of the first American women to earn pilot’s licenses, revolutionized aviation in 1915 by opening the Stinson School of Flying, the first school founded and operated by women. Their legacy, marked by courage, determination, and a relentless pursuit of their dreams, continues inspiring generations of aviation women. The NAA created the Stinson Trophy in their memory as a living testament to their enduring contribution to women’s role in aviation, aeronautics, space, and related sciences.

“Trowell-Harris, a true pioneer, has shattered barriers and set new standards,” said Amy Spowart, NAA President and CEO. “As the first African American woman to attain the rank of Brigadier General in the Air National Guard, her journey is a testament to the power of determination and resilience. Throughout her remarkable career, Trowell-Harris has excelled in her field and shared her experience and abilities to uplift others, particularly in furthering their careers in the military.”

The accomplishments of Trowell-Harris, the granddaughter of an enslaved person, are defined by perseverance and commitment. As one of eleven children in a cotton-farming family in Aiken, South Carolina, Trowell-Harris became the first member of her family to attend college. After receiving her nursing diploma from Columbia Hospital School of Nursing, she earned a Master’s Degree from Yale and then a Doctorate from Columbia. In 1963, Trowell-Harris joined the U.S. Air National Guard as a First Lieutenant. A year later, she became a flight nurse, rapidly rising in the ranks to become an instructor, examiner, and then chief nurse. In 1993, she attained the rank of Major General. Following her retirement from the military in 2001, Trowell-Harris chose to work for the Veteran’s Administration. Her dedication to the well-being and empowerment of women veterans is a testament to her selflessness and commitment. She became the primary advisor to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs for programs, legislation, and issues related to women veterans. Additionally, Trowell-Harris established several funds to support the education and training of future nurses, encouraging the same perseverance that marked her career.

“I wish to express my gratitude to the Selection Committee for selecting me as the 2023 Katherine and Marjorie Stinson Trophy recipient,” said Irene Trowell-Harris. “This award is a new turning point in my life and I am inspired to do even more mentoring of others for success.”

The selection committee for the 2023 Stinson Trophy are:

  • Nicole Battjes, Chair, Vertical Aviation International & Rainbow Helicopters
  • Lauren Beyer, President, Cargo Airlines Association
  • Andy Cebula, Vice President, Air Traffic Management & Operations, Airlines for America
  • Daniel Dumbacher, CEO, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics
  • Caroline Jensen, Founder, Diamond Echelon LLC
  • Denise Layton, Executive Director, The Soaring Society of America
  • Tim Peace, COO, Equus Flight Academy