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Three Spelman Alumnae Honored As Aviation, Aeronautics Trailblazers

July 2018

The South Florida chapter of the National Alumnae Association of Spelman College recently honored several aviation and aeronautics trailblazers as part of their annual scholarship fundraiser. Three Spelman alumnae -- Sheila Chamberlain, C’81; Lt. Commander (Sel.) La’Shanda Holmes, C’2007; and Erika Marshall, C’2001) were among those being honored.

The honorees were recognized for paving the way in fields not traditionally available to Black people or women.

Sheila Chamberlain

Spelman Alumna Shelia ChamberlainA magna cum laude honors graduate, Sheila Chamberlain, C'81,  became the U.S. Army’s first Black female combat intelligence pilot in 1985. Committed to excellence in everything she does, she earned her juris doctor from the University of Miami School of Law in 1996. In 1998, she became the first woman pilot elected to the National Tuskegee Airmen and later served as its national parliamentarian. She is also a National Aviation and Aerospace Pioneer and Hall of Famer. 

Chamberlain, who grew up in West Germany, was no stranger to military life. Her father was a retired U.S. Army combat engineer, her mother was a business owner, nurse and 27-year military wife, and Chamberlain served on active duty during the Grenada/Panama Invasion and the Persian Gulf War with three tours in the Republic of Korea and Latin America.

She is a General George C. Marshall Award winner and Distinguished Military graduate (Georgia Tech); graduate of the U.S. Army Counterintelligence Human Intelligence Course, U.S. Army Aviation Flight School, Army Medical Department (AMEDD) Schools, Joint Aerospace Command and Control Course, Army Combined Arms Service Staff College and the Marine Corp Command and General Staff College. 

Chamberlain’s distinctive military career includes 15 years of service in the U.S. and abroad, two command posts and numerous civilian and military honors including the National Defense Service Medal and the Meritorious Service Medal and The Tuskegee Airmen Blades award. During flight school she became the sole mentee of the famous Willa Brown Chappell, the first African American woman to run for the U.S. Congress and historical American aviatrix.

La'Shanda Holmes


Lt. Commander (Sel.) La’Shanda Holmes, C’2007Lt. Commander (Sel.) La’Shanda Holmes, C'2007,  is the first Black woman U.S. Coast Guard helicopter pilot and a former White House fellow. While volunteering at Spelman's annual career fair, she was intrigued by information she received about the Coast Guard. After years of diligent work, she received her wings at Spelman's 2007 Commencement ceremony. The moment was made more memorable when she was penned by Lt. Jeannie Menze, the Coast Guard’s first Black aviator.

Holmes, who amassed over 1,500 flight hours conducting search and rescue, counter drug, and law enforcement missions, was previously stationed at Air Station Atlantic City as an aircraft commander and managed over 6,800 flight hours for the Coast Guard’s largest MH-65 helicopter unit. She deployed five times to Washington, D.C., as a rotary wing air intercept pilot where she supervised an 18-member team and sustained a two strip alert aircraft to defend the President and the Nation’s capital in support of Operation Noble Eagle.  

Her honors include the 2014 Blacks in Government award, selection as one of Grio’s Top 100 History Makers, and a nomination for a NAACP award for her work on The Smithsonian’s “Black Wings” documentary. A Bonner Scholar, she graduated from Spelman with a degree in psychology, and earned a master of arts degree in educational leadership from the University of Oklahoma. She sits on the board of directors of two non-profits that enrich youth through aviation: Tomorrow’s Aeronautical Museum and Girls Fly! She currently serves as external affairs division chief for the U.S. Coast Guard. 

Erika Marshall

Spelman Alumna Erika MarshallErika Marshall, C'2001, is the program director and site general manager for Lockheed Martin – Palm Beach, Florida. In this capacity, she is responsible for a portfolio that includes the Remote Minehunting System (RMS) and manned submersibles programs.  As the site general manager, she is responsible for facilities, planning, staffing and program execution for over 400 employees at two locations in Florida’s Palm Beach County, specifically, in Riviera Beach and West Palm Beach. The organization offers unique capabilities required to design, manufacture, integrate, and test both manned and unmanned underwater vehicles supporting the U.S. Navy, U.S. Special Operations Forces as well as the oil and gas industry.

 
Since joining Lockheed Martin, Marshall has held roles of increasing responsibility within Aeronautics, Information Systems & Global Solutions, and Mission Systems & Training business areas. As a proven strategic integrator and collaborator, her background includes Program Management, Capture Management, Business Development, as well as Systems and Software Engineering.

Marshall received both Modern Day Technology and All Star Technology leader awards from the Career Communications Group. Additionally, she was a 2014 Lockheed Martin NOVA award recipient for her contributions to the HRAccess Program.

She received her B.S. and M.S. degrees in computer science from Spelman College and The Johns Hopkins University, respectively.  She is also a certified Project Management Professional (PMP®).

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