(Article by Sarah White, Textron Aviation Business Aircraft, Sr. Manager, Communications and Media Relations)
Olive Ann Beech was a change maker. She pushed social norms and proved that women can be successful business leaders. From managing her own bank account at age seven to being the CEO and President of Beech Aircraft Company, she proved that anything is possible. In honor of her 118th birthday (September 25th, 1903), we celebrate her legacy and the lasting mark she left on the company.
Married to Walter Beech, an iconic aviation dreamer and inventor, Olive Ann managed Beech Aircraft’s financials from the ground up and took lead of the entire company when her husband fell ill. Even through countless doubts from her male partners that a woman couldn’t hold such a leadership position, she proved them wrong. Olive Ann influenced many other women through her determination, and she advocated for women often.
Her financial decisions proved valuable, as she successfully led Beech Aircraft — now known as Beechcraft — through WWII, the Korean war and the depression. She pushed for investing in turboprops instead of jets, because she knew what her company did best. This decision in 1965 generated $164.5 million in revenue and $8.7 million in profit, growing the company to almost 10,000 dedicated employees. Olive Ann didn’t slow down for anyone, and eventually sold the company for $800 million.
- Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara appointed her to the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services
- President Lyndon B. Johnson named her to serve on the President’s Commission on White House Fellows
- Fortune listed her as one of the ten highest-ranking women in business in the 1970s
- Received Wright brothers’ trophy in 1980
- Joined the Aviation Hall of Fame in 1981
Today, we look to Olive Ann as a figure of grace, strength and determination. Her legacy lives on and continues to be reflected in the company’s rich culture and heritage. If you walk the Beechcraft manufacturing floor, employees still remember her presence and leadership impact.
Learn more about Textron Aviation’s special edition 75th anniversary Beechcraft Bonanza in honor of Olive Ann Beech, which blends modern technology with her signature retro blue styling.