Merryl is represented by the Harry Walker Agency, the world’s Leading Speaker’s Bureau. To invite Merryl to speak at your event, click here.


Since her retirement, Tengesdal has become a highly sought-after motivational speaker for industry, non-profit organizations and educational institutions on a wide range of topics including diversity and leadership, applying military leadership lessons to business enterprises and women in leadership. Tengesdal has a keen interest in promoting efforts to increase women and children of color in STEM.


Whether you’re seeking to inspire, inform, or ignite meaningful discussions, Merryl is the ideal speaker to deliver a compelling and impactful address.

Her ability to tailor her message and insights to the unique needs and interests of each sector ensures that her presentations resonate deeply with attendees, making her an invaluable choice for any occasion or industry-focused event. 

merryl's background

Groundbreaking aviator, author, and retired Colonel Merryl Tengesdal made history as the first and only African American woman USAF U-2 Pilot. For over two decades, Tengesdal served as a Naval Aviator and Air Force Combat Pilot, deploying worldwide in support of combat and military operations and piloting the “Dragon Lady” high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft. She has extensive command and senior leadership experience, most recently serving as the Director of Inspections for the Air Force Inspector General overseeing a program for 860K Airmen, and was the first woman selected to be Commander of Warner Robins Air Logistics Center, Detachment 2, overseeing a multi-billion-dollar testing program. 


Tengesdal holds a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from the University of Newhaven, a Masters in Aeronautical Science from Embry-Riddle University, and is a graduate of the non-resident programs at the Air Command and Staff College and Air War College. She was inducted into the 2019 Gathering of Eagles Foundation as an aviation pioneer.


Tengesdal’s remarkable journey is chronicled in her memoir, Shatter the Sky: What going to the stratosphere taught me about self-worth, sacrifice, and discipline, and her riveting storytelling leaves audiences feeling motivated, inspired, and ready to reach new heights.


Tengesdal starred on CBS’ Tough as Nails, promoting increased minority involvement in the Trades. She has also appeared as a commentator on PBS’ UNLADYLIKE2020: The Bessie Coleman Story, as a technical consultant on Bridge of Spies, and as a featured contributor for Smithsonian Channel’s Air Warrior. Tengesdal was inducted into the 2019 Gathering of Eagles Foundation as an aviation pioneer and is a dedicated advocate for increasing women and children of color in STEM. 


In sought-after events with groups like Lockheed MartinWomen Impacting Storebrand Excellence, the Transportation Leadership Forum, and more, Tengesdal shares her experiences and insights on leadership as a woman and person of color in spaces where women and people of color are underrepresented, maximizing physical and mental health, and applying military leadership to business enterprises and everyday life.

Everything I do is in preparation for the next Adventure.

Major Brands Merryl has worked with

Past events