By Anne Claycombe | Photo by Carolyn Richardson
Myrna Truitt (B.A. '62) took a while to hit her stride as a pioneer. She started breaking new ground early, as the first in her family to get a college degree. She put herself through Georgia State College, as GSU was then known, working part-time as a secretary in its Bureau of Business and Economic Research.
Even then, she was thinking about opportunity for others. As an undergraduate, she was part of a group of Georgia State and Morehouse College students who planned to integrate the Georgia State cafeteria. At that time, though, planning was as far as they got.
"We kept chickening out," she said. "That was at the time that UGA was being integrated with the help of the National Guard."
When she graduated, her choices were limited by her gender. There just weren't that many professional-level jobs for women in the early 1960s, she explained. But after a few years, a research analyst job opened up in the marketing department at Newsweek, and Truitt was finally able to get a foot on the corporate ladder.
Once she got started, she couldn't stop climbing, it seemed. She was promoted to management, and the company sent her to Boston University for an M.B.A. By then, in the '70s, things had improved for women, but she was still part of a class that was 90 percent male.
Truitt kept earning promotions and ended her 34-year career at Newsweek as the director of advertising research for the company.
"I feel very lucky," she said. "I benefitted from a combination of hard luck and opportunity."
While building her own career, Truitt also volunteered to help improve opportunities for other women. In the mid-1970s, she served on the board of directors for the Boston chapter of the National Organization for Women.
She took a class on automotive repair for women that the organization offered as a fundraiser. She liked it so much that she ended up teaching the class herself, everything from how to change a tire to how to do a full tune-up.
"That was back in the day when you could still work on cars [without computerized instruments]," she said.
Truitt is still an active supporter of a variety of causes, including animal rights and immigration issues. She serves as chair of her church's social justice committee.
When not pursuing her passion as a "minor social activist," as she puts it, the Long Island resident likes to travel, and especially to sail. Though she doesn't own a boat, she's crewed on vessels traveling the coasts of Greece, Italy and Turkey. At home, she likes to sail on the Long Island Sound.
"There are a lot of interesting places you only get to by boat," she said.
Not a bad hobby for a woman who's gotten everywhere under her own sail - and stopped to pick up others along the way.