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Mary Ann Arnold, 2020 Women of the Year

Corporate Director of Project Controls (Retired)

Morrison-Knudsen, Inc.


Mary Ann Arnold, 2020 Women of the Year honoree.

Mary Ann Arnold gave 52 years to the workforce, serving as an aerospace technologist, deputy state treasurer and project controls engineer, to name a few.

Now retired, Arnold laughingly said she still has a full-time job: volunteering. She is involved with nine organizations. Two of her proudest accomplishments include being a lifetime Girl Scout and co-founding the Foote Park Interpretive Center.

Arnold and her friend did everything for the center: historic research, grant writing, accounting, scheduling the construction and consulting the Army Corps of Engineers.

For Arnold, it was personal. The work of the park’s namesake brought Arnold’s long-time employer, Morrison-Knudsen, to Idaho.

“Without Arthur De Wint Foote and his original design of the New York Canal, we would be different,” said Arnold. “See, it gives me goosebumps every time.”

Arnold has loved sports, engineering and science since she was a child. She was about six when her father took her to a job site. It was the first time she saw a steam-powered pile driver, and she recalls being very excited.

In eighth grade, Arnold said she had an epiphany: She would be successful in life by using her brain to the best of its ability.

It wasn’t until college Arnold realized she was pursuing a nontraditional career for a woman. She remembers getting up to answer a question when she heard, “What’s a girl doing in here?”

Click on the cover to view the digital edition of the 2020 Women of the Year publication.

At first, Arnold wanted to be an astrophysicist, but in the 1960s, the sciences presented a greater struggle for women than did engineering. But Arnold still got to work for NASA while her husband was finishing college.

“We were partners long before that was the way marriages worked,” recalled Arnold.

Looking back, her career was also about taking opportunities.

“I think it’s all part of building a reputation that you have integrity, and you ‘get ‘er done,’” Arnold said.

Arnold began with Morrison-Knudsen in 1979 as a manager and mentor. She trained employees and tried to help them see the potential she saw. Arnold remembers “dragging” four big, young men into her office so she could give them the “what for”; she knew they could do better.

Pat Pettiette was one of her mentees, one who Arnold knew was destined for management. Pettiette remembers a meeting he and Arnold had with a “very con dent” and “suave” vice president where they had to present different alternatives for a program.

“He said, ‘Well, that’s merely the matter of pushing the green button on the computer instead of the red one, right?’ And Mary Ann was so good,” Pettiette said. “She said, ‘Well … it’s a little bit more complicated than that but we’re gonna try to understand how to translate that statement into an actionable plan.’”

Pettiette said he still laughs at that memory. He added that Arnold was always “the adult in the room,” having good judgement and never taking umbrage.

“I think Mary Ann is the kind of person … mentor you want younger women to aspire to (become),” said Pettiette.

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