Banker to Grant Maker
Like Leslie Lassiter, Trudy Wood ’73 decided to get an MBA after graduating from Scripps — in Wood’s case, from Boston University. She always knew she would go to graduate school, so she chose Scripps for its humanities core. In the early 1970s, when Wood was a student, Core was a three-year program. All students spent their first year studying Egyptian, Greek, and Roman Civilization; their sophomore year studying the Middle Ages and the Renaissance; and their junior year studying the modern world.
“I wanted the broadest possible liberal arts education, which is why I was so happy with the humanities program and my major, history,” Wood says.
After graduating from Scripps, Wood trained as a paralegal in Philadelphia, planning eventually to go on to law school. But instead of a law firm, she was placed as a paralegal at Bank of Boston, where she became attracted to finance.
“I was interested in the relationships you can develop with your clients in finance, which I didn’t see happening in law,” she says. While earning her MBA, Wood worked at Bank of Boston and was eventually sent to Argentina. She had the right background: in high school, she had spent a year as an exchange student in Argentina, and at Scripps she had studied abroad at the University of Madrid. But nothing prepared her for the political and economic instability of South America in the 1980s.
“It was a situation like I was never in before and probably never will be again,” Wood says. “The economic situation was very volatile. You really had to move quickly and think quickly, and be ready to adapt to new laws and new situations — devaluations, financial restrictions, loosening of restrictions, more devaluations, a war [the 1982 Falklands War between Argentina and the United Kingdom]. We were basically bouncing from crisis to crisis.”
In 1986, after working for seven years in Argentina, Wood returned home and eventually became a program officer — essentially, a grant maker — first for the Tinker Foundation, which focused on Latin American economic and environmental policy, and then for the now-defunct Helena Rubinstein Foundation, which made grants for women in education and the arts. The only difference between being a banker and a program officer, Wood says, is that “in banking you’re supposed to get the money back, and in grant making you don’t.”
Wood says her humanities education has kept her grounded throughout her turbulent career.
“Most people’s career paths aren’t straight — there are lots of unexpected challenges and opportunities. I think having a liberal arts background that teaches you to think broadly and deeply helps you with that.”
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