When asked about the ambitious approach that’s been key to her successful career, Ruthi (Greenfield) Zinn Byrne, attd.’60, has a straightforward response: “Someone’s got to make things happen.”

Byrne is the owner of Zinn, Graves & Field, a New Jersey public relations and marketing firm she founded nearly 40 years ago. Now a go-to agency for clients like General Motors, it bubbled from Byrne’s aspirations to drive political change.

Between 1975 and 1978, Byrne served on the board of New Jersey’s League of Women Voters, helping to lead an effort to change the form of legislative government in Essex County, New Jersey.

“We wanted our local government to be visible and accountable,” Byrne said. “It took a lawsuit, but we won. We made that happen through fund-raising, marketing, and public relations, so it made sense to stay in business.”

In addition to leading operations at her firm, the former first lady of New Jersey has remained involved in civic service, actively sitting on the boards of nine nonprofit organizations including Paper Mill Playhouse, the state’s largest producing theater, and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

“I choose to be involved with missions that I’m passionate about and the ones that are meaningful to me,” Byrne said. “My grandson has diabetes, so I chaired the statewide JDRF gala this year and raised $1.5 million.”

That pragmatic sensibility, which has defined both her career and the causes she champions, is partly a product of Byrne’s three years at UR, where she built lifelong connections with many of her Westhampton classmates.

“When you find yourself in the company of smart and strong women, and those women are taking on leadership positions, you learn how to raise your voice,” Byrne said. “I think that kind of training prepares you for anything.”