When Margaret (Wallace) Lawson ’53 began secretarial studies at Bryant, she didn’t envision becoming a legend in Hartford’s business community. But a professor noticed Lawson’s creativity and work ethic and advised her to “branch out.”
“That’s when I changed to marketing and sales because that’s what I loved,” recalls Lawson. “My experience was excellent. Bryant had terrific courses and was ahead of its time. It gave me a very good background and knowledge of how business works.”
There are so many talented young people who deserve an opportunity. I think it’s very important to help students who cannot afford higher education on their own.
She honed her networking skills in Providence, RI, while training to be a buyer in retailing in an upscale, family-owned store. Later, she moved to Hartford, CT, and took a position working for an executive in one of the large insurance companies. Then she went to work for the President of the Greater Hartford Chamber of Commerce, where, over nearly two decades, she rose from Assistant to the President up to Vice President and Corporate Secretary.
Her position as Vice President of Marketing at The Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection & Insurance Company followed. There, Lawson expanded the specialty insurer’s brand recognition; created a model for workplace fundraising for the arts; and helped create The Polytechnic Club (later called ON20), a restaurant on the building’s top floor, renowned for its dining experience and magnificent view of the Connecticut River.
Lawson never intended to become a powerhouse fundraiser for groups as diverse as Junior Achievement, Connecticut Public Broadcasting, the Greater Hartford Arts Council, and the Bushnell Performing Arts Center. “It just evolved,” she explains, noting the advice of a long-ago mentor: “There’s an opportunity every single day, but you have to recognize it.”
One of her proudest achievements is revitalizing The Hartford Club, a business association founded in 1873 for gentlemen only. She was one of the first women to be granted membership in 1973, and in 1983, she became the first woman elected as President. She continues to serve on the Board of Directors, where she has expanded the Club’s membership, restored financial stability, and was successful in getting the Club’s building — on Prospect
Street in downtown Hartford — added to the National Historic Register and commemorated with a brass plate. She also commissioned a book about the Club’s history and its members.
The sophisticated venue has become a favorite setting for business and social functions.
Lawson generously supports a Partners in Scholarship Fund at Bryant, recalling the financial assistance she received. “My parents could not afford to send me to Bryant. I had to get scholarships to add to the little they could provide. There are so many talented young people who deserve an opportunity. I think it’s very important to help students who cannot afford higher education on their own.”
Her affinity for Bryant also endures in other meaningful ways. “Two of my best friends came out of my Bryant experience,” says Lawson with gratitude. “We still communicate frequently and try to see each other at least once a year.”