It has been said of Willa Wilcox Mylroie that she is a professional who always more than gets the job done.
Indeed, throughout her career and personal life she has demonstrated a zealous commitment to her community and profession by contributing to an extensive and diverse list of organizations. Among the groups that have benefited from Willa’s participation and leadership are the Boys and Girls Scouts, parents-teachers associations, Thurston County, Washington, the Transportation Research Board, American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, American Society of Civil Engineers, the Planning Association of Washington, and ITE.
In ITE, Willa distinguished herself as the first woman to be elected president of District 6, the first woman to become an international director, and the first to run for international vice president. Her platform included "encouraging participation of the membership in public and professional activities to assist the decision-making process through the support of a well-informed public."
But it is not surprising, as noted by Wolfgang S. Homburger, former District 6 international director, "that most professionals with whom she worked never thought of Willa first as a 'woman in engineering'." Though she she started her career at a time when there were few women in engineering, she quickly was accepted as an equal and became regarded as an excellent and dependable professional. She continually searched for innovative means to improve results. Her unassuming professionalism also proceeded her, as she was known to approach every task quietly and efficiently, but always with enthusiasm.
After graduating in 1940 from the University of Washington, Willa began her illustrious transportation planning career as a "stenographer and junior engineer" with the Washington State Department of Highways. During the following 18 years, she dedicated herself to engineering education, both as an instructor and as a student. As an engineer for the Army in the early '40s, she taught drafting classes for women. She then went back to the University of Washington and completed her master's degree in 1951. In time, she would become an assistant professor at the University of Washington and an associate professor at Purdue University, during which time she also was the supervising engineer on a research project for the Bureau of Public Roads in Washington, D.C. She returned to the Washington State Department of Highways in 1958 as a research and special assignments engineer. In 1969 she was appointed head of the Washington State Department of Transportation's Research and Special Assignments Division.
She has authored or co-authored many articles and reports, for such media as the Highway Research Bulletin and Washington State Highway News, among others. Willa also is listed in many distinguished directories, as well, including "American Men and Women of Science," "Who's Who of American Women," "Who's Who in Engineering," and, in Great Britain, the "Dictionary of International Biography."
Her honors include the Professional Recognition Award from the American Society of Civil Engineers (1978), Order of the Engineer (1976), and an Appreciation Award from the Planning Association of Washington (1974).
Willa could not have had a more distinguished association with ITE. She joined the Washington Area (now Section) in 1959, and helped organize the award-winning WesternITE Journal. The following year she became area co-chairperson. At the Western Section level (now District 6), she quickly rose through the ranks, holding every office including section president in 1970–71.
At the national level, beginning in 1961, Willa served on many committees that have shaped ITE, including Resolutions (1970), Constitution and Bylaws (1971 and 1977–78, for which she served as chairperson), and Institute Name Change (1972–74, for which she also was chairperson).
Also in 1972, she chaired the ITE New Constitution Implementation Committee. She was elected to the International Board of Direction for 1973–75. The Institute subsequently honored Willa in 1979 by awarding her the Certificate of Appreciation in Recognition of Outstanding Service.
Since her retirement from the Washington State Department of Transportation, Willa and her husband Don Fassett have enjoyed a more leisurely lifestyle that includes sailing in Puget Sound.