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Anita Winn ‘79 wasn’t sure what she wanted to study when she arrived at Oregon State as a first- year student.
Her epiphany came in class, when a buyer from Macy’s spoke about his career. Winn listened, and was sold.

November 30, 2023

Anita Winn valued the lifelong connections she made at OSU. Now, she’s helping students create them.

Anita Winn ‘79 wasn’t sure what she wanted to study when she arrived at Oregon State as a first- year student.

It didn’t take her long to find out.

Her epiphany came in class, when a buyer from Macy’s spoke about his career. Winn listened, and was sold.

“He talked through what the job required, what you were able to do and the travel,” Winn said. “I knew I wanted to do it and that fashion merchandising was the right avenue for me. The job seemed glamorous, and I knew that I’d want to go into buying.”

Growing up in a family that made their own clothes, Winn liked fashion, although she didn’t feel creative enough to be a designer. The buyer helped Winn see that she could combine her love of clothes with a degree that would give her opportunities beyond college.

He also helped Winn, who was in the first generation of her family to attend college, see that encouragement and insight from a professional can be invaluable to a student’s success.

“It gave me confidence to follow my passion,” Winn said. “It’s what I tell students today: ‘You have to do what you love. Most of us are going to work for a long time, so do something you’re passionate about.’”

Following her passion earned Winn a degree in clothing textiles and related arts. After college, her hard work, retail experience and strong relationships with colleagues led her to a successful career in merchandising that ranged decades and experiences.

Throughout her career, Winn worked for Meier and Frank, Mervyns, Fred Meyer and Nike. She managed stores and was a buyer for everything from large-sized sportswear to girl’s toddler clothing, womens footwear, and men’s and women’s apparel.

She served as a regional merchandiser for Mervyn’s, and her footwear and retail experience helped her land a job at Nike in planning for their factory stores. She later became the director of business planning for North America Nike Factory Stores and retired in 2016.

At each point in her career, her business network was crucial to her success. “Never burn your bridges,” Winn said. “Apparel is a small world, and networking is super important.”

The value and how-to’s of networking are something that Winn loves to talk to OSU students about. It’s a way for her to be a mentor, but it’s also a way for her to try and inspire others to have their own ‘a-ha’ moment.

“Anita has a heart for our students,” said Hal Koenig, who retired as an associate professor of marketing in 2023. “She’s smart, detail-oriented. Whatever she contributes, she does it with a smile.”

Since 2014, Winn has been a member of the OSU Design Network and served as its chair for two years.

The network brings students who study design and innovation management, merchandising management, apparel design, interior design and graphic design together with Portland-area industry professionals to network and enhance their professional development.

“An organization like this didn’t exist when I was in school, and I think it would have been beneficial to me,” Winn said. “In college I did well on tests and knew the answers in class, but I didn’t have the confidence to be in a room and speak with people. I hope I can help people overcome some of the things that I dealt with.”

To recognize Winn’s service to OSU students and the positive changes she has made to the Portland Metro area, the Oregon State University Alumni Association named her a 2022-23 Alumni Fellow.

Winn also has been a dedicated supporter of the College of Business. She is a founding and executive member of the college’s merchandising management advisory council, which helps ensure the program’s continued success and enhances its reputation for students, alumni and business partners throughout Oregon and beyond.

“Anita is passionate about merchandising and wants to help set up our merchandising management students for success in any way she can,” said Brigitte Cluver, senior instructor and professional development coordinator for merchandising management and apparel design in the college. “She provides us with advice that strengthens our program, connects us with industry professionals, and she helps plan events that give our students the chance to network and showcase their work.”

When Winn was a junior at OSU, a scholarship helped her stay in school and earn her degree.

“Staying in school afforded me the opportunity to make connections that have lasted all my life, both professionally and personally,” she said.

That support, as well as knowledge of how costs to attend college have increased dramatically since she was a student, led Winn and her husband, Buff ‘78, to establish the Anita & Buff Winn Merchandising Management Scholarship in 2020.

“We felt like it was time to give back,” Winn said. “As hard as it was for me to find the funds for college, we all know it’s infinitely harder today. The divide between those who can and those who can’t is bigger. My hope is to help others in need and give back in a small way, because OSU has given me so much.”

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