Does your degree determine your career path? Not always.

This is the case for Mary “Lynn” Schnurr ’75, who graduated from Virginia Tech’s College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences with a degree in Education. Fast-forward to earlier this summer, when Schnurr was inducted into the Military Intelligence Hall of Fame (MIHOF), an elite group of 279 military intelligence professionals. 

Schnurr’s path from Virginia Tech to the MIHOF cannot be described as a straight highway. She shares her journey with us.

At the time of her graduation, Schnurr wanted to transform her life-long passion for sports into a career as a physical education instructor and coach for young athletes.Teaching and coaching jobs were few and far between, so Schnurr worked as a substitute teacher and a driver’s education instructor. Eventually, Schnurr landed a position with the Bureau of Outdoor Recreation in the Department of the Interior.

Schnurr remembers that she thought, “Well, okay, I’ll become an outdoor recreation planner.” The job would have included writing environmental impact statements. She began applying for the positions but found that men who came into the Bureau after she did were being hired and did not have the outdoor recreation degree she had. Soon, Schnurr went to Capitol Hill where she worked for Nick Rahall, the youngest member of Congress from West Virginia. Over the next few years, Lynn and her husband, Rodney, a former Virginia Tech football player and fellow graduate, balanced raising a family and moved back to northern Virginia. Lynn grew up in North Arlington so getting back home was a great thing for this young family.

Schnurr re-entered the job market as a computer science intern for the U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command and earned a position as a computer scientist. Since this was early in her career she was balancing the demands of going back to college for computer science courses and having a toddler in daycare! Balancing family and work was always important to her.

Schnurr has always strived to learn as much as she could. She remembers reading about artificial intelligence in the early 1990s, but no one was talking about it at that time. Now, everyone is. 

Her technology career parallels the widespread adoption and use of computing technology that is now inseparable from our daily lives. Some of her early work was on mainframe computers that used large cathode ray tubes, and she remembers her husband using a 70-pound laptop that was referred to as a “luggable.” Being a computer scientist in the early 80s was exciting and technology was rapidly changing.

Mary "Lynn" Schnurr at Camp Victory, Iraq, 2005

Mary "Lynn" Schnurr wearing a Virginia Tech cap at Camp Victory
Mary "Lynn" Schnurr at Camp Victory, Iraq, 2005

Over her 34-year career in military intelligence, Schnurr became a Senior Executive (two star general equivalent) and used technology to increase the capabilities of Army intelligence missions and implemented rapid wartime technology solutions in the fields of communications, data, infrastructure, open-source intelligence, and biometrics. She made many trips to the battlefield to meet with the military, listen to their needs, develop solutions, and ensure they were fielded effectively. As the Army G2 Director of Information Management and the Army Intelligence Chief Information Officer, Schnurr developed and implemented the Land Intelligence and Reconnaissance Network, a tool that fosters collaboration within and between Army and other intelligence communities. She also led the efforts of the Joint Intelligence Operational Capabilities (JIOC) in Afghanistan and Iraq assuring that operational and intelligence data was available for Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.

Schnurr’s career is marked by her ability to collaborate with others and lead large-scale projects that assured intelligence operations were coordinated and accessible to all stakeholders. 

After retiring from the government in 2013 Schnurr became a Vice President of Defense Intelligence for General Dynamics Information Technology, where she is still an executive consultant. In 2017, Schnurr and her husband returned to Blacksburg. She quickly became involved in the work of the School of Public and International Affairs, a natural fit with her expertise and experience. She also mentors young, female volleyball players who have an interest in careers in intelligence, information technology, and law enforcement. The Schnurrs both love supporting and attending Virginia Tech football games, men's and women's basketball, and many other sports.

Schnurr exemplifies the Virginia Tech Ut Prosim spirit in her career and now in retirement. “I am glad to get involved. I just want to give back. To me, that’s what is most important.” Virginia Tech is happy to welcome this Hokie back home.

-Written by Michael Capocelli