Susan McNay is a lot of things to a lot of people. Former White House aide. Right-hand woman to Missouri Sports Legend Norm Stewart (MSHOF Legend 2000). Businesswoman. Fundraiser. Servant. Leader.
And now, she’s forever a part of the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, as she’s set to receive the President’s Award at the Hall’s 2023 Women’s Sports Luncheon presented by the Bee Payne-Stewart Foundation.
The Director of Donor Relations for the University of Missouri since 2018, McNay has spent most of her professional life rubbing elbows with greatness. From her role as Special Assistant for eight years in the Bill Clinton White House, to her time working with Stewart after his retirement from Mizzou, and in her current role, McNay has always been in the mix. Seems it’s been that way from the start.
Born into a politically active family, McNay’s mother worked in the Missouri Legislature as a Legislative assistant for three decades, while her father was a union pipefitter.
“Politics was a fun family adventure,” McNay said. “As kids, my siblings and I met people from all walks of life. It was not unusual for us to have political figures and family members in our home. We knew local elected officials, state officials and national officials.”
Some of those McNay spent time with during her youth include President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Roslyn; Senator & Mrs. John Glenn; Governor & Mrs. Warren Hearnes; Governor & Mrs. Mel Carnahan; and U.S. Congressman & Mrs. Ike Skelton.
She also spent time working with the Young Democrats in the late 80s and early 90s, leading to the opportunity of a lifetime.
“I met people who had known and worked for then-Governor Bill Clinton,” McNay said. “I moved to Little Rock to work in the National Headquarters of the Clinton-Gore Presidential Campaign. Following the ’92 election, I was asked to stay in Little Rock to work as a part of the Transition Team. I then left Arkansas just a few days before the 1993 Inauguration with my co-workers on the ‘last plane out of Little Rock’ to join in the Inaugural celebration and then immediately began work at The White House.”
What followed were eight years in Washington, D.C., first serving a Special Assistant in the personnel office, and then moving over to work more closely with the administration.
Some may think politics and sports make strange bedfellows. McNay says the two are more connected than you realize.
“Both involve helping people, whether it is raising money for scholarships for student-athletes or returning a call from a constituent who needs help cutting through government red-tape,” she said. “Each is important in their respective industries. A good education can change a person’s life, just as help with a government problem can change a person’s life. They’re all ‘people’ businesses. In both industries it’s about developing, growing, and maintaining relationships.”
After working in D.C., McNay returned home and she became a different kind of ‘Special Assistant’, as she began working with Stewart, managing his speaking engagements. Shortly after, her worlds collided at a basketball game.
“It was the last basketball game to be played at the Hearnes Center,” McNay explains. “Governor & Mrs. Hearnes were invited to attend. They were to sit with Coach & Mrs. Stewart. The Athletic Department called Mrs. Hearnes to talk about their attendance and offered staff help. Mrs. Hearnes thanked them, but said, ‘We’ll be just fine with Susan. Warren has known her since she was a little girl and he’ll be most comfortable with her escorting us.” It was an absolute honor to escort and sit with the gentleman whose name is on the building that holds so much history and tradition of what IS Mizzou Basketball.”
At Mizzou, McNay has direct influence on the future of the Athletic Department through the Tiger Scholarship Fund.
“Working in the Tiger Scholarship Fund is very rewarding and there is a lot of responsibility to our student-athletes, our University Community, and our fans,” she said. “Without the support of our donors, it would be impossible to do the work that is most important – providing an education to student-athletes, who in some cases, would not have that opportunity without the work that we do.”
McNay is grateful for the people who have impacted her life in a positive manner, but none more so than her parents.
“Obviously, my parents had a huge impact on my career,” McNay said. “They were both very supportive of anything I’ve ever decided to try. I grew up in a small town – 10 people in my graduating high school class small. To have the opportunity to do what I’ve done comes from having parents, and family, that believe in and support your dreams.”