If You Were a Tree….

The everyday users of NDNation probably wouldn’t recognize the name Susan McGonigal. And frankly, that would be just the way Susan would want it.

Susan was the quintessential “woman behind the curtain”. She worked in the Notre Dame Media Relations office, and chances are if you were a member of the Fourth Estate and had dealings with the University and its athletic programs, you knew Susan quite well and were very grateful to (and for) her. She was the go-to person for staff, media, ticket, and parking requests, and as one of our posters noted, Rule One on the second floor of the Joyce Center was “get on her good side”, because if you were, there was no end to the number of strings she’d be willing to pull on your behalf.

Sometimes such a lynchpin position carries with it a smattering of narcissism. Not so with Susan. She was content with a sincerely-meant “thank you” for her efforts, and got much more satisfaction from the success of those efforts on behalf of others than any adulation or attention those efforts might give to her.

It was this same others-first attitude she brought to her illness, as her cancer was kept secret from just about everyone until it was impossible to hide. You would never have known she was in any way sick based on the efforts she put in during her final months. By the time her friends and co-workers realized they would be saying goodbye to her, the moment was upon them.

I met Susan back in 2000 as a snot-nosed 30-year-old who had a popular website and wanted to cover the men’s basketball team and write a book. Susan didn’t know me from Adam, but was very patient with the screw-ups of a noob, and always had an answer for my questions no matter how ridiculous. She was very kind to me, and that kindness from a person who certainly had no vested interest in providing it left an impression on me that carries to this day.

So when I found out some of Susan’s friends are trying to make that impression more tangible, I wanted to help out. I’m writing this today to see if you can too.

The Susan Reed McGonigal Memorial Project is hoping to honor Susan’s memory by dedicating both a bench and a tree to be placed near the media entrance of Notre Dame Stadium this fall. They’re trying to raise $25,000 to get this done, and the more help they can get, the better. Unfortunately, the Development Office won’t allow credit card donations, but if you find yourself with some extra charity cash this summer or fall, take a moment to write a check to the project and mail it to:

c/o Bernie Cafarelli
Notre Dame Media Relations Office
112 Joyce Center
Notre Dame, IN 46556

Susan’s efforts helped make NDNation what it is today, so if you enjoy reading or posting, she’s on the list of folks you should thank. Some of you in the past have asked how contributions could be made to support NDNation, and I couldn’t think of a better way to do it than this.

I sent my check this morning, and I hope you’ll join me.

4 thoughts on “If You Were a Tree….

  1. The_Phoenix says:

    Mike, do we have to make mention that the donation is to Susan’s bench & tree fund? Or will Bernie Cafarelli know what to do with any money he receives?


    • Mike Coffey says:

      I made the check out to the Memorial Project, so I’m guessing they’ll know what to do with it.

  2. FYI: I sent my check addressed to the Susan McGonigal Memorial Fund and I received a call from the sports information department asking me to re-write the check with the beneficiary being The University of Notre Dame. I hope that’s helpful.