“I am honored to recognize Suzanne McKown in celebration of her 100th birthday and thank her for her leadership, generosity and keen eye when it comes to beauty,” said Shenandoah University President Tracy Fitzsimmons.
Suzanne believes beauty is as important to one’s education as buildings and books. She knows her mind and what is essential in life: health, education and beautiful surroundings. Years ago, she impressed upon the university leadership the importance of campus beautification. The university’s gardens and landscaping now show that we recognize an aesthetically appealing campus is essential to our overall well-being.
Suzanne was born in August 1915 in Detroit, raised in Akron, Ohio, and graduated from Vassar College. From a young age, she traveled, read and was fascinated by architecture, history, music and gardening.
Life brought Suzanne to Berryville, Virginia, when she married Gilbert McKown. She restored their home, Norwood, which was built in 1810, and was ready to do more work. That is when she became involved with Shenandoah University. She helped form the Landscape Committee of which she served as co-chair for over 15 years. She joined the board of trustees in 1990 and was a dedicated member of its building and grounds committee. In 2007, she became trustee emerita.
It was under Suzanne’s leadership that the landscape committee focused its efforts on specific areas of campus and small projects that made a big impact, such as colorful garden beds at campus entrances, and the addition of native Virginia trees and the “SU” statue that graces the center of campus. Suzanne has definitely helped to assure that plants enhance the quality of life in the places where we learn, work and live.
Through Suzanne’s generosity, an unattractive and unusable area was transformed into a beautiful plaza that is an extension of the Brandt Student Center. McKown Plaza is a leisure, performance and learning space for students. “It’s a perfect place for performers to practice, for a class to enjoy a warm spring or fall afternoon or for students to sit and talk,” said Fitzsimmons. “I appreciate how much Suzanne persevered to make the plaza a place of perfection.”
In addition, Suzanne established the Suzanne White McKown Landscape Endowment and, in 1987, she and her late husband established the Gilbert and Suzanne McKown Scholarship to provide financial assistance to our students. Over the years, Suzanne has been fortunate to meet many of the students she has assisted. They share their gratitude for the opportunity she has given them to attend Shenandoah University.
Suzanne, we thank you for making Shenandoah a better place!