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Unsung Hero: Susan Downing, North Shore Country Day School

By Net Assets posted 08-16-2019 02:27 PM

Susan Downing

Leadership |

A master project manager and strategic thinker, Downing also makes time to lend a hand to students, family and staff alike.

The Will J. Hancock Unsung Hero Award is given to business officers who have made extraordinary contributions to their schools and exemplify exceptional integrity, knowledge and motivation. At the end of each school year, new Unsung Heroes receive their award from their head of school, often at a significant school occasion such as a board meeting or an all-school ceremony. What makes these Unsung Heroes so special? The highlights below come straight from their colleagues' nominations. 

See a full list of the 2019 recipients. Stay tuned to for additional profiles.

Title: Director of Finance

School: North Shore Country Day, Winnetka, Illinois

Years in position: 20

Years in an independent school business office: 20

Superpower: Fiscal adaptability. “Sue understands that schools are living organisms and that [financial] flexibility is a powerful tool to foster innovation. Her talents with our finances have allowed us to accomplish our strategic initiatives while remaining fiscally sound. It is a delicate balance at times, and Sue is remarkably talented at [mastering that balance].”

Modernizer: Downing implemented new technology that improved tracking of revenues and expenses for grant reporting, resulting in renewed grant support from private organizations.

Mission-driven: Whether she is chaperoning a trip, covering a study hall or taking the time to answer questions from families or students, Downing works to make sure the needs of each student and family are met. “Sue embodies the mission and motto of our school, ‘Live and Serve.’ She toils away without looking for credit, always with the goal of advancing the school.”

Caring colleague: Downing “has a remarkable sense of humor that allows her to navigate the chaos of school life with aplomb and makes her a pleasure to work with. At the same time, though, she is never afraid to speak the truth when she sees something that needs to be addressed.”

See a full list of the 2019 recipients and read more about the Will J. Hancock Unsung Hero Award. will post additional profiles of Unsung Heroes throughout the fall — check in to learn more about other recipients. 

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