2021 Distinguished Alumnus- Susie Mcmurry
By Lisa S. Pearce Icenogle (AA, ‘79)
Susan “Susie” Kay (Warburton) McMurry (AS, ‘63) has a smile that can light up the darkest of rooms and a generosity of spirit matched by few others. McMurry is the 2021 Casper College Alumni Association’s Distinguished Alumni.
A Casper native, McMurry was raised in Elk Mountain and Hanna, graduating from her Hanna High School class of 24 in 1961. Two years later, she would graduate from Casper College with an Associate of Science in education. A Bachelor of Science in education from the University of Wyoming followed.
McMurry began her teaching career in Casper. Colleagues remember her as genuinely friendly, kind, and caring. Those three traits, along with that smile, have served her well through a lifetime of heartfelt generosity through her own personal time volunteering with various organizations and through the foundation that she and her late husband, Neil “Mick” McMurry, created. Susie McMurry is the embodiment of the word altruistic.
McMurry met her husband, who she always called “Mickey,” on a blind date set up by her aunt and uncle. Mick McMurry showed up that night in his red corvette. But when he arrived at the door, Susie was hesitant. Her roommate answered the door instead. She took one look at Mick McMurry and told Susie that she would be happy to take her place if she didn’t want to go.
McMurry went on that date. The year was 1972, and McMurry was a first-grade teacher at Cresthill Elementary School. Eighteen months later, on December 21, 1973, the two got married in Glenrock, Wyoming. “I can honestly say I loved Mickey from the time I knew him, and I think Mickey loved me from the time he knew me,” she said told a Casper Star-Tribune reporter shortly after Mick McMurry’s death in 2015.
When Susie first met Mick, he was in business with his brother Vic in a road construction business they had started in 1970. According to Susie, the two brothers “ … worked all the time.” In 1976, Susie left teaching to be a mother to their first adopted daughter, Trudi. Trudi was four-days old when Susie and Mick took her into their lives and hearts. During summers, Susie would sometimes head to Mick’s highway construction projects where she and Trudi would camp nearby.
Susie and Mick because foster parents in 1979 and over nearly 30 years fostered hundreds of children. Their second daughter Jillian was from the foster program, and their granddaughter Alaceia (Lou) was first fostered by them before being adopted by Trudi.
While taking care of her children, fostering others, and being the wife of Mick McMurry, Susie was also busy volunteering in the Casper community. While her girls were still small, her volunteering began with the Casper Service League.
In 1988 the brothers dissolved their business, and Mick started Nerd Gas in 1996. He was successful in the oil and gas business, and that success allowed him and Susie to create the McMurry Foundation in 1998. The foundation was helped even more when he partnered with John Martin, and the two later sold McMurry Oil Company in 2000, and McMurry Energy Company in 2001. Through their development of both the Jonah Field and Pinedale Anticline and subsequent sales, the two became multimillionaires.
In its first year of existence, the foundation awarded $108,315 to a variety of causes. They came up with the foundation’s tag line “Paying It Forward” from the 2000 film “Pay It Forward.” The steps involved in applying for a grant from The McMurry Foundation were intentionally created to be easy to follow, and there were broad categories to choose from. As Susie said in 2002, “ We don’t want to make it difficult. We want to make people feel comfortable and uninhibited. We consciously made (the categories) broad because we didn’t want to miss an opportunity of giving. We want to give (these awards) joyfully.” And joyfully, the awards have been given through The McMurry Foundation. And joyfully, McMurry has given of her time to a variety of causes in Natrona County.
Nearly two decades ago, McMurry joined the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Wyoming board. Soon, she was leading the multi-million-dollar fund-raising drive to construct a new club. With Susie in the lead, it was no surprise when the McMurry Foundation announced a gift of $1 million for the new building, 25% of the funding needed. The new 34,000 square foot facility opened in August 2004. And it didn’t stop there. In 2019, the foundation provided a large donation to upgrade the club’s technology center.
McMurry has been a longtime volunteer at Wyoming Medical Center and, through the McMurry Foundation, a donor. More than 30 years ago, she began the Gentle Hands Program at the hospital with Gail Kennah and Ellie Ellobgen. The program offers nonmedical support to patients and families at WMC. For many years, it was the norm for both patients and their families to see Susie at the hospital, where until recently, she volunteered several hours a day, clocking 850 hours in the first eight months of 2019 alone. McMurry also served on the WMC Foundation board, was a Masterson Place committee member, and was a volunteer for the Angels Cancer Care, helping to provide dinners to Masterson Place guests once a month. For all her service to the hospital, she was a recipient of the President’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
At Casper College, the McMurry Foundation provided $1 million to the remodeling and expansion efforts for the Gertrude Krampert Theatre. Half of the million went to the extensive upgrade of the theater’s largest performance stage, now known as the Mick and Susie McMurry Stage. In 2014 the foundation donated $500,000 to construct a plaza and open space outside the front doors of the Casper College Student Union and the University of Wyoming at Casper building.
McMurry also was a founding member of CASA — Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children of Natrona County. A strong woman of faith, McMurry is an active and long-time member of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church and was on the steering committee that oversaw the creation of St. Anthony’s Tri-Parish School.
In its first 15 years alone, the foundation awarded nearly $50 million and since then has awarded millions more. The above merely scratches the surface of the generosity of both the McMurry Foundation and McMurry herself. In the years following the 15-year anniversary, the foundation, with McMurry’s guidance, has continued to generously fund a variety of projects that have helped to improve not only Casper but the state itself. At the same time, McMurry herself has continued to volunteer her time and service.
McMurry will be presented with the Distinguished Alumni Award during commencement on May 14, 2021.
The Distinguished Alumni Award winners are nominated by their peers and chosen by the Casper College Alumni Association board of directors.
2021 Commitment to excellence- Linda Nix
By Lisa S. Pearce Icenogle (AA, ’79)
Linda Nix moved to the Casper community in 1983 from Connecticut. She came from a successful career as the assistant director of the Health Insurance Association of America that had seen her commuting daily to New York City for two years. “My job kept me on the road in the southeast United States about 40% of the time. The balance of the time I commuted by train into the city arriving at Grand Central Station, which was 13 blocks from my office on Third Avenue,” she recalled.
In 1982, Nix spied an article in the New York Times on Casper during one of its many booms. The article specifically mentioned that traffic in the small Wyoming city had increased so much that drivers sometimes had to sit through two series of lights at intersections. For Nix, “That sounded like a nice change of pace and more like the northern Minnesota town where I was raised. I wasn’t wrong.”
Nix came to Casper with not only her professional experience but also a master’s degree and a law degree. She began her professional life as the director of Medical Affairs at Wyoming Medical Center. During this time, she also ran an independent law practice and was the Natrona County Medical Society’s executive director.
Nix and Patricia Nagel were chosen to co-direct the Wyoming Futures Project in 1986. Through their work on the WFP, the two became friends and started a consulting business in the late 1980s. They helped small businesses and nonprofits with goal setting, team building, and board training. Nix first became involved with Casper College when she became a trustee on its board in 1988, a position she held for eight years. Nix was also a founding member of the Board of Cooperative Educational Services, or BOCES.
Thanks to the urging of another long-time Casper College supporter, George Bryce, Nix applied for the Casper College Foundation’s part-time job as the foundation alumni coordinator. The position would allow Nix to continue her consulting business, provide flexibility to be home for her kids, and affordable health insurance. “I was already aware of the key role the college played in the community, having served on the board of trustees, and I’d also taken a handful of art classes at the college. So, those factors motivated me to update my resume and complete an application,” she said.
Nix began her new job Sept. 26, 2006. “Fairly quickly, the job I took for the benefits became a passion. I loved my colleagues and the atmosphere inherent to a college,” she noted. Nix remembers the alumni board as welcoming and ready to help her get “ ... up to speed with their protocols and procedures. They were, and continue to be, an enthusiastic group of people who hold the college dear to their hearts. Their enthusiasm for Casper College fueled my love for my job. Thanks to them, I retired with lasting friendships and special memories.”
Many of those “special memories” include working with a great team in the Casper College Foundation. The satisfaction gained after the conclusion of successful events, including homecomings, alumni galas, welcome back to school days, and an event she was an integral part of putting together: the annual T-Bird Trek. Other memories include working on the alumni magazine Footprints and “dressing up in an inflatable T-rex costume for Trek promotion videos and Casper’s parade day. (I nearly passed out), but it conferred instant star status,” said Nix.
In 2014, Nix went from part time to full time as the associate director of alumni relations, a position she held until she went back to part time as the publications coordinator Nov. 1, 2017. Nix retired from the foundation on May 31, 2019.
Not one to live in the past, Nix has been busy since her retirement. She and her husband, retired lawyer Neil Short, had planned on traveling, but like many others, the current COVID-19 pandemic has put those plans on temporary hold. Instead, the two expanded their garden. According to Nix, that expansion necessitated a “reboot” of her canning and preserving skills. “Our pantry and freezer are brimming with sweet pickles, dill pickles, tomatillo salsa, tomato peach salsa, jam, tomato sauce, potatoes and frozen veggies,” she said. The two also “ ... succumbed to the lure of a pandemic puppy.” Owen joined the family in early October.
Casper and the Casper College Foundation are fortunate that Nix came and generously gave of her talents. “I came to Casper to find a less frantic place to live and a place where my career could grow. Casper fit that bill,” she said.