Last week, ArtsWestchester lost a dear friend. Bill McNamee, our board member for nearly ten years passed away all too soon. As a busy senior executive, he travelled the world for Citigroup, yet always found ways to help ArtsWestchester, and in doing so, helped thousands.
More often than not, he’d return our calls from some remote location around the world. Our staff would call out: “It’s Bill McNamee, calling from India!” OMG. I’d ask myself: “How can I possibly talk to him about the gala menu when he is half way around the world solving some global crisis?” I’d pick up the phone and it’s a meat and potatoes conversation, but not about the gala menu. “How many tables have we got?” he’d ask. “Is Aramark in? What about Flight Safety?” Bill was more than our board member; he was our “impresario” and “rainmaker,” hosting our gala for seven years, advising us on construction matters at our historic bank building and, yes, even donating the equipment for our state-of-the-art catering kitchen, which he designed.
Bill first came into our lives in 2000 when we needed a space to hold a crowd of 700 for our growing gala…a Citigroup airport hanger might do. An expert on food and wine, he had attended our gala for years as a guest of our architect, John Sullivan. So when Bill got the okay from Senior VP George C. Ross (also an exceptional supporter of ArtsWestchester), he did what Bill always did. He pulled out all the stops, bringing his five-star culinary team to cater our gala.
Bill McNamee was an extraordinary board member. I Googled to find a way to describe him. According to Board Source, “It takes more than just a commitment to an organization’s mission to become an exceptional board member. You need to be so passionate about the mission that you are eager to use your connections, resources, and professional skills to enrich the organization.” That was Bill. Ask any not-for-profit CEO or Executive Director. They will tell you that scant resources… never enough staff… tight budgets…all make for a feeling that the job is never done. But then, there are those exceptional board members, like Bill McNamee, who with their energy and passion, make us feel proud of the work we do.