Susan Stewart Celebrates 40 Years at ALA National Headquarters

The year was 1978. Jimmy Carter was President of the United States, Grease was the highest grossing film, and Accounting Manager Susan Stewart, better known as “Stu” to friends, began what came to be a lifelong career at the American Legion Auxiliary National Headquarters in Indianapolis.

With a college degree in accounting, Stewart’s first role at NHQ was working with new and existing charter files. Months later, she was promoted to secretary to the national secretary, and, in 1980, she switched to secretary to the national president.

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A 1978 issue of the ALA national magazine included a story on National Headquarters staff, where Stewart was introduced as charters clerk.

“I will always cherish working with so many talented people and being able to travel across the country,” Stewart said. “I was in Oregon when Mount Saint Helens blew her top, I was a stand-in national president’s page during a Washington, D.C. meeting, and even was given the honor of being color bearer for that meeting.”

Honorarily Bestowed Past National President Miriam Junge, who also came to National Headquarters in 1978, praised Stewart. “Susan was an outstanding member of the staff. She was also appreciative, considerate, dependable, dedicated, supportive, trustworthy, hardworking, thoughtful, respectful, and very diligent in her duties.”

In 1985, Stewart was called upon to take on a role in the Finance Division. Prior to her time at National Headquarters, she spent about a year working for an electrical supply house in Indianapolis, typing purchase orders and posting machine transactions in accounting. “I had always enjoyed working in the accounting field,” she said. “When an opportunity to return to the world of finance came up at the ALA some 35 years ago, I was ready and eager.”

One of the biggest changes Stewart has seen during her time at ALA National Headquarters is the evolution of technology. “I was never one who liked or embraced change, but you have to adapt and it has become easier over the years — or at least I try to embrace it,” she said. “Sometimes, I don’t quite succeed, as my co-workers can attest to when they hear me becoming quite vocal when the accounting system or printer does not cooperate with me.”

And those same co-workers have grown to love Stu just like family.

“For her 60th birthday, we surprised her with a life-sized cardboard cut-out of Daryl Dixon, her favorite character in The Walking Dead,” said Accounting Coordinator Carmela Garcia. “When we asked her to pose with it for a photo, she gave him a kiss. It was a legendary moment.”

Garcia said Stewart is always willing to lend a helping hand. “When we run into challenges in our jobs, she gets right in the weeds with us and works relentlessly to help us find a solution saying, ‘I’ve never been defeated by a bank record and I’m not going to get beaten by one today.’”

“Stu is so passionate about her role here at NHQ because she recognizes the needs for the ALA’s mission and has seen over the years how it has helped veterans and their families,” said Controller Tim Bresnahan. “She cares deeply about other people.”

Accounting and Grants Coordinator Erin Hoffmann described Stu as an all-around fun person. “All the way from changing accounting software, to stories about her cats, to volunteering, to our accounting team shenanigans – Stu always makes things fun and surprises us with her unending sassiness.”

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Stewart, standing by a wall of historic leadership photos at National Headquarters, has served with 41 national presidents.
But when it comes down to business, Stu is all hands on deck.

“When we need to dig our heels in and work as a team, she is right there next to us all, contributing her skills and expertise,” said Compliance Accountant Sara Riegel.

Accounting Coordinator Diana Giraldo said, “Susan has to multitask, and her job is constantly interrupted for all kinds of questions from different departments. Her door is always open because she is willing to take the time to listen to you, and she is able to remain composed while facing and resolving minor and major work issues.”

“I continue to work with some of the most talented, professional, and dear people I will ever know,” Stewart said. “The ALA National Headquarters has been and continues to be a great place to work, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

 

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