Editorial: Student media staff remember Savannah McNealy, designer

Collegian Staff

 Savannah McNealy, known for her innovative art and designs and sense of humor, died Oct. 19 in Fort Collins. She was 22. 

Savannah worked as a designer for Rocky Mountain Student Media Corporation’s Creative Services. She was a senior studying art history at Colorado State University. Savannah will be remembered for her passion for her friends and her out-of-the-box designs, including the strip of orange asphalt that constitutes CSU’s RamWalk. 

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Friends of Savannah gathered Friday, Oct. 20 to honor her memory on the RamWalk she helped design. Her design was so integral that ASCSU passed a resolution to commemorate her by renaming the runway the McNealy RamWalk.

The Collegian compiled sentiments from those who knew Savannah. All comments have been published with their permission.

One of Savannah’s closest friends, Lilly Luke, works in Creative Services. She wrote to the Collegian:

Sav,

Although I wasn’t honored to know you as long as others, I am so incredibly thankful for the time we spent together. I had the privilege of seeing you in an environment you loved and thrived in. Working and designing with you was an experience I will cherish forever.  Hiring you to work alongside me was one of the best decisions I could’ve made. Thank you for, as you’d say, “forcing me to be your friend.” I remember the summer I hired you we worked in silence for almost three months, I’m not the type to initiate conversations. You took my shyness and introverted personality as a challenge and placed yourself into my heart. Your unwavering confidence was incredible to witness, and through that I was able to become a better version of myself. Your love and kindness radiated throughout all your connections in life, and I am inexplicably thankful you brought me in. You taught me more about friendship, love and trust than I thought I would ever know.

One major feat we took on at Rocky Mountain Student Media was redesigning the CSU Life publication together. With your experience and attention to detail the impossible became a reality. We took a newspaper that had been reworked hundreds of times and made it our own. Through this process we put a little bit of ourselves into the new design, and I will forever cherish those memories. The redesign brought us closer than I could’ve ever imagined, through collaboration and learning each other’s design methods, we created an inseparable bond that was irreplaceable. The hours we put into the publication were, at the time, stressful and often spent editing the tiniest of details, but I now reminisce on the times we shared and the dedication we put into our work. I will forever be grateful I shared this experience with you, and through this collaborative work, you truly became one of my best friends.

I will miss collaborating on “the sickest” designs, sharing new music with you, going to eat pizza and ranch at the Skellar with you, trying new beers with you, and sending you endless Snapchats. I’m thankful for all the bars we got kicked out of, all the meals we cooked together, and all of the collaborative designs we created. I am going to miss seeing your beautiful face and hearing your laughter every day.

Thank you for being one of my best friends, I love you and I will miss you forever.

Lilly Luke

Taylor Tougaw, former Collegian opinion editor, wrote to the Collegian about Savannah’s memory. 

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Savannah McNealy was someone who lived her life to fullest. Every second of every day, she lived to create memories. There wasn’t a single moment that she spent on this planet that was wasted. Whether it was going to concerts and staying at friends houses, Savannah was always the life of the party. I remember sitting in my old Fort Collins home with Savannah and her roommates, as well as some of my friends, just drinking, playing with the dogs and talking about work and school. It was just a simple, casual night with friends. I also remember traveling to the New Belgium brewery with her. It was a pretty crisp day (read: really effing cold), and I had not prepared properly. After complaining about my poor decisions, Savannah looked me in the eye and said “Suck it up. You get to spend the day drinking beer with your friends in your last semester of college on a beautiful fall day.” If only I knew then how prophetic those words would be, because it was times like those where I can confidently say that I didn’t know I was in ‘The Good Times” until it was too late. Savannah should be a role model in her outlook on life. Leave no moment in your life unspent – live every second as if that second was your last.

Arts and culture editor, Zoë Jennings, shared her experiences with having a class with Savannah outside the offices of student media.

I was lucky enough to have a class with Savannah last semester. She was stubbornly positive about the class, even when we waited until the last minute to turn in an essay or study for a test together. I will always remember her offer to help me design a future project even when she knew she might be overseas. She told me she would help me over email. I didn’t get to know Savannah for long but I’m so glad that I did. The incredible outpouring of love for her is a testament to her love for life, this continues to inspire me.  

Keegan Pope, former Collegian managing editor, wrote about Savannah on his Facebook timeline. 

Savannah McNealy was truly — and I mean truly — one of the kindest, most life-giving people I’ve ever had the privilege of being friends with. Nearly every day last year, I’d walk into the Collegian offices and Savannah would put a smile on my face, whether it was because of some smart-ass comment she made or just her own smile. I could always count on her sitting at that middle table, usually with her Beats on, sitting next to Lilly. Like clockwork. She might also be the only person who loved Chipotle as much I do.

I know people say this a lot when things like this happen, but Savannah was so full of joy. For her friends, for her job, for music, for life. I hope I can live my life with half the love and enthusiasm she did.

I can’t remember the last time I spoke to her. And that’s something I can never get back. I can never tell her thank you for the light she brought into my — and everyone else’s — life. But I can attempt to live each day with the love and passion that she did. And if I know her, she’d understand we’re hurting right now, but she’d also want us to remember the good times and the memories we made with her. That’s what I’m going to try to do. I will fail at it from time to time, but that little piece of her will always live with me.

We’re going to miss you, Savannah. So much. But the imprint you’ve made on our lives will never go away.

Savannah will be remembered at the Collegian as the girl who wore a full face of ghoul makeup because it was “a social experiment for her friend” the girl constantly on the hunt for new music and a reason to dance and as the sunflower of our newsroom.  

If you have a memory of Savannah you would like to share please email us at letters@collegian.com.