What I’ve Learned So Far: Stephanie McLemore Bray

By Laura Braden Quigley

Stephanie McLemore Bray is a force to be reckoned with. Her nearly 30-year career includes serving as Executive Director of the San Francisco General Hospital Foundation and as Assistant Dean for Health Sciences Advancement at UC Davis Health System, overseeing fundraising for the School of Medicine, The Medical Center, the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing and several other centers of medical excellence on UC Davis’s Sacramento Campus.

Bray now serves greater Sacramento as the President and CEO of United Way California Capital Region (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram).

Our local United Ways provides vital services in five counties: Amador, El Dorado, Placer, Sacramento and Yolo. Sacramento area kids who graduate from college are 62 percent less likely to live in poverty than those who drop out of high school so they want to end “poverty in our region by starting at square one: school, the one place where we can reach every student and their families.” The Square One Project focuses on 1) keeping kids in school, 2) keeping them on track, 3) setting high expectations and 4) ensuring strong support. These are the sorts of goals worth pursuing!

What is the driving force in your life?

My family is definitely the driving force. My husband is my rock and my most steadfast supporter. Both of my parents defied many odds to provide me and my siblings with every opportunity to achieve success. I am so fortunate to be able to pass that along to my two daughters who are bolder and braver than I was at their ages (18 and 21). I have no doubt that they will succeed in whatever they choose to do and that keeps me motivated to be the best I can be.

What has been one of your most life-defining moments?

Moving across the country at age forty with a husband and two children. It was a life-defining moment for all of us and transformed our lives in many ways.

What’s the biggest work-related lesson you’ve learned?

To stay the course even when things get rough, and do not doubt myself.

What’s the biggest personal or health-related lesson you’ve learned?

That I am stronger than I think I am.

Biggest life lesson learned from a failure?

That it beats not trying.

What are your thoughts on work/life balance?

I am getting better at work/life balance. It is all about setting boundaries. If you answer email at 3 a.m., expect to keep getting them. If you sacrifice time for self-care and reflection, expect to feel burned out and resentful. It is okay to say no. I have to remind myself of these things all the time.

What’s been the most surprising thing about how your life/career turned out?

When I first started working in the nonprofit sector, my dream job was to be CEO of a United Way and here I am. What saddens me though is that I am one of only thirty African-American CEO’s in a network of about 1200 United Ways in the United States. We need more diversity in the nonprofit sector.

What do you value most in friendships?

Loyalty.

What is your most treasured experience?

Seeing the Grand Canyon on my 50th birthday is high on the list after my wedding and giving birth to my children.

Best advice you’ve received?

When you don’t know what to do, don’t do anything. Be patient, listen and the answer will come to you.

 

Fantasy dinner party scenario: you can invite five people (alive or not) – who do you invite?

I would invite a woman from each of the past five generations of my family. The only one still alive is my mother.

What would you tell your 16-year-old self?

Go ahead and be the writer I was meant to be. I am working on that now.

Biggest opportunity facing Sacramento in the next 5 years?

Finding a solution to homelessness, including how to prevent it that could be a model for the rest of California.

Biggest challenge facing Sacramento in the next 5 years?

Enough affordable housing.

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