Campus Life

Campus Memorial Honors Love Between Marketing Professor And Late Wife

Visible from his office, a tree and bench donated by Mays Business School students help Stephen McDaniel remember his spouse of 41 years.
By Luke Henkhaus, Texas A&M University Division of Marketing & Communications February 14, 2024

Dr. Stephen McDaniel standing outside his office with a tree in the background
Texas A&M marketing professor Dr. Stephen McDaniel stands outside the Wehner Building in front of the live oak tree planted in honor of his late wife.

Abbey Santoro/Texas A&M Division of Marketing & Communications


It’s been seven years since Dr. Stephen McDaniel lost his wife, Nancy, to ovarian cancer.

Looking back, the long-time Texas A&M University marketing professor can still recall the pain he felt being separated from the love of his life after 41 years of marriage. At the same time, he also remembers the outpouring of support from his students and colleagues at Texas A&M’s Mays Business School.

“The love that they were showing, the encouragement that they provided, it definitely helped me get through,” says McDaniel, sorting through stacks of sympathy cards he keeps in his office on the second floor of A&M’s Wehner Building. “I’ve shed a lot of tears just reading these.”

The support didn’t stop there. Soon after Nancy’s passing on January 18, 2017, students in the Master of Science in Marketing program began raising funds to place a permanent memorial on campus. Today, whenever McDaniel looks out his window, he can see their handiwork: A tree, bench and plaque all dedicated to his late wife.

“To me, it shows the epitome of selfless service, of doing things for others. It shows how caring and wonderful our students are,” McDaniel said, looking over a list of the 66 students and former students who chipped in.

Among those names is Paige Parker ’16, a member of the 2017 master’s cohort who organized much of the planning and fundraising for the memorial, which was completed in mid-March of that same year. She remembers the look on her professor’s face when she and her classmates gave him the news after class one day.

“When I looked over and saw the appreciation, that’s when I realized the magnitude of what all of us had put together,” said Parker, now a consultant for Southwest Airlines in Dallas.

McDaniel remembers that moment too: “I was just bawling. I couldn’t believe it,” he recalled. “Finally I just kind of blubbered out, ‘I don’t think anyone has ever done anything nicer for me and my wife than what y’all have just done.’”

McDaniel looks through framed photos and momentos displayed in his office
McDaniel is a senior professor and regents professor of marketing at the Mays Business School.

Abbey Santoro/Texas A&M Division of Marketing & Communications

‘Mama Mac’

Now a Senior Professor and Regents Professor of Marketing at Mays, McDaniel first came to campus as a student and a member of the Corps of Cadets. He played saxophone in the Aggie Band, and earned a bachelor’s and master’s in marketing before accepting a job with JCPenney.

While working for the department store chain in Tyler, Texas, McDaniel started going to church with a close friend, who eventually introduced him to his sister.

“All of a sudden we started double dating — him and his wife, his sister and me — and we just kind of hit it off,” McDaniel said. “She was the kind of person I had been praying for.”

They were married in 1975, and in 1980 McDaniel moved his new family to Aggieland, where he has taught ever since, earning the nickname “Dr. Mac.” Starting in 1981, he has helped manage one of the school’s largest and longest-running study abroad trips, bringing 80 marketing students to Europe each summer. Nancy, who McDaniel’s students affectionately called “Mama Mac,” became a fixture of these trips.

“She was sort of the mother of the trip,” McDaniel said. “It was always heavily female, and she was really wonderful at connecting with the girls and spending time with them.”

A plaque that reads "In Remembrance of Nancy 'Mama Mac' McDaniel"
The tree, bench and plaque dedicated to Nancy McDaniel were donated by students in 2017.

Abbey Santoro/Texas A&M Division of Marketing & Communications

Over the decades, the McDaniels earned a reputation for going the extra mile to help students — something Parker and her fellow Aggies kept in mind while working on the memorial.

“We wanted to do something really special for him because he is always doing special things for us,” she said.

During the planning process, she even assigned a taller classmate to stand outside McDaniel’s office while she and others watched from the window, directing him to the perfect spot for their future tree.

“It’s something I’m just absolutely thrilled that I could be a part of, and that I could help come to fruition,” Parker said.

An Everlasting Love

Twice a year, on the anniversaries of his wife’s birth and death, McDaniel makes a special trip to the memorial, joined by his daughter and three granddaughters. They set flowers at the base of the tree, and McDaniel says a short prayer.

This year on January 18, seven years after Nancy passed away, they released balloons and placed a bouquet of roses. “Roses were her flower,” McDaniel said. “I called her my little rose.”

For him, the tradition is an opportunity to reflect on the 41 years he spent with his wife, and the countless lives she touched in that time — including the Aggies who came together to dedicate a piece of their campus to her memory.

“I get to see it all the time, and it’s always nice when I look out and see somebody sitting on the bench,” McDaniel said. “That will be there for a long time.”

Media contact: Luke Henkhaus,

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