In honor of Sarah Downing's graduation from the Yale School of Management in 1987, a friend gave her a present. An autographed copy of Iacocca, perhaps? No, Downing was given a compass, something that would soon come in handy. For while her classmates headed for the wilds of Wall Street, she went off on a 28-day trek in the Himalayas.
"I was looking for an outdoor adventure," says Downing, 30, who two months ago became SI's editorial business manager. "After two years of studying indoors, I wanted to see another part of the world on a trip that combined spectacular scenery and something less sedentary."
Downing, an accomplished tennis and squash player, had never considered hiking a particularly strenuous activity, but nine hours each day of mountain trails, in the thin air at 15,500 feet, soon changed her mind. "The first few days were exhausting," she says. On the third day, she and her fellow trekkers encountered snow too deep for the pack ponies and were forced to change their route. "Even our guide hadn't been on the route we took," says Downing, who nonetheless took the hardships in stride. "I like to put myself into different environments. And besides, the scenery was incredible."
Downing's primary environment these days is Manhattan, where she lives with her husband, Joe, an investment associate at Prudential Capital Markets. A native of Bronxville, N.Y., Downing was ranked in the top 10 in her age group on the eastern tennis circuit from the time she was 12 until she was 18, in 1976. That year she headed off to Princeton (she's the 12th Princeton graduate on SI's current editorial staff, by far the largest contingent from any school), where she took up squash. She lettered in that sport her senior year as the Tigers won the Howe Cup, the equivalent of the women's collegiate national championship. After receiving an internship at the U.S. Supreme Court, Downing spent 3½ years at New York's Chemical Bank before earning her master's in management at Yale.
At SI, Downing can indulge her love of sports while overseeing the budget and administrative matters for the editorial staff. "What could be better," she says, "than a job where I can look up from my paperwork and watch Wimbledon on TV without anyone thinking I'm shirking?"
At 12, Downing played the baseline. Now she watches the bottom line.
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