Americans are obsessed with people in the spotlight: the royals, the president, celebrities. Whether we love them or hate them, we are fascinated by their lives. Why? Maybe because they’re just like us, maybe with a few bucks more in the bank – and a lot more notoriety.
The same goes for Governor Glenn Youngkin. Born in Richmond and raised in Virginia Beach, the 56-year-old (as of December 9) had a strong work ethic from an early age, washing dishes at a diner and helping his family when his father was going through hard times. He attended Rice University in Texas on a basketball scholarship and graduated with a degree in engineering. He later earned his MBA from Harvard Business School.
The love happened after his freshman year of grad school, when a mutual friend introduced him to his 28-year-old wife, Suzanne Youngkin (née Schulze), a native of Texas and a graduate of Southern Methodist University. They married in 1994 – after he proposed with what he called a “reverse scavenger hunt,” at the end of which she met him at a restaurant, where he asked her to marry him. They relocated to Northern Virginia where they raised their four children (Grant, Anna, John and Thomas) and he began a 25-year tenure with The Carlyle Group, a private equity firm. Next came a new appearance in Virginia politics.
Today, when the Youngkins aren’t staying at the Governor’s Mansion in Richmond, they call home the rural community of Great Falls. Her 30-acre estate is home to Normandy Farm, a horse training facility founded by Suzanne – a horse lover and equestrian. Anna is the only other rider in the family. “It’s a mother-daughter thing,” says Ellen Walter, who was friends with Suzanne in high school and worked with the governor at The Carlyle Group. But she notes that the whole family loves animals: “They’re giant pet people.”
They have four dogs – one is Anna’s rescue – and four canaries, which Suzanne gets when each of her children leaves the “nest”. (Grant graduated from SMU in 2020; Anna graduated from Duke University last year and is now attending UVA; John is a senior at the University of Notre Dame; and Thomas is a senior at Richmond High School.)
And while Anna and Suzanne go horseback riding, her husband and boys enjoy father-son basketball sessions. The whole family loves to socialize at home and spend time outdoors. “They live about a mile from Great Falls National Park and just a little further from Riverbend Park and can walk and horseback ride to and through the parks,” says Walter, who has served as the governor’s senior adviser. “Glenn works so much, so when they get together it’s all about food and family.”
To your favorite restaurants? El Tio Tex-Mex Grill in Great Falls. “They have the most amazing beef queso,” the governor tells us. “So that’s our big spot if we get a chance as a family to sneak out.”
You might also find them at the Old Brogue Irish Pub. “That’s her life – that [Great Falls Village]’ says Walter. “They hang out there as a family and with all their neighbors.”
But when Youngkin wants to eat breakfast out, he goes to the McLean Family Restaurant. “If you want to get in and out quickly, you can; If you want to sit down and have a good conversation, you can.” His order: poached eggs and hash browns and a buttered English muffin on the side.
For a drink, albeit later in the day: Virginia wine. But he won’t tell you which vineyard he likes best. “It would be like asking which of my children is my favorite child,” the governor interjects. We can speculate that he likes the 2022 Virginia Governor’s Cup winner, the 2019 Unité Reserve from Cana Vineyards & Winery in Middleburg. Or there’s the limited version of Barboursville Vineyards’ Cornus Virginicus, created with the help of his wife. The Bordeaux-style blend’s name is Latin for “flowering tree of Virginia” and pays homage to the dogwood – the state flower and tree – and the seal of the First Lady. He notes that they always serve Virginia wine at the Executive Mansion, and their guests keep saying they’re impressed.
The roots of the Youngkins run deep here in NoVA. Take Trinity Church. They started the non-denominational facility in their basement with a few families in 2013. Today the church is in McLean (the Youngkins run a private foundation which owns the land on which the church is located The New York Times) and the family often visits it when they are in town. During the gubernatorial campaign, “they blocked Sunday morning for church time,” says Walter.
Suzanne is director emeritus of Meadowkirk at Delta Farm, a 358-acre estate in Middleburg that the Youngkins Foundation says also owns it Times. While Meadowkirk has a turbulent history, it has been a non-denominational retreat since 2013, the year Suzanne entered the scene.
“She has a wonderful heart for the organization,” said Timothy Sipols, Executive Director and CEO of Meadowkirk. “It is not presumptuous to say that she was Meadowkirk’s First Lady.”
Meadowkirk’s pastoral environment provides the backdrop to its mission – to provide retreat-focused wellness programs for religious groups, churches, non-profit organizations and educational institutions.
Suzanne, says Sipols, has a “creative eye” for the location, from the accommodations to the amenities. And she was instrumental in developing the donation-based retreat affiliate program, which allows nonprofits like Vienna-based Jill’s House – which serves children with disabilities – to use its facilities at a reduced rate.
Back on the campaign trail, the Youngkins seem as approachable as they do in real life. “He will speak to everyone, regardless of their political affiliation, background, or industry,” says Karina Lipsman, a Republican U.S. congressional nominee for the 8th district at press time. “You can absolutely say that [he and Suzanne] are real. You rarely see that in public.”
We’ll leave that to you, now that you’ve got a glimpse into the governor’s life.
This story originally appeared in our December issue. For more stories like this, subscribe to our monthly magazine.